Aba, the Enyimba City is the commercial nerve centre of Southeastern Nigeria. It is also not open to debate if Aba is tagged the trading capital of South East and South South Nigeria. In fact, the city is also Nigeria’s Capital of Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Aside the creativity and indigenous ingenuity in production of shoes, bags, clothes and other wears, Aba is also known for various open markets that are scattered all over the city.
Frankly speaking, Aba can boast of many mega open markets that are visited by buyers from all over West African Sub-region, as she can boast of high concentration entrepreneurs and strong importers presence. The major markets in Aba includes: Ariaria International Market, Ahia-Ohuru (New Market), Eziukwu Market (Cemetery market) and the Eke-Oha Shopping Centre.
There are other minor, but massive markets as well like: Uratta Integrated Market, Orie Ohabiam, Ehere Market, Alaoji Market etc. Major streets in Aba like Saint Michael’s road, Hospital road, Jubilee road, Tenants road, Market road, Ehi road, Azikiwe road, Milverton Avenue, Pound road, Park road, Eziukwu road, Okigwe road, Faulks road, Clifford road and School road have all been converted to markets with specific items sold there. In streets like Jubilee road, residents are now finding it very difficult to even rent an apartment, as traders are converting every available space in the metropolis into shops to have a good location for their businesses.
The most affected street is Saint Michael’s where every available old buildings are now being sold, reconstructed or even refurbished and used for selling of all kinds of phones and computer accessories. A situation that many have complained is now making rents too costly within Aba Metropolis.
However, changes in the version of Shopping Malls are gradually coming into the city to usher in a new era into the Aba business community. An era that many residents and traders said that they cannot wait to embrace as the old open market system may have overstayed than expected. One of these new changes has come in the name of Enyimba Mall Outlet Shops. Checkbest International Limited, developers/owners of Enyimba Mall Outlet Shop, Aba, has gone ahead to say that their innovative business complex will begin operations by December.
Chiedozie Njoku, Managing Director, Checkbest International Limited, said that the mall was a total breakaway from “the crude and unorganized shopping style” that is currently in operation around Aba which is negatively affecting Abia’s economy. New Telegraph observed that there are other similar Malls springing up from different parts of the commercial city of Aba. However, the Etche road location of the Enyimba Mall Outlet Shops which is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) move between Abia government and Checkbest makes it unique and very competitive.
Traders and other residents are also of the opinion that the situation is getting worst as the normal conventional markets like Ariaria and Ahia-Ohuru are gradually loosing their usual value which now makes it very difficult for customers to visit those markets.
New Telegraph observed from the current situations of markets like Eke-Oha Shopping Centre, Ariaria International Market and Ahia- Ohuru, where illegal structures are erected with reckless abandon by market executives have made it impossible for roads where trailers turn before to accommodate ordinary vans The walkways in these above mentioned markets in Aba have been replaced by some recklessly built shops, making the entire markets look unorganized, tight and jam-packed without space for free movement of people and goods.
Prior to the coming of Malls, many parts of Aba like Ogbor-Hill, Osisioma, Abayi and Umungasi axis have witnessed the establishment of hypermarkets and shopping centres, but none were capable of replacing the traditional open markets who still maintained their lead.
New Telegraph however discovered that inasmuch as traders are currently selling and making their monies in these open markets, the average rate of customers visit to Aba have drastically reduced with high percentage, as many find it very difficult to navigate through the jam-packed unorganised markets.
As gathered, this situation alone is causing Abia State hospitality businesses especially the hotels, restaurants and transporters huge problems, as waybill have replaced physical presence of customers. Major parks in Aba on daily basis are loaded with goods leaving the city to all parts of Nigeria.
Mr. Garba Mohammed, a customer who comes to Aba to buy some wears from the Northern part of Nigeria told our reporter that most of his friends are finding it very difficult to come because of the dilapidated conditions of the markets. “See, I come because most times the people don’t understand my specifications.
I may send pictures and samples, but nothing is as good as the selections you made by yourself. He said, “I suffer anything I come here to buy from Ariaria or Shopping Centre. Vehicles hardly play through the markets because of the way everywhere is blocked. “You have to hire truck and chase them around the markets like rabbits.
It’s not easy, but I want to buy my good myself that’s why I came. I spend one week anytime I come to Aba because I visit different markets buy for myself and some persons who couldn’t come. “I like coming to buy things here because it’s good and made by our fellow Nigerians, but the markets are too tight. Something need to change.” Chukwuka Agwaramba, a leader at the Ariaria International Market told our reporter that things needed to have been restructured about market system in Aba. “Most of us go to Dubai and China to buy good. We know that our current system of shopping is now too archaic. My brother most times, I pity our customers.
It’s not easy to navigate your way in and out of this market. “I don’t even come with my car anymore because there’s absolutely no place to park. Apart from some lines with a little parking space, Ariaria is becoming a problem for vehicles.
It’s not only Ariaria. “I don’t think there’s any part of Ahia-Ohuru that vehicles can easily entrepreneurs now and turn without destroying things. I think Cemetery market which usually have some large vehicles within its provision lines will soon be like Ahia-Ohuru if nothing is done.
“I don’t know whom to blame but if I see an option away from this system I’ll kindly move. We’ve been hearing about mall developers who are planning to change things and I personally support a change from this old system. May be when we embrace the Malls, this place can be redeveloped into bigger Malls as well,” he said.
Speaking more about the Enyimba Mall Outlet Shops, Njoku said it has a recreation centre and children’s playground to add to its business facilities, stressing that it would restore the “shopping experiences” of customers and the Aba business community. He explained that the mall will provide customers with the opportunity to do window shopping in an environmentally and pocket friendly mall comparable only to ones abroad.
“We found through research that most people who would have come to Aba to shop decide instead to do what is called way-billing; and will send their monies to traders in Aba who would buy goods and send to them. “This reduces the economic flow in Aba; it affects the restaurants, the hotels and the transport system.
“But with our planned mall, such a person could possibly have a favourable shopping expe-rience and so buy more than he initially planned. “So, we decided to do something that will accommodate not just the people presently in Aba, but can also attract other people outside Aba to come to Aba to shop because shopping is an experience,” he said. Njoku said the project was initiated in 2018 by himself, a private citizen, born and bred in Aba, who traveled abroad, and decided to return and bring back something to the Aba community to make it better.
He said the project which has a budget of one billion and seventy million naira will not be a conventional mall, but will combine business, entertainment and relaxation in one centre with state-of-the-arts facilities. Njoku explained that the mall has a total area of 32, 700 square metres while the buildings sit on a land space of 11,980 square metres and has a provision for a multi car park system with room for further development and expansion in case of population growth.
“We have warehouse space, children playground, restaurant, Cafeteria, independent power station, two private boreholes, and also a solar system” he said. Njoku said they have three-pronged approach to protection against fire which includes erecting a fire deck to protect everything under the roof, provision of fire hydrant within every 15 metres of the building’s perimetre fencing and three private boreholes to check fires. He said, “We also want to donate a private water dispensing machine to the state fire service in case anything happens.” Njoku urged other private individuals having the capacity to contribute to the state’s development to desist from complaining and help the state by supporting the government. He said his company had done through the project encouraged Abia residents to reject complaining about government’s inabilities and help make the state better.
Njoku noted also that the project had shown that traders in Aba could have a better alternative to displaying their wares and a more conducive atmosphere for people to shop in Aba. He said the project is Private Public Partnership (PPP) between the Abia government adding that the land space is owned by Abia government while every other investment on the land is his company’s. “We worked out an arrangement where Abia state takes some percentage of what’s generated here”, he said. New Telegraph observed also that another similar mall owned by a different company is also nearing completion along the Osisioma axis of the Aba-Port Harcourt Highway. Meanwhile, Chiedozie Njoku, Managing Director, Checkbest International Limited said the Enyimba Mall Outlet Shops will not be the company’s one and last of such projects as they intend to expand more in different parts of Aba.