Aba: Misfortune of the South-east Commercial City


Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia State and the supposed China of Africa, has experienced tremendous decline in the political and economic calculations of the Igbo South-east of late. Anayo Okolie examines some of the factors responsible

Even the colonial masters recognised the importance and potentials of Aba and invested heavily in the city. They cited many manufacturing industries in the city and gave it a unique urban design to suit its commercial and residential purposes.

Aba City is made up of many villages, prominently, Umuokpoji-Aba, Eziukwu-Aba, Obuda-Aba, and Aba-Ukwu. The villages in Ohazu have been merged with Aba for administrative convenience. Aba was an administrative centre of Britain’s colonial government.

The city is surrounded by oil wells, which separate it from the city of Port Harcourt. A 30 kilometres pipeline powers Aba with gas from the Imo River natural gas repository. The city of Aba is also the artery that connects neighbouring states like Rivers and Akaw Ibom states. But the deplorable state of this connecting road has brought reproach to the Abia State government led by Okezie Ikpeazu.

The city’s major economic contributions are textiles, palm oil, pharmaceuticals, plastics and cosmetics, which made the Ariaria International Market the largest market in West Africa. It was once a wonderful city, a place those who grew up there were proud of due to its wonderful road network and drainage system.

But those good days are no more. The residents of the city, Mr. Ebere Okafor, said Aba was like the Biblical Ichabod, as its glory has departed. According to him, whatever made the Igbo man beat his chest for the city, all that made the city stand as both centre of commerce and technology, have collapsed. Okafor also acknowledged that the city was helpless.

Aba currently looks ravaged.
Another resident of Aba, Mr. Anyawu Michael, who said he had lived in Aba for more than 30 years, said electing former governor of Abia State, Senator Theodore Orji, and the present governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, was the worst thing that happened to Abia State.
Anyanwu said for the past nine years, the road infrastructure had collapsed and brought with it excruciating hardship to the residents. According to him, whenever the cloud becomes thick, which is the harbinger of rain, the hearts of the inhabitants begin to skip; and they are thrown into needles anxiety and nightmare because of the hardship rain brings in the city.

The commercial hub of Abia State, according to residents of the state, has some of the worst roads in the country. They said the situation was so bad that some years ago, lawyers in Aba under the aegis of the Nigeria Bar Association, Aba branch, matched round the city in protest over the deplorable condition of the roads.
The issue remains a huge burden to the people of the state.

Legislative Assessment
Worried by the poor state of the roads in Aba, the Abia State House of Assembly Ad-hoc Committee on Works recently visited the commercial city for an on-the-spot assessment. The committee called on the federal government to intervene by reconstructing some of the roads in the area to help alleviate the suffering of residents.

The ad-hoc committee’s visit was sequel to a motion under matters of urgent public importance moved on May 24 by Hon. Emmanuel Clinton Ebere, member representing Aba South State Constituency in the Assembly draw attention to the deplorable state of roads in his constituency.

A resident of one of the most prominent areas in the city, Aba Road, Emmanuel Okeke, regretted what he called the unsympathetic response to the suffering of the people by the present leadership of the state. In the past nine years, he said, the suffering had made the people develop thick skins. Being forsaken, they decided to remain there to see how to continue to tap the abundant opportunities, in spite of all odds, while at the same time hoping that the situation would improve.

Commenting on the deplorable state of Aba roads, a trader at Ariaria Market, Mike Obiegbu, criticised the state government for allowing such ruin in a great city like Aba. According to him, the governor has not shown that he knows the reason he was elected.

Aba is a goldmine that if properly harnessed would greatly boost the internally generated revenue of the state.

Paulinus Egbo, another trader at Ariaria, said because of the collapsed infrastructure in Aba, the traders were losing money every day. People from Cameroun, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, who were coming to buy goods in Aba, now go to Onitsha. Yet, he lamented, the state government still brought thugs to collect all sorts of levies from them.

Egbo said, “We have been crying, but they would not hear, may be, through your newspaper, they may hear and come to our rescue. The revenue we generate here, if they allow us, we will use it and fix the roads leading to the market.”
Bartholomew Ohaji, a shoe manufacturer at Powerline, said business was going down every day because of the deplorable state of the road leading to Powerline and the state government was not doing anything about it.

“Nigeria is emphasising local content policy, and here is where we manufacture shoes and bags that can compete with foreign ones, but we are not encouraged,” he said. “There is no road, no electricity, and no incentive. There is nothing the state government does to encourage us. It has been multiple taxation.”