By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, is noted for perennial flooding, which renders the streets of the city impassable after heavy rains. The situation has contributed substantially to the collapse of the roads shortly after construction.
Abia State government began the dredging of Aba River, popularly known as “Waterside” recently. The dredging was informed by the government’s commitment to give a facelift to Aba through its” Aba Urban Renewal Policy”.
The dredging ensured the excavation of debris and the expansion of the banks of the river to accommodate more flood water from the drainage and crisscrossing the city. The exercise is the fulcrum of all exercises trailing the Aba Urban Renewal policy such as massive road constructions; desilting of drainage, among others.
The exercises enjoy spiral relationship and are bound to run in chain. For roads constructed to be durable, solid drainage systems must accompany them. And for the drainage not to be blocked, they must be desilted. Also, for the channels not to overflow and flood the roads, they must be emptied somewhere.
So, the tripartite actions of road constructions; desilting of the drainage; dredging of Aba river, emphasize strong commitments of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to deliver durable roads to Aba residents; as he has continuously stressed that he was committed to deliver to Aba residents solidly constructed roads accompanied by solid drainages and street lightings.
The river can be linked to other adjoining rivers to enable the sailing of light boats on it. This will in turn serve a means of ferrying goods in and out of Aba; and in effect, boost the economy of Abia state.
During the colonial era, the river was one of the routes through which the colonial masters traveled traveled to Azumiri and Opopo in the present day Rivers State. Abia State government wants to reintroduce such transport system. This will reduce the transport cost and also ameliorate the harsh traffic situation within the Ogbor- Hill axis.
On the other hand, great tourist potentials are buried in the river. The potentials if properly harnessed will turn the river into a “tourist haven”- attracting thousands of tourists from across the globe to the place.
Located at the bank of the river is the Enyimba Hotel Complex. The Hotel complex, which was a dream project of the Ukpabi Asika administration of the defunct East Central State and was initiated after the civil war, was supposed a standard swimming pool, garden and other recreational facilities.
The foundation of the seven- storey edifice was laid by the administration of late Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe of the old Imo State. The project, which was to cost N56million, had reached an advance stage- with contracts awarded for procurement of furniture and fittings, utensils, among others when military intervention in politics of December 31, 1983 truncated it.
Regime after regime abandoned Enyimba Hotel until 1991 after the creation of Abia State when it was rumoured that the Aba Chamber of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA) purchased the facility.
Though overwhelming applause trailed the recent Abia State government’s action of ejecting miscreants from the facility, there are strong calls to the government to revoke the purchase by ACCIMA if the chamber fails to expedite actions on revitalizing the hotel.
Contraction of the Aba river banks is owed largely to the negative activities of the abattoir located there; heaps of burnt cow horns surge into the river obstructing the flow of water.
The abattoir is an eyesore and rubs negatively on the aesthetic of the city. Offensive odour emanating from the abattoir is a negative testimony to any first time visitor to the city. Innocent passers-by are on regularly injured and maimed by straying cows from the abattoir. Carbon monoxide emitting from vehicle tyres used in roasting cow hides pollutes the air and poses a big threat to the neighbourhood.
There is urgent need to relocate the abattoir if the gains that would accrue from the dredging of the river are to be sustained.
For a state striving to boost her internally- generated revenue from between N300million to N600million, which it initially hovered, to N1.5billion, untapped potentials abound in Aba River which require urgent exploration.
– Ukegbu is a journalist and public affairs analyst and wrote this piece from Umuahia.