For long, there have been misgivings about the state of roads in Aba, commercial nerve centre of Abia State and Eastern part of the country. EMMANUEL IFEANYI reports that there seems to be hope that the city is not gone yet
For over a decade now Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia State and the entire South Eastern Nigeria has been in ruins and total mess. That is as all the roads leading to her important business areas have remained impassable.
Aba’s business prowess in South Eastern Nigeria can only face a strong competition when one combines the business attributes of Onitsha and Nnewi both in Anambra State together.
While the port city of Onitsha is champion of buying and selling through importation, the ancient town of Nnewi is the manufacturing hub of Anambra State and only a combination of those two can give one a definition of Aba.
Aba is a strong trading centre, the SMEs capital of Nigeria and home for many industries both in small scale and large scale. There is nothing one cannot get in Aba from home appliances, wears, interior/exterior decorations and local engineering fabrication etc.
The city’s biggest problem is her roads, especially the ones leading to the four biggest markets and the artisan centre which are Ariaria International Market, Ahia-Ohuru, Cemetery Market, Eke-Oha Shopping Centre and the Alaojii Auto Spare Parts Market.
One major thing about the way markets are structured in Aba is that they are not just a place for exchange of goods for money. Majority of the markets are centres for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and other salient services especially the auto parts angle.
Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, had on several occasions spoken about recovering Aba by getting roads with serious economic importance fixed and motorable for business.
Aside major industries scattered all over Ogbor-Hill and Osisioma axis of the city, Aba has six very important business centres namely: Ariaria International Market, Ahia-Ohuru Market, Cemetery Market, Eke-Oha Shopping Centre and Alaojii Auto Spare Parts Market.
There are over 15 roads leading to these six big business centres. Of the over 15 roads, 10 roads are of utmost importance and the include Faulks road and Old Express/MCC road for Ariaria, Ngwa road and Ohanku for Ahia-Ohuru.
Others are Eziukwu road, Omuma road and Cemetery road for Cemetery Market, Port Harcourt road and Obohia (also important for Ahia-Ohuru) for Alaojii spare parts market. The 10th one is Aba-Owerri road which is the entrance into the city.
There are other roads on the second list that are also important links to these centres that cannot be overlooked and they include, Osusu road for both Ariaria and Cemetery Market, Umule/Umuocham road for Ariaria, Ibere Street/Ohazu road for Ahia-Ohuru.
There are also significant roads that are for use which also serve as shortcuts to some business centres like ABSUTH road, Ukaegbu road, Ehere road, Kamalu road, Umuatako road, Umuola road, Umuojima road and Omini drive.
Out of the listed 10 most important roads, one is very close to completion (Faulks road), one is already completed (MCC/Old Express to Samek Junction Ariaria). Works are ongoing in three (Port Harcourt road, Eziukwu road and Aba-Owerri road) while five are yet to be touched (Ngwa road, Ohanku road, Cemetery road, Obohia road and Omuma road).
The state government has also paid attention to some roads on the second list like: Umule road (completed), Umuocham (motorable), Osusu (under serious construction), Ibere/Ohazu (under construction), ABSUTH road (under serious construction), Ehere, Ukaegbu, Umuola, Kamalu, Umuatako, Umuojima and Omini drive all in Ogbor-Hill and Osisioma axis (all completed).
When New Telegraph went into the streets of Aba to ascertain the feelings of the people concerning the state of their roads, ongoing constructions and their assessment so far, many residents gave kudos to the government while others believed the pace of work was too slow to be termed serious, stressing that it should have been faster to beat the fast approaching rainy season.
Some residents said they were happy that they can now drive through Faulks road from Brass Junction to its last bus stop at Ariaria Junction, but urged the government to do something about the manner in which the road is fast dilapidating.
It was mixed feelings at Eziukwu Road when our reporter visited the site of the ongoing construction there. Serious demolition of illegal shops erected by the Railway recently took place with many residents saying that such boldness from government amounted to readiness to recover that very important road.
For over 15 years, a lot of things have been obstacles to the recovery of Eziukwu road. Those obstacles include, shops erected on the railway portion of the roads, the Eziukwu Mechanic Village, the Eziukwu Mini Block Industries and the Eziukwu Fresh Fish Market (point and kill).
The aforementioned obstacles have been brought down as though nothing ever existed there. It didn’t just happen without ill feelings.
Tears flowed during the demolition as Abia State government brought down every shop, shanty, office and whatever that occupied the empty space between Eziukwu road, railway and Ogbonna road.
Mr. Fineman Ejimofor, a 68-year-old businessman, who said he has been in Aba all his life, commended the state government on the move made on Eziukwu road.
“People can have a different opinion about what is happening at Eziukwu road but the truth of the matter is that we cannot restore Aba without necessary casualties.
“You know very well that our major problem here is illegal erection of shops and buildings in places they ought not to be. Those places where the Eziukwu mechanic Village, the block industry and the fresh fish market were are wrong.
“Those spaces used to be empty in the past. They belonged to the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC). If we must restore Aba, we must ask ourselves what it used to be like in the past.
“You can never restore what you don’t know its original form. What’s happening in Eziukwu is coming straight from the drawing board. In fact, it’s long overdue.
“The only way to restore Aba is for the government to wear mask in their faces, develop sense of responsibility, take up the hammer of justice and then fairly remove every obstacle on the way no matter who is involved.
“We cannot continue to lie to ourselves. The lifestyle of the average Aba man is terrible when it comes to obeying simple laws like sanitation and obstruction.”
When contacted, Abia State Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi-Kalu, said that the mission to recover Aba is ongoing in phases.
He said that it would be untrue and unjust to doubt the determination and commitment of Okezie Ikpeazu in recovering Aba.
Giving facts behind his statement, Okiyi-Kalu said, “The intention ab-initio was to recover the commercial nerve centre in phases. That effort started from the first day the governor was inaugurated. On the first day he was inaugurated, he flagged off seven road construction projects.
“The roads included Ukaegbu, Kamalu, Faulks road, Umuola and so on. What happened was that he terminated the initial contract on Faulks road because the contractors were not doing the kind of work required.
“Governor Ikpeazu has engendered a paradigm shift in the way roads are constructed in Abia. In the past, it’s not that the previous administrations did not work on roads, they did. The problem was the quality of works done. Did those roads outlast even their own administration?
“No administration before Ikpeazu did not fix Aba road Umuahia. No administration before Ikpeazu did not fix Faulks road. No administration before Ikpeazu did not fix MCC road. No administration before Ikpeazu did not fix Milverton. The problem is the quality of work done.”
“If you want to improve the road infrastructure of a city, what you need to do is to add quality projects, so that the next administration will add to it.”