Aba, popularly known as Enyimba City, the commercial city of Abia State and industrial hub of the entire South-East and Nigeria, is variously described as the Japan of Africa. But despite the commercial activities in the city, which rakes in millions of naira on a daily basis, the state of infrastructure in the God’s Own State is very poor, to put it mildly.
It is no longer news that almost all kinds of commodities, including shoes, bags, leather wears, clothing etc, are manufactured in Aba, just as there are many small and medium enterprises, and all kinds of engineering fabrication.
Unfortunately, there are no good roads to transport manufactured goods and other services. Sadly also, streets and roads in the city, which are in deplorable conditions, are infested with dirt, including artificial marshes and mountainous roadside refuse dumpsites.
Unlike what it used to be, almost everything in the city contradicts its commercial status. Basic social and economic infrastructures are elusive in Aba. Aside Faulks Road, which was newly fixed to link the Ariaria International Market, almost every important major road leading to business and industrial centres in Aba are in deplorable conditions.
Important roads within the city, such as Ngwa Road, Port Harcourt Road, Ohanku Road, Obohia Road, Omuma Road, Ohazu Road, Cemetery Road, Eziukwu Road, Uratta Road and many others, are now nightmares, with adjoining streets rapidly becoming horrible ghettos.
To further worsen the situation, beggars are seen at every major entrance, relentlessly making life difficult for pedestrians and demonstrating a culture that is alien to the indigenous people of the land.
As one enters the city through Uyo, Port Harcourt, Enugu or Owerri routes, one encounters deplorable roads, annoying activities of touts, especially at the popular Bata Junction, unorganised street trading, dirt and smelly environment.
Unfortunately, major industries have disappeared from the industrial city, with most of them relocating to neighbouring states, where there are better environments, security, people and business-oriented governments.
A member of the Abia State Executive Council once said if the revenue generated in Aba was properly accounted for, the state could realise over N2billion monthly from the city.
When our correspondent visited Aba, it was observed that the condition of the city was worse than what is obtainable in slums and war-ravaged countries in Africa. Vultures were seen openly scavenging on heaps of refuse, which were found at almost every junction. Piles of human waste also littered many streets.
Reacting to the situation in Aba, Comrade Omeku Udensi Uche, the national secretary of Easy Life Initiative for Rural Youths, wondered if Abia State had a government, noting that everything is fast decaying.
Uche said, “One of the problems I have with this government is that they equate infrastructure with only roads. We are talking about things that make life easy and businesses to thrive. These include roads, good health and even the transport system.
“Majority of the roads are now dead traps, like what we see on Port Harcourt Road. For the very first time in Aba, it is under the regime of Okezie Ikpeazu that an important road like Ngwa has entered a deplorable state that cannot be described.
“It is unfortunate that an Ngwa son cannot at least work on Ngwa Road as a legacy. Our hospitals are glorified mortuaries. They are not eve clinics.
“When you get to the General Hospital in Aba, you will only see painted structures with zero medical facilities to meet the standard of a rural clinic. People in Aba spend quite a lot on sanitation for nothing.
“In few weeks time, if you go to Ifeobara, where the government claimed they have built 5.6km underground water channel that would collect water from the basin near Ukwu-mango to Aba River, you would see how flood has sacked the people there. This government is not sincere. God is watching them and whatever they do.
“Everywhere is littered with refuse and smelling because positions for environmental agencies are used to settle those who helped them to win election.’’
Also speaking on the situation in Aba, Dr. Coleman Oduputa said, “It is unhealthy and deadly for humans, especially children, to breathe a corrosive matter. It is extremely hard to rate the level of risk to health from the dirty environment in Aba. It will soon become disastrous.
“You cannot dismiss the possibility of infections from water, land and air pollution. People eat and drink in such environment. From what I have seen so far, if nothing is done and fast too, infections of all kinds would be the order of the day.
“Diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, malaria and typhoid will be more common and severe than ever. Even people like truck pushers who walk barefooted inside such places risk contacting tetanus as well.”
Also, Pastor Chisom Oriaku, a resident of Uratta Road, which adjoins Port Harcourt Road, said the lives of residents were in a serious danger.
“The lives of people who live along Uratta and Port Harcourt roads axis are in a very big risk. We have been crying, but nobody seems to care about us. Things are getting worse. I believe you passed through that heavy refuse dump that has taken over Port Harcourt Road.
“It has been there for over six months and nobody is doing anything about it. It has taken over several metres of that road. People there still pay sanitation fees to the state government, yet they cannot breathe in good air.
“Everywhere is smelling. Before you can move from Crystal Park to Aba Main Park you will spend over an hour in what shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. They promised and gave a date when the road project would be completed, but right now, we don’t know what is happening.
“The contractor has disappeared. This road has been under what they termed re-construction for the past two years, and they have done absolutely nothing so far. Everybody’s life is in danger. We are calling on the government to save lives before an epidemic spreads like wildfire.’’
Speaking further, Oriaku said, “The smell is too much. We have parked our vehicles because we are in trouble. Some boys have resorted to hiring pumping machines to pump out water from major roads into adjoining streets, just to create paths for motorists.
“The re-construction of Uratta road, which was said to be under the Ecological Fund of the Federal Government, came because of flood issues here, but those who claimed they were working on the road abandoned the main problem, which is drainage, and people are exposed to flood during the rainy season.
“They opened that drainage for about two poles and abandoned it again for no reason. They are not doing any job on Uratta Road. They are just playing and making jest of people who live along streets like Onyike, Jaja, Ahuronye, Eme, Mathew, Nwaogu, Ibenji and Railway Avenue. These places are better described as disaster zones, and nobody is coming to the aid of the people.’’
Also speaking, the chairman of Civil Liberties Organisation, Aba zone, Prof. Charles Chinekezi, called on the state government to rescue Aba before it is too late.
“Aba is the most important city in the southern Nigeria, along with Onitsha, but the level of infrastructural decay is embarrassing and worrisome.
“But truly, the present day government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State inherited a lot of anomalies. Maybe that’s why they are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
“If you look at our refuse disposal method you would see that the agency in charge has not been able to control refuse flow in the city. There are few receptacles and collection points.
“Mountainous filths have taken over major streets and visitors usually wonder about the kind of human beings who live here.
“Everybody is embarrassed, including those in government. The decay in Aba is heavy and completely unacceptable, and I think we can do something about it.
“I recognise the efforts of this government so far, but it will be necessary to state clearly that their efforts keep us yearning for more work.
“However, recently, the governor had a meeting with the contractors handling state projects in the last four years and gave them ultimatums. I think they will follow that up.
“The only way the governor can come out of the blame is to ensure that whoever is handling projects here completes it, and anyone who fails to do so should face the law
“The governor can do better than what we are seeing, but when you have some persons whose characters cannot be properly defined working against you in the guise of working for you, there will be problem,’’ Chinekezi said.
A resident of Obohia Road in Ndiegoro axis, Mr. Shedrach Ofodile, blamed both government and Aba residents for the city’s rapid decay. He noted that both parties were not helping matters.
“The situation has become so pathetic that roads which were motorable 10 years ago now have weeds and mountainous refuse dumpsites and artificial marshes, with musty smell oozing out with reckless abandon.
“This decay has given criminals and social deviants the opportunity of converting some of these once bubbling areas into their safe haven. Illicit drugs are being sold in those areas, which have become absolutely difficult to police and secure.
“I have totally lost hope in this government. In a state where the payment of workers’ salaries sounds like a kind gesture, then the re-construction of roads and setting up good sanitation system are certainly a luxury they can’t afford for the citizenry,’’ he said.
Also, a retired lecturer and landlord in the area, Chief Hilary Ebo, said Aba was fast becoming a big slum.
“What baffles me is that the current governor has all it takes to end this mess, but I think God is just angry with Abia State and has not favoured us when it comes to leadership.
“If that is not the case, then tell me who could have solved this problem if not Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, who has seen it all and knows it better than everyone.
“He was a deputy general manager of the Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA).
“As I speak to you now, there’s no refuse receptacle on Omuma Road. They cannot bring in receptacles here because there’s no road. It was not so 10 or 12 years ago.
“When a government fails to provide social and economic infrastructures like roads, health centres and things as minor as refuse receptacles enough to cover certain areas, then such government may have indirectly certified environmental pollution.
“Tell me how and why criminals will not convert a major road that is deplorable from beginning to the end into their own? We have never had it this bad,’’ Ebo said.
But Sir Richard Anaekwe, a resident said, “The decay in Aba didn’t start with Ikpeazu. In fact, the creation of Abia State is the worst thing that happened to Aba. From 1999 to 2007, Orji Uzor Kalu tried, but he could have done better. From 2007 to 2015, former Governor T. A Orji was a disaster to Aba. Every motorable road in Aba went bad under him. Under Ikpeazu, it has been a theatre of drama. His method is a tricky one. He has left every part of the city littered with projects he knows very well he will not complete.
“Ikpeazu knows that the Osisioma flyover is a waste of time and money. He should have channeled that fund towards completing the Port Harcourt Road. But he chose to let people sing his praise for starting the first ever flyover in Abia. When he flagged off the reconstruction of Port Harcourt Road two years ago, he promised it would be completed in 18 months.
“The deadline has elapsed, with few kilometers of drainage as the achievement there. He knocked down peoples buildings in Osusu Road, Port Harcourt Road and some shops at Immaculate Avenue, yet, nothing has happened there.’’
Reacting, the Abia State Government, through the commissioner for information and strategy, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, said the recovery plan of Aba was in phases. He said government had successfully completed the first phase, which includes Faulks Road, through to the Ariaria International Market.
According to him, there are three units of roundabout at Brass junction, Express junction and Okigwe Road junction.
In the public record of the Abia State Government, this project is ongoing, but not all the components have been fully executed. With more than 70per cent of the 9.6km road executed, according to the record, Governor Ikpeazu opened the road temporarily in 2019 to give President Muhammadu Buhari a seamless passage to the Ariaria market for the purpose of commissioning the Ariaria Independent Power Project attracted by his administration and executed by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) of the Federal Government.
After the president’s visit, the governor considered closing portions of the road to enable Setraco execute the laying of asphalt on the road, but decided that doing so would hurt the business of the traders who were gearing up for the Yuletide. He directed Setraco to return to site late in December 2019 when the traders must have travelled for the season. But the company appealed that their workers would also close for the season by December 22, 2019, to resume in January 2020.
Governor Ikpeazu directed the contractor handling the ongoing Osusu Road project to ensure that he delivered enough drains to carry storm water from Osusu, Omuma and Faulks Road areas of the city. That has been successfully executed and Setraco is set to connect the Faulks Road drain pipe through Osusu.
The commissioner said Governor Ikpeazu was determined to delivering sustainable dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
It was, however, learnt that the infrastructure deficit in Aba and Abia State as a whole has never been the inability of respective governments but more because those projects, especially roads, were rushed for political and momentary applause; hence they didn’t last long. Instead of embarking on new projects, subsequent administrations are known to reconstruct the same roads.
It is hoped that the present Abia State Government would change the narrative in Aba, the commercial nerve of the state.