For long, Aba, the commercial city of Abia State has been in a state of general dilapidation. Many have cried to the government to arrest the steady decline of infrastructure in the city. But the EndSARS protest by youths and the subsequent looting and destruction that followed it has left the city in danger of extinction following the large scale looting and damage to both government and individual property in the city. EMMANUEL IFEANYI reports on the messy situation from Aba
From all the major roads of the urban three Local Government Areas to the major streets of the two suburban Local Government Areas, which were once her thriving zones, Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State now looks like a city hit by persistent artillery attacks.
For a city that was already sick, troubled and traumatized by lack of improvement in her archaic infrastructure, the images round the city of Aba are painful, as the once-thriving city of commerce, creativity and ingenuity is now heading into irrecoverable ruins.
From Babylon and Ctesiphon (Taysafun), ruined and swallowed by the sands after their empires collapsed, to Sodom and Gomorrah, consumed by fire and brimstone in the Bible’s Old Testament, it can safely be said that the rise and fall of cities has been a constant in history but self-destruction is rare in the history of fallen cities.
The self-destruction that took place in Aba during the #EndSARS nationwide protests has left many residents wondering how many years it would take a state like Abia, known for arrested development and poor infrastructure to recover from the ruination caused by the hijacked #EndSARS protest. In urban history of the world, cities have been regularly torn apart as collateral damage in wars and rebellions, but Enyimba City (Aba) was ravaged by her own residents during the #EndSARS protest.
The attitude of the destroyers of Aba was particularly shocking because they were deliberately targeting important government agencies, property and cultural architectural heritage, pulling them down and destroying without pity like an army of horror.
In a very public wave of destruction, the attackers razed the ancient Cultural Centre and a symbol of the beginning of urbanization in the city, the Prestigious Aba Town Hall, destroyed the Aba Fire Service Station, laid waste to Abia High Court Building and the Aba South Magistrate Court Building. They completely destroyed Abia State Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) office, Aba, burnt over seven newly acquired operational vehicles at BIR, burnt tax files and completely ruined documented hardcopies relating to taxes.
The attackers burnt the entire building located within the Aba South Local Government Headquarters, looted the Chairman’s office, the National Identity Card Issuing Centre, carted away computers, printers, air-conditioners and basically made it extremely difficult for work to even resume in that LGA within this year.
They also destroyed and looted Abia State Dental Centre, Aba, and Primary Health Authority office in Aba South LGA, and carted away vaccines, X-ray machines, sterilizers, air-conditioners, fans and other equipment as well as disposables and consumables. As if all these weren’t enough, the attackers made away with yet-to-be issued number plates.
Many government offices along the Old Aba GRA not too far from the Aba South Local Government Headquarters were not spared, as they were all looted and burnt.
As many were thinking it was a fight against government and its agencies, the destruction took a new dimension when banks and private businesses got their own ugly experiences from the attackers, whose mission seem to be centred on ending the existence of Aba as a city and setting the entire society on fire.
Several banks along Ngwa road, in Ndiegoro axis of Aba were attacked and property looted beyond expectations. Same was recorded in Banks along Ehi road, Port Harcourt road and Faulks road axis, which are the main commercial centres of Aba.
They did not spare the newly built Enyimba Mall owned by Checkbest International Limited. The newly built shopping mall was aimed at a total breakaway from “the crude and unorganized shopping style” that is currently in operation around Aba and negatively affects Abia’s economy.
With major markets in Aba like Ariaria International Market, Ahia-Ohuru (New Market), Eziukwu Market (Cemetery market) and the Eke-Oha Shopping Centre looking very terrible, many believed that the completion of the destroyed Enyimba Mall Outlet Shops will bring a succour to the decaying city. Prior to the #EndSARS Protest, many residents were optimistic that changes in the version of Shopping Mall coming into the city would usher in a new era into the Aba business community, while the owners according to their own records have spent over N1 billion on the facility already.
With all the listed and unlisted public and private property lost during this unfortunate period, the most painful part of the whole ugly situation is the loss of lives. Officially, two police officers were killed in Aba during the protests while too many of the hoodlums, who were brandishing all sorts of weapons against the police and other security agencies also lost their lives (unofficially).
Police Stations were not spared during the attacks but to the credit of the gallant officers in Aba, the hoodlums only succeeded in burning the Dragon Squad (Zone-6 Police Station) at Ogbor-Hill, destroyed things at Eziama Police Division, but were chased back when similar attempt were made at Ndiegoro Police Division and Aba Area Command Headquarters.
Consequences of the attacks
To help understand the reality of the damage the hijacked protest did to Aba, New Telegraph was told of the consequences of the acts by concerned residents. Prior to the #EndSARS protest, too many areas in Aba were already centres for different kinds of criminal activities especially cult battles.
For example, Over-Rail axis of the city recorded over four murder cases within a space of two weeks, which were all linked to clashes between rival cults identified: De- Gbam, Vikings and Aro-Baga. With the constant attacks on police officers, which has ultimately made the officers more careful than ever, residents of crime prone areas of Aba like Over-Rail, Ogbor- Hill and Ndiegoro are now left at mercies of these cultists, who have taken over as Lords and Masters of the areas.
An impeccable source within police told our reporter that the officers are currently not willing to respond to any emergency call till further notice. With low morale, coupled with what seems like war against the police, the source said the officers feel endangered.
He stressed that the recent killings of police officers and snatching of their guns by some hoodlums within Aba is a total declaration of war against security agencies like the police. “The reality is that this city will likely suffer its worst Christmas period this 2020. We all know how crime prone end of the year is in Aba. And the kind of leadership we have in police here aren’t helping.
The Aba Command lacks focus now while the entire state command looks out of shape. “It’s always a period when police activities are supposed to be strengthened but the recent development is showing that criminals may likely enjoy this end of the year because, every police officer is being extra careful and there seems to be zero motivation from authorities.
“You can’t be policing in a society where your death sounds like good news to some persons. You see how cultists have taken over areas? We were almost getting rid of them prior to all these crises. You see how people are dying in cult related activities? Is that the society they want?
“Now, tell me how residents of Ngwa road, Obohia, Ohanku, Port Harcourt road, Omuma road, Osusu road and major parts of Ogbor-Hill can sleep with two eyes closed? It’s near impossible,” he said. Ugorji Ibe, a resident of Ngwa road said that if care was not taken, many residents will run away for their dear lives, adding that the manner in which cultists are shooting and killing each other in the area and harassing other residents was frightening.
“At Danfodio road, some days ago, a boy who’s well known as a cultist, came to a shop attached in a residential building, beat up the owner, who’s old enough to be his mother, destroyed her good, took some away and threatened to come back with his gang to set the building ablaze.
“It was shocking to see such a situation in Aba. People were watching helplessly as the man and his gang of young people came armed with axe, locally made pistols and other weapons that made people scared of their lives.
“Ever since they noticed that the only police station close to us in this area, which is the Ndiegoro Police Division aren’t coming battle them as usual, even those whom you never knew were cultists are beginning to come out boldly to intimidate people.
“They collect phones and take women’s bags in broad daylight as though it’s not criminal to do so. It’s obvious the police are now concentrating in securing their own lives first because they’ve suffered casualties as well.