Aba is a city in the southeast of Nigeria and the commercial center of Abia State. Upon the creation of Abia state in 1991, Aba was divided into two local government areas namely; Aba South and Aba North. Aba south is the main city centre and the heartbeat of Abia State, south-east Nigeria. It is located on the Aba River. Aba is made up many villages such as; Aba-Ukwu, Eziukwu-Aba, Obuda-Aba,Umuokpoji-Aba and other villages from Ohazu merged due to administrative convenience. Aba was established by the Ngwa clan of Igbo People of Nigeria as a market town and then later a military post was placed there by the British colonial administration in 1901.
It lies along the west bank of the Aba River, and is at the intersection of roads leading to Port Harcourt, Owerri, Umuahia, Ikot Ekpene, and Ikot-Abasi. The city became a collecting point for agricultural products following the British made railway running through it to Port Harcourt. Aba is a major urban settlement and commercial centre in a region that is surrounded by small villages and towns. The indigenous people of Aba are the Ngwa. Aba is well known for its craftsmen. As of the 2006 census, Aba had a population of 534,265.
There is a lot of rich history that is associated with the ever bubbling town called Aba. Aba is well known for the “Aba Women’s Riot” that happened in 1929. Aba is also known to be the commercial center of the South East and South South of Nigeria as there is nothing you are looking for regarding clothing apparels, leather works and car parts that you wouldn’t find in Aba. Oh what a town!
I was born and bred in Aba, the city is one of a kind. It shaped me into the man I am today. If you’re familiar with Aba you’ll know places like: Brass, Okigwe Rd, Akalanna, Omenazu, Umungasi, Abayi, Ehi Rd, Umuocham, Samek, Ariaria, Ngwa Rd, Port Harcourt Rd, Uratta, and more because Aba ma ndi Aba.
People who are driven by the need to bring about change are never resilient in its pursuit. Aba is known to all parts of the world partly due to this popular maxim “Made in Aba”. But regardless of how Aba is, there is a problem that has even been looming. In this article, I take a look at if the probability of Aba competing with Lagos is every possible.
Problems of Aba
Aba in Abia state is in a terrible condition because of the decay in critical infrastructures in the state. To be honest, the state needs a total repair as most of the critical infrastructural amenities built by the late Michael Okpara had been abandoned by the government.
There is need for total change of ethics in order to take Abia state to a greater height. Aba needs to be repaired. Umuahia needs to be repaired. Abia state doesn’t have a government house. Abia state doesn’t have government lodge. Aba is in a terrible state. We have refuse littered all over the whole place. If you go to Aba now, you will shed tears. If you go to Ogbo hill, where they slaughtered animals, you’ll find it difficult to eat. Aba doesn’t have abattoir. Aba doesn’t have running water. Aba doesn’t have roads, that is the truth.
Another of Aba’s problem is also that we need experts, town planners to sit and redesign Aba because majorly of Aba’s problem is drainage problem. So, if there’s no solution to that, and you tarred roads, it wouldn’t last beyond one rainy season. You find out that when it rains in Aba, the area is flooded and if you’re not fortunate you’ll have to swim your way down to your home.
Aba is powered by the Enugu electricity distribution company(EEDC), it is a product of the unbundling of the Nigerian electricity power authority(NEPA), there is another electrical company that is yet to start power generation called the geometric power company (if this starts the daily hours of electricity will improve in aba and the electricity generator is a household item in every home that can afford it, for some places in Aba it is the only source of electricity), unfortunately the Geometric Power Company have put their physical infrastructures but they are not functional.
There are many problems with waste management in Aba, stemming from the lack of a regular garbage disposal, which means that trash piles up in the streets from the many markets that dot the city. Waste Management problems have been tried to be solved through the Federal and State Governments, however, the problems still exist, and have not been solved. “Aba is the commercial hub of eastern Nigeria”. There are well known markets (such as Ariaria International Market, Ahia Ohuru (New Market), Eziukwu Road Market (Cemetery Market ), Shopping Centre (Ekeoha) etc.) that serve the entire region with quality wares, provisions, cosmetics, etc.
The list is endless, but is there hope?
The Desired Future
When you hear Abians discussing the contributions made by the duo of late Michael Okpara and late Chief Sam Mbakwe to Abia’s development, there’s always a nostalgic expression on their faces that you’re sure to find very relatable, especially as a first time visitor to the state.
Both men were instrumental in the development of the infrastructure, inner city roads and industries that still dot the state landscape till this day, but which have mostly deteriorated as a result of years of use and disrepair.
Starting with the infamous Aba, there’s been considerable improvements in the areas of road construction and rehabilitation and repositioning of the city as the commercial hub of not just Abia, but also the adjoining South-south and South-east states that come to Aba to trade on a daily basis.
Aba (and the state capital, Umuahia) is so strategically placed that it is said to be 30 minutes (without traffic) away from other major cities like Uyo in Akwa Ibom, Port Harcourt in Rivers, and also 45 minutes away from Owerri in Imo state and less than two and a half hours from the city of Enugu in Enugu state.
Like a confluence, Aba’s attraction for traders from cities far and near is first because of its strategic geography, but also for the people’s legendary trade and commerce characteristics. Described as the China of Africa, the city daily plays host to business people from neighbouring states and countries.
Travel routes in and out of Aba to neighbouring cities used to be problematic. For instance, there was no motorable road to Akwa Ibom state from any part of Aba until the administration of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. Business people and shoppers from Port Harcourt found it hard (and still do) accessing Aba because of the state of disrepair of the Enugu-Port Harcourt federal highway.
The Akwa Ibom channel was said to be so bad to the point that traders from the famous Ariaria Market in Aba, who were affected and losing business, would take their products to markets in Akwa Ibom to sell. State government statistics claim 60 percent of the Ariaria Market daily business transaction comes from the Akwa Ibom and Cross River axis, which include from neighbouring Cameroon. The rest 40 percent come from Port Harcourt, Owerri and Enugu.
Also it is claimed that close to 30 million people do business in Aba everyday.
Judging from these facts, it is understandable why Ikpeazu decided right from inception that his administration would focus on developing Aba.
“I decided on this path to progress because I believe if we get Aba right, developing the rest of Abia won’t be difficult,” according to Ikpeazu. This account for the numerous road projects that has turned the city to a construction site.
Over 70 roads have so far been constructed by the Ikpeazu administration, and the governor in an interview with THISDAY, appears confident about their quality and durability. “I am confident they will stand the test of time,” he said.
Some of the strategic and important roads include Faulks, MCC, Ukegbu, Ire, Umuola, Umuehilegbu, Umule, and Umuocham, to mention a few. If you’re a regular visitor to Aba and your business takes you to the famous Ariaria market then you’re much more likely to appreciate the reconstructed Faulks Road.
Until recently, it used to be that when it rained in Ariaria, the entire market would be flooded. The opposition parties and their supporters enjoyed sharing photos of this on social media in their attempt to sway the voters.
Much has changed with the construction of Faulks Road. Once again business is booming and shop owners are no longer finding it difficult locating their shops. Add this to the ongoing construction of the Osisioma Flyover, and then you’ll have a situation where the market and city as a whole would be better accessible once the flyover is opened for use upon completion.
On repositioning Aba as a commercial hub, no Nigerian city epitomise the Made-in-Nigeria narrative like Aba does. Aware of this, Ikpeazu has spared no effort in getting the federal government, federal agencies and foreign governments in Africa interested in patronising Nigerian made goods.
Nigeria’s military ordered 50,000 pairs of shoes. There’s also been orders from the Navy and National Youth Service Corp (NYSC). Last year the governor was in the Gambia with Aba shoemakers for a meeting with the Gambian President to discuss the prospect of producing shoes for the country’s security agencies. Also, in the same 2018, the state government sponsored 30 Aba-based shoemakers to China for capacity building in the use of automation in shoe making.
For some of the governor’s supporters, if nothing else, the construction of Faulks Road – once a sore point to the state – supports the assertion that Abia under the Ikpeazu administration is resurging. But they think there’s more claim to a resurgent Abia, and point to the Enyimba Economic City (EEC).
Private sector driven, investors from Nigeria, China, Germany and the U.S. will run the various components that include an industrial, electronics, leisure and education parks, and a training institute, ICT section, garments and shoe factories, tourism, sports section, logistic hubs, and many more.
The $25 billion project, modeled after the Dubai markets, sits on a land space of 9,800 hectares located majorly in Abia state, and portions of Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Imo states, and is managed under the corporate name, the Enyimba Economic City Development Company (EECDC).
China’s Ruyi Group of Companies is the EEC’s largest private-sector investor, and in collaboration with Geometric Power Plant, Aba, is investing $2.5 billion for power generation, for steady electricity supply to the Economic City.
The federal government has co-opted the EEC as part of its broader industrial revolution plan as conceived in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, part of which is the ‘Made in Nigeria for Exports’ (MINE) project, conceived to position Nigeria as the manufacturing hub in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Recently, the federal government signed a $30 billion industrial revolution agreement with the Africa Export and Import Bank (AFREXIM), Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), African Development Bank (AfDB), Bank of Industry (BoI), and Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to boost export earnings from made in Nigeria products from Special Economic Zones (SEC).
Abia’s EEC, Funtua Cotton Cluster in Katsina State and the Lekki Model Industrial Park in Lagos State, have been penned down for the take-off stage.
Reminiscent of the Michael Okpara era, the idea behind the EEC is for Abia to metamorphose from Made-in-Aba to a Make-in-Aba hub. Upon completion the EEC would create nearly a million jobs, 300,000 units of urban housing, an urban population of more than 1.5 million people, and over 2,000 industrial units with estimated annual value output of more than $5 billion.
Recently, the Governor appointed Sam Hart to overseer improvements in the manufacturing industries. Sam Hart traveled to China and brought a whole load of Chinese Engineers as they have assembled a Shoe Factory to boost Aba made Shoes. All can’t happen in a day, as they say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but with this development, it’s certain that Aba would practically become the favored spot for business and living.