One of the revamped streets
To boost economic activities and to make Cross River a more vibrant place for locals and visitors, there is a deliberate focus on urban renewal which seeks to improve links between the city centre and rural areas writes Jude Okwe
Last year, after the calabar carnival ended, a new thought formed in the mind of Liyel Imoke, the Cross River State governor. He wanted visitors to see more than calabar. Yes, Obudu is an attraction, but Cross River boasts of many more that will be delightful to its visitors. For instance, Ikom, Ogoja, Ugep and many more cities are being prepared for such.
So an urban renewal programme of the state government has become a part its tourism drive to boost social and economic activities.
With a cleaner, safer and more efficient road network in designated urban centres, it is believed that the state will increase its number of tourists and its internal generated revenue will go up too.
The exercise involves a comprehensive development of urban centres through the construction of urban roads and streets with pedestrian walkways, streetlights and drains. Landscaping of some portions of the towns to make them green with grass and flowers is also included.
When the Urban Renewal Programme (URP) is completed in these local government areas, vehicular and pedestrian traffic at all intercection throughout these centres will flow with ease. The towns too would regain both their lost glory and beauty. It is hoped that the success of this experiment would extend the programme to the rural communities.
The State Ministry of Works which designed the network of roads is responsible for total project implementation, operation and maintenance.
The Ministry according to its commissioner, Mr. Legor Idagbor intends to raise a unit akin to the defunct Public Works Department (PWD), for regular checks and maintenance of the roads/streets.
Thus, a first time visitor in the next five years to Calabar, Ugep, Ikom, Ogoja and Obudu will marvel at the revamp. Now, the streets that were inaccessible since the creation of local government areas where the aforesaid towns are headquarters have been given facelift, just as new layouts are being opened by property developers.
For Calabar in the Southern Senatorial District, three construction companies are working on the roads/streets. They include Gitto, Lemna and Arab Contractors. Lemna is handling the dualisation of Ndidem Usang Iso Road, while Arab Contractors is working to transform streets in Calabar Municipal Council and Gitto, Calabar South. And Sermatech has joined in the construction train, working on the six kilometres Airport bypass road.
Apart from the 12 kilometre Ndidem Usang Iso Road, other roads and streets in the two local government areas that make up Calabar under construction are covering a total distance of over 250km. This is under the first phase alone which has seen so many streets being tarred and others earmarked for construction.
In Calabar South alone, a total of 100 streets have either been completed or under construction. Calabar Municipal Council which is the state capital has benefited more as almost all the streets have been worked on.
The Urban Renewal Scheme more than anything else, is transforming the city centre, opening up new axis for development and decongesting traffic.
In the Centre Senatorial District, the scheme is benefiting Ikom and Ugep in Yakurr Local Government Area. Ugep, the largest native community in West Africa has witnessed over 50km network of streets constructed under the first phase. The Chinese Civil Engineering Company (CCEC) is the contractor. The same firm is responsible for the urban roads in Ikom, Ogoja and Obudu in the Northern Senatorial District.
Ikom, a bourgeoning commercial centre after Calabar, is allotted a 50km distance of roads rehabilitation under the first phase. This Local Government with a close proximity to the Republic of Cameroon is the centre of commerce, serving the needs of Cameroon, Gabon and Central Africa nationals. It is a city that does not go to bed.
Before now, in spite of its importance to the economy of the state and Nigeria, Ikom lacked access roads. Its marshy terrain ensures that during the wet season, the streets become impassable. Constant flooding and sticky mud deterred vehicular movement and even strolling by residents.
But all that is now history. All the streets at Four Corners, State Housing Estate and Old Ikom Town have been constructed. Each has pedestrian sidewalk, with drains and provisions for streetlights too. More businessmen are doing business in this headquarters of cocoa production in Cross River State as a result of this facelift.
Ikom is centrally located. It is the melting pot of commuters from Calabar and Akwa Ibom State to Abuja or other states in the north. The disadvantage of its strategic location is the recurring smuggling of petroleum products and other made-in-Nigeria goods to Cameroon and countries in the Central Africa sub-region. It is against the backdrop of the economic activities of this town that its internal roads became imperative for a new outlook.
The political history of Ogoja in the Nigerian state is not in doubt. Despite its provisional status in the 60s, this city before now was not more than a glorified village. The absence of good roads, water and other public utilities puts a question mark on the political relevance of its sons and daughters at the national level.
But to the rescue came the Urban Renewal Programme of the State Government began first by the former administration of Donald Duke and inherited by the successor, Governor Liyel Imoke. Major streets in the town covering a distance of over 50km have either been constructed or undergoing construction. This excludes the 12km spur to Okuku, headquarters of nearby Yala Government Area.
Ogoja seats one of the campuses of the Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH). Thus, the population of this city is on the increase. And in tow comes commercial and industrial activities. It therefore became necessary for this capital of the old Ogoja Province to divest itself of its stunted growth and poor infrastructure. The town has arrived with this facelift.
Obudu, which shares a common boundary with Benue State, has over 40km stretch of streets for development. Like Ogoja, this Local Government also hosts a higher institution of learning, the Federal College of Education. With more cars on its streets and a bulging population, Obudu was long overdue for a new status.
As a gateway to the famous Obudu Ranch Resort in Obanliku Local Government Area, this former County Council deserves all the infrastructure and Public Utilities to make tourists comfortable. It is also the hub of commerce between the Republic of Cameroon in the extreme east and the geographical northern Nigeria.
It is expected that the success of the scheme that is now in its pilot stage will make the government to extend it to other 12 Local Government Areas.