There have been renewed concerns about the state of roads in Aba, the Southern Eastern commercial heartland whose strategic location connects all the eastern states except Bayelsa. Aba has been in the wrong side of history after Sam Mbakwe’s administration tried to remedy it. After Mbakwe, no government has taken more than passing interest to set the city on the path of economic and infrastructural renewal.
The Abia State government under Dr Okezie Ikpeazu began, since inception, series of business reforms to economically recover Aba and make it a one stop shop for the citizens of the sub-Saharan Africa, African and the world community at large.
Actually, the campaign to make Aba the Dubai of Africa assumed electrifying leap when Ikpeazu’s government sponsored some businessmen in the city to Turkey, China and Brazil all in the bid of linking them with their counterparts in those countries in order to acquire modern technology and knowledge to fabricate and manufacture their products.
Aba is home to small and medium scale industries, most of which are dotting the landscape of the buzzing and boisterous city with rays. Many fabricated machines in Aba are done without modern and international flavour. The shoe and leather industry is in its prime is among the best in the world.
It is a city personified by local ingenuity. Indeed, before and after the Nigeria Civil war until year 2000, Aba played host to traders from Cameroun, Gabo, Central African Republic, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Chad, Niger and other African countries who came in droves to buy Aba made goods.
Late Governor Sam Mbakwe of the Old Imo State,onto exploited this profitable tailwind to birth the state into an Eldorado during his four year-and -three month tenure. He virtually ran his government with internally generated revenue from Aba. Federal allocation became a substitute. The present road networks there, though dilapidated now, are Mbakwe’s handiwork. He made sure the roads snaked their ways out of the town into cities that share neighbourhood with the Atlantic.
Such roads today are federal roads. Port Harcourt, Ikot Ekpene, Aba-Owerri Roads are designated Trunk A and therefore belong to federal government. But there are other connecting roads that belong to Abia State which is in terrible state of disrepair. Ngwa Road, Obuohia Road, Ohanku Road, Omuma Road; all lead to Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross River and Imo States. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s government plays politics with the repairs. And it was as a result of this that Aba residents have become antagonistic to the government and the contracting firm, handling any of the roads.
Now, Ngwa Road; it starts from the Asa/Port Harcourt Roads junction and terminates at Opobo Road, connecting Azumini, Okirika Obu and Oron, an Atlantic town. Today, the road has been taken over by traders and aquatic animals because of its failed state. Many failed portions have continued to play homes to frogs, toads and reptiles. Traders have built made shift stalls and carry on their businesses on any available space on the good portion.
Asked Miss Ogechi Dike, a native of Ndiegoro village, Aba South, rhetorically, “why should the government allow traders to occupy a major road like Ngwa Road? Maybe, it’s because they’re unable to rehabilitate it”. Ogechi sells roasted yams at Ngwa/East junction. She continued, “Tell Okezie that Ngwa Road and East Street are impassable. Those of us selling our foodstuffs within the drainage perimetre are experiencing bad sales. You can see it yourself. It’s an eyesore”.
One of the drivers in a popular transport firms whose office is at the East/Ngwa Road junction told this reporter that the dilapidated state of the Ngwa Road and East Street has made the place riotous. “Everybody does whatever he likes here. One can comfortable do his/her shopping on the blocked road without moving into the nearby Ahiaohuru Market. The whole arena is marshy and pothole-ridden so much so that a visitor to this place will not decipher the simple fact that the place was one of the beautiful and adoring roads this city used to boast of.
“My name is John Nweke, I’m from Anambra State and a driver in this company; we’re not happy about the condition of this road. Our buses can’t come inside our compound or easily move out because of the potholes and even big holes coupled with nuissance caused the traders that filled the whole place. Do you know that this road, Ngwa Road, links to Opobo junction and from there to Akwa Ibom and Cross River States? And yet nobody does anything about it.
Definitely, the preponderance of the lamentations of residents and passersby heightened when the manager of Easyon Gas Station, at East/Ngwa Road, Mr Favour John in tears grieved that the big marshy spot that nearly swallowed his station has made them to stop business. “How can any driver drive into this place to buy fuel? If not for customers that buy in jherry cans, we would’ve closed this filling station by now. Do they want us to die of hunger?
“Now, look at that building, it used to be Ndoki Road Primary School, but now occupied by soldiers. If there’s a problem here in Ngwa Road, how would the soldiers rescue the people in trouble? Because their gate has been blocked; if the road is repaired these traders you see here will disappear.
However, when this reporter on Monday, (13-12-2020) visited the Asa/Port Harcourt Road end of Ngwa Road where the company rehabilitating the road, Hartland Company Limited is doing a drab job, Mr Desmond Ogbu, a building materials dealer said though the “government has started some epileptic job on Ngwa Road, the job of the company, left much to be deserved. This appears to be a wait and take job”.
“This smelly water in this marsh”, he continued (pointing to the swamp opposite his shop at 32 Ngwa Road), “should’ve been channeled to the big drainage at the Old Court Road which flushes it to the Aba big gutter en route to Aba Waterside. Regrettably, the company appears to be confused on what to do.
“We’re suspecting that they intend to perform their usual deceptive deeds and thereafter ie after the festivities, vamoose with their equipment”, he sarcastically stated. Similarly, another trader, Monday Anyanwu said he supported the suggestion by traders that Hartland should be compelled to hire some pumping equipment which abounds in Aba to drain the smelly flood water into that Old Court Road drain.
“Old Court Road itself is terribly bad, Aba is finished and government tells lies in the radio about repairing Aba Roads. This is how they rehabilitate the roads! That’s why we’re suffering, we longer sell our wares, we come out in the morning and go in the evening without making a single sale”, they lamented.
Ogbu and Anyanwu revealed that they saw “these Hartland people for the first time last week, Friday, December 11, 2020, adding “we’re suspecting them because they didn’t come with enough equipment to do the job.
Meanwhile, No. 26B Ngwa Road to No. 54 Ngwa Road axis have deep holes with gory smell oozing out from them. Two Petrol Stations, Thank God Oil Limited and Prime Path Oil Limited opposite the Fuel Stations have closed down because of lack of patronage occasioned by the marshy state of their frontage.
A sales girl in one of the Petrol Stations, Miss Nmesoma Dike pleaded with the reporter to compel the government to reclaim the failed portion of the road. “Please sir, help us, we’re no longer selling anything here as you see”.
Meanwhile, the foreman of Hartland Construction Company Limited, Ngwa Road axis, Mr Nick Anikwe on sighting this reporter used the opportunity to send an ‘Save Our Soul’ (SOS) appeal to the state government, asking it to protect their workers from possible mob attack.
“Aba people are not friendly at all, we need a task force, police or even soldiers to guard us as we work because Aba people have been threatening to attack us. They see what we’re doing as scam. They don’t allow us to scoop the gutters; asking us instead to first work on the road before embarking on the drainage. They’re not cooperating at all. What we want to do is to scoop the gutters first and then start the actual work on the road.
“At the Ahiaohuru axis of Ngwa Road, taken over by traders, we were told by the market union not to venture into the place unless on Tuesdays and Thursdays; that if we come there on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays to work, the traders will mob us”. Have you seen what experiencing?, he lamented.
Next is Ohanku Road.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.