CHIDI ASONYE, in Aba writes that the residents of the commercial cum industrial city are now heaving a sigh of relief as the state government embarks on extraordinary reconstruction of the dilapidated city roads.
The then British colonial administration that developed Aba, popularly called ‘Enyimba city’ had no doubt taken cognizance of its strategic location –lying between Port-Harcourt, Ikot-Ekpene/Uyo, Umuahia and Owerri – to make it a city where commerce and industry would thrive.
And to ensure the sustainability of this goal, Aba, was endowed with good network of roads by the same British colonial masters.
Interestingly, the indigenous governments of the defunct Eastern Region headed at different times by late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr. M. I. Okpara, had sustained this status of a commercial cum industrial city.
After the Nigerian/Biafran war of 1967-70 and with the return of democratic governance in 1979, the late Governor of old Imo state; Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, successfully embarked on a comprehensive rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads in the Enyimba city, to sustain the commercial importance of the city.
The commercial nature of Aba equally gave rise to the city becoming a centre of industrial activities, manufacturing and artisanship. Unfortunately, time and negligence cut up with the roads in Aba, hence the city started decaying in fortune, resources and relevance.
Some major roads that facilitated easy access to Aba became deplorable and inaccessible. For instance, Ikot-Ekpene, Port-Harcourt and Ukwu Mango/Faulks, to mention but few, collapsed beyond usage. Aba, the hitherto giant British trading post became a shadow of itself.
According to the State Publicity Secretary of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Sir Don Ubani, the health of any economy is determined by certain variables principal among them being road infrastructure sub-sector.
His words: “There is no doubt that road infrastructure is pivotal to social, economic and political development of any given country, since it is the state of the road network of any habitation, be it rural, semi- urban or rural dwelling places, that influences the state of our security.”
He had noted that when the roads are bad, cost of transportation of goods and services soar high and ends up skyrocketing prices of both agricultural and industrial products, just as argued that the state of roads in the state, especially on the negative sense, is capable of causing inflation in the society.
“In this part of the world, taking into consideration our level of development, any government that fails to appreciate and be driven by the strategic essence of massive road infrastructural transformation, cannot be taken seriously by the electorate. This is because good road infrastructure is a sine qua non for integrated development of the polity,” he further explained.
The AUTHORITY recalls that between 2008 and 2010, the twin crimes of kidnapping and armed robbery held sway in the state, to the extent that security operatives had difficulty confronting the menace headlong due in part to the very poor state of roads in the state, especially Aba.
Indeed, traders from Akwa-Ibom state had stopped coming to Aba because of the terrible state of the Abia end of Ikot-Ekpene road, rather the traders preferred going to the far-flung Onitsha market in Anambra state; a development that badly affected the internal revenue generation of the Abia state.
However, conscious of the city of Aba and its residents can contribute to the economic development of the state, Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu’s administration took up the challenge of freeing the commercial city of Aba from the tyranny of bad roads.
Apparently to ensure that traders from Akwa Ibom have unhindered access to Ariaria International Market, the Ikpeazu administration is constructing two alternative routes – the Umuobiakwa-Owoahiafor-Onichangwa road – that will take the traders to Ariaria through the Akwa Ibom axis.
Also, the state government is working on the 9 kilometer Umuaro-Umuanunu-Ekwereazu-Nto border road, to enable traders from Akwa-Ibom access Aba without little or no difficulty.
Furthermore, the administration has taken up the flooding problem on Ukwu Mango/Faulks road. Not a few people in Aba have commended government’s efforts at finding a solution to the flood on that road since the flood flows into the famous Ariaria International Market.
“The road construction revolution going on in the commercial city of Aba is commendable. For me, this is an innovative way of turning around the social and economic fortunes of not just the Enyimba city, but elsewhere in the state,” said Mrs. Chinyere Dim, an Aba resident.
According to Mr. Obialo Ejimofor, another resident of the city, “the internal road network in the Ariaria International market is almost at its best now as our major headache, which stems out of flooding within and around the market has become history now.
“We are indeed happy that this governor is doing his best to tackle the many infrastructural problems of this great city.
Some residents of the city who spoke with The AUTHORITY believe that going by the tempo of construction work in Aba, the city would soon regain its pride of place as the commercial and industrial hub of the South-East geo-political zone.