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With 2 years to go, Ikpeazu faces threat of abandoned road projects

…govt calls for patience, insisting projects will be concluded

A s the 36 states of Nigeria have different names, features, topographies, landmass, population, leaders and most times different cultures, so are their problems different from each other. There are similarities and peculiarities of all the states in Nigeria, depending on the angles the researcher is beaming the light or is willing to spread the research techniques for more exposure. Anybody familiar with Abia can easily point out one common problem, the poor road infrastructure.

However, since 2015 till date, signs of better days ahead are there, but there are growing fears that most of those signs may remain uncompleted. Barring any other seen and unseen features/characteristics, Abia State, one of the five states situated in the South-East with the landmass of 6,320 square kilometres (6,320 km2) and a population of over four million people. Administratively, Abia consists of 17 local government areas comprising Aba North, Aba South, Arochukwu, Bende, Ikwuano, Isiala Ngwa North, Isiala Ngwa South, Isuikwuato, Obi Ngwa, Ohafia, Osisioma Ngwa, Ugwunagbo, Ukwa East, Ukwa West, Umuahia North, Umuahia South and Umu Nneochi.

Just like every other state, Abia has three Senators representing her at the Upper Legislative Chamber and has eight members representing her at Lower Legislative Chamber because she has eight Federal Constituencies. Aside from her two major cities of Aba (Enyimba City) and Umuahia, the state capital, Abia has other suburban areas that are either taking advantage of their proximity with Abia and Umuahia or developing separately on their own due to certain features ranging from the attitude of the indigenous people to some government presence there. Among the five states in the South-East, Abia takes the centre stage as the commercial nerve centre of the Old Eastern Nigeria (South-East and South-South) for so many reasons. Aside from her undisputable contributions in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria, the state serves as the meeting point of trading in the South East and South-South.

She shares boundaries with all her four neighbours in the South East and equally shares boundaries with three out of the six states of the South-South region making her total boundaries with other states seven from multiple sections. Aba, the commercial hub of the East and Abia’s nerve centre is the biggest trading and local manufacturing centre in both the South-East and South-South with many mega and small scale industries occupying the Enyimba City. Customers from different parts of Nigeria, West and Central Africa occupy Aba on weekly basis to buy goods from her numerous industrial clusters and markets that have become Africa to Africa trading centres.

For many, the kind of visitors that Aba hosts on weekly basis are either magical or miraculous. For a city without a seaport, an airport and a seriously functional Railway, a city that the world can only access through road to host buyers from different sub-regions of Africa on weekly basis is shocking. A resident and businessman, who spoke to New Telegraph, said: “The government of Abia State and Nigeria are not smart enough to see what Aba represents.

“Do you know that majority of the containers that leave Lagos comes here while 99 per cent of those that leave Onne to come here? Do you also know that this city takes more locally manufactured goods out of this country than most others? “Have you ever seen a commercial city without an Airport, Seaport or functional Railway that is bustling like Aba anywhere in the world? What’s attracting people to Aba? Is it that our roads are smooth? “The major centre of attraction is the creativity of the Aba person. The ingenuity of the Aba man and all the men who turn nothing into something are residents here in Aba.

“Do you know what it means for individuals to comfortably form over 20 industrial clusters where visitors can comfortably come, buy homemade goods and go with satisfaction? “When I said that both the Federal Government and the State government aren’t smart enough, I know what I’m saying. Aba roads should have been taking as a poverty alleviation project. Every road built in Aba does not only create motorable centres, it eliminates poverty because Small and Medium Scale Enterprises will take over immediately. “It is only in Aba that a well built five-kilometre road can employ over a thousand people without government sitting any industry there.

This is why it hurts me to see what is happening today on the major Federal roads and some internal state roads in Aba. “Do you know that all the Federal roads connecting Aba to Akwa-Ibom State are bad? The Aba/Ikot-Ekpene Highway, the Aba-Azumini-Opobo Highway and the Obehie-Akwete-Azumini- Ukanafun Highway are all major entrances into Akwa-Ibom State, but none is motorable. “The state government managed to create internal alternative routes from Ekwereazu, but it is not enough. The situation is causing gridlocks and reducing the pace at which visitors from Cross River and Akwa Ibom states.

“It is also important to note that majority of these visitors that use that route come from Duala, Mamfe, Buea, Kumba, Brazzaville, Malabo, Bata, Libreville, Bangui and other cities within Central Africa to buy goods in Aba. I don’t understand why the Federal Government will not do anything to those roads. “The current Abia government has barely two years to go, but I’m afraid many of the internal roads are not looking like what they can finish including the Osisioma Flyover meant to reduce hold up at the Aba-Enugu-Port Harcourt Highway.” A manufacturer of leather products (shoes, bags, belts etc) at the Ariaria International Market, Mr David Nwosu said he is afraid that if the current administration in Abia fails to fix Aba before exiting office, the city will likely go to sleep again. “I must be frank to you, Aba became a sleeping city from 2010-2015. Nothing was happening here. It’s not as a result of incompetence on the side of us, the manufacturers. “It was as a result of poor governance and insecurity.

That poor governance led to a poor road network all over the city. Major entrances into our clusters like here at Umuihelegbu Industrial Market, Ariaria, Powerline and even Samek road were all dead traps. “Roads like Umule, Umuocham, Faulks road, Osusu, MCC, Umuojima and Samek were dead and buried. However, today most of them are motorable but need better maintenance and touches. “My only worry now is that so many other roads we believed could help change the narratives are yet to be completed or remembered. For us as manufacturers, we worry about where our customers are coming from or will likely leave Aba from.

“Therefore, Osisioma Flyover, Omuma Road and Old Express Road are very important to us here because if those roads are completed before the next two years, things will change here for us at Umuihelegbu Industrial Market. I also beg the government to give a good touch to Faulks Road because it is fading so fast.” Mr Udensi Ndukwe, a manufacturer at Ama-Mmogho Industrial Cluster, Ndiegoro Aba, said he was also afraid that two years may be too short for Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to be able to complete all the roads linking that axis of Aba.

“There’s nothing that will happen in Abia State that’ll shock me again. If they couldn’t fix these roads for six years, why would I believe they can do it within two years? Of all the major roads in this area, only Ngwa Road is seriously under construction. “However, Ohanku Road is dead and buried, Obohia Road has gone oblivion, Port Harcourt Road is now a story nobody want to tell, Ohazu and Ozuomba Road are gone.

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