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Aba: Once Abandoned Commercial City Undergoes Regeneration

Urban/ Physical planning is the process of envisioning alternative futures for an urban area, setting goals and objectives and formulating strategies to reach the alternative future. Functional, economically viable and aesthetically pleasing towns and cities are products of painstaking physical planning. Generally, cities sometimes decay and die. Most cities suffer decay for lack of values and maintenance of its immediate infrastructure.

Normally, these results in the neglect of activities required to nourish cities or a section of the city. Decaying sections of the city form formidable hideouts for hoodlums and criminals. This is a perfect description of the city of Aba before the inception of Dr. Victor Okezie Ikpeazu`s administration in 2015.

The city was seriously gasping for breath owing primarily to infrastructural decay, as a result of several years of neglect by past administrations as well as negative attitude of the city dwellers. The general economy of the city was at the verge of collapse, and insecurity was the order of the day. Some of the urban roads were virtually impassible while a lot of man-hours were lost by those plying some other roads as a result of heavy traffic jam that was a regular occurrence.

For instance, commuters using the Osisioma axis of Aba usually spent upwards of four hours before crossing the Osisioma junction as a result of traffic jam. It could be recalled that some areas of Aba metropolis such as Eziukwu road, Ngwa road, Obohia road, Ohanku road, and some parts of Ogbor- Hill were virtually cut- off and unaccessible as a result of bad state of the roads.

Other areas of the Aba metropolis experienced flooding all through the year. For instance, such areas as the Eziukwu , Ehere and Ohanku roads were permanently flooded; with weeds growing on the failed roads, and houses around those vicinities deserted. Such buildings became `safe havens’ for hoodlums that perpetrated various crimes within the city, since such areas were practically not accessible to the security agencies.

The entrance of Dr. Victor Okezie Ikpeazu`s administration in 2015 was greeted with high expectations by people who live and do business within Aba metropolis. The new administration promptly understood the enormous task and towering public expectation before it and immediately went into action.

From day one in office, the Ikpeazu administration rose up to the challenge of tackling the age long urban decay of the commercial city of Aba. Since then, this administration has never relented in its urban renewal efforts in Aba metropolis.

Some of the urban renewal strides of the administration include; 1. Urban Greening The administration of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu decided that it was necessary that decisive action be taken to rescue the state of the Aba environment and enhance its aesthetics. Consequently, it established the Abia State Public Utilities Management Agency(APUMA) to complement the efforts of the Abia State Open Spaces Commission in providing an aesthetically pleasing green environment in Aba.

This deliberate effort of this administration has yielded visible and verifiable results, especially along the strip between Okigwe Road junction and Ama Ogbonna (usually occupied by block moulders), Aba-Owerri Road, Ikot Ekpene Road, New Umuahia Road as well as the former Water-side Market (Ahia Udele)and Abattoir.

It is pertinent to note that urban greening pro- vides a lot of economic, environmental, social and public health benefits to the people. Primarily, it plays important role in human habitat in many ways; filtering the air and sunlight, provision of shelter to animals and recreational areas for city dwellers.

Urban Expansion Strategies Having the consciousness that the city of Aba is growing at an astronomical rate and considering the huge pressure of population on the available infrastructure, the administration of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu deliberately initiated some actions aimed at decongesting the city by guiding its expansion into the fringes and beyond.

Consequently, it embarked on the construction of several roads within the urban fringe. Such roads include the Okpulor Umobo- Mgboko Road, Akpaa- Osokwa Road, Agalaba Ring Road, Uratta-Obokwe-Ugwuati Road, among others. The construction of these roads has become a catalyst to city expansion as the city is rapidly growing towards these areas.

The economic benefits accruing from this particular vision of the government include the enhancement of land-value, springing up of new businesses, creation of new employment opportunities and a healthy rural-urban linkage. This administration has also pursued vigorously the implementation of the Mba-Isii Layout and encouraged private estate investment, all in a bit to decongest the city and provide decent environment for the people.

Reconstruction of Intra-City Road As part of its urban renewal efforts, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu`s administration made in various improvements in intra-city roads, which has revitalized economic activities within the city and improved the quality of human life. One of the most striking thing is that all the major markets in the city such as Ahia Ohuru, Aba Shopping Centre, Cemetry market and the Ariaria International Market were deliberately linked with good roads.

As a result, the markets can easily be connected within 10 minutes by road; thus economic activities have been improved. Other roads reconstructed by this administration within Aba metropolis include Emelogu Road, Ngwa Road, Ibadan, Ochefu, Eziukwu, Azikiwe, Asa, Milverton, Okigwe road, Faulks, Umule, Umuehilegbu, MCC, Egege, Immaculate, Hilltop, Ebenma, New Umuahia Roads etc.

The Osisioma Fly- over is not only a landmark project of this administration, but a major improvement in the traffic situation of the area. The Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu`s administration has made remarkable improvement in the socio- economic condition of Aba through massive intra-city road reconstruction.

On inception of this administration, the government immediately commenced a massive road reconstruction programme. Some of the roads affected are ; UkaegbuRoad, Ehere Road, Kamalu Street, Omni Drive, amongst others. In the last eight years, it has extended its road reconstruction programme to the nooks and crannies of the city, having reconstructed hundreds of roads with drainage and street lights.

Road intersections at Obikabia, Ehere, Emelogu, Eziukwu, Brass, Immaculate, etc were expanded and given a face-lift. This enhanced the easy movement people and goods in most parts of the city, improved urban economy and security. The various improvements in intra-city roads has revitalized economic activities within the city and improved the quality of human life.

Provision of Alternative Routes This administration inherited Aba as a city that was virtually isolated from other major cities in Nigeria. This was as a result of the poor condition of the federal road, especially Ikot Ekpene Road, which connects the city with Akwa Ibom, Cross River and some Northern states and the Enugu- Port Harcourt which connects it with the rest of the country.

Consequently, the government reconstructed the Obikabia junction-Umuene-Umuikaa junction Road. It also ensured the construction of the Umuaro-Nto Edino Road, linking Abia state with Akwa Ibom State. These deliberate efforts at providing alternative routes to and from Aba were made to reconnect the city to other parts of the country and beyond; and of course, re-jig its dying economy.

Relocation of some Land uses The Ikpeazu`s administration in its urban renewal efforts also embarked on the relocation of land uses which developed organically but have grown to be offensive, unfriendly, incompatible and unsafe; the location of some of such developments became more of a nuisance to the immediate environment.

The government took these drastic but necessary decisions not only to enhance the quality of the environment, but to ensure the safety of the people. For instance, the Water-side market and Abattoir were relocated to the Good-Morning market, while the Cattle Lirage was relocated to Omu- ma-Uzo. Prior to these relocations, there were constant incidents of fatal vehicular accidents.

Also, the level of air pollution as a result of unwholesome activities within the area was very high. The government has almost completed the construction of a Modern Mechanic Village, preparatory to the relocation of the Motor mechanics and spare parts dealers presently located at School Road, Aba.

Also, plans are on top gear to relocate the Abia State Polytechnics and Abia State College of Health and Medical Sciences from the city centre to their permanent sites at Osisioma and Umuobiakwa respectively. These efforts are aimed at decongesting the already pressured city.

Aba Physical Development Plan Apart from these ad-hoc remedial measures to rescue the city of Aba from total decay, the administration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is currently preparing a comprehensive Physical Development Master plan in partnership with UNHabitat. This plan for a Greater Aba, covers 25 kilometres radius from the city centre; extending to Ukwa and IsialaNgwa areas.

The Mapping of the area has been completed and the project is presently at the vectorization stage. This project is expected to be completed in the next few months. This approach is a long-term measure of this administration at tackling the myriads of urban problems associated with Aba.

It is expected that when this masterplan project is completed, and its implementation followed religiously, the city of Aba will become one of the most organized and desired cities in Nigeria in the nearest future. 1.7Planning Authority Efforts The Government of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazuin- herited Fifteen Town Planning Authorities, whose responsibility is to implement the state’s Physical Planning Policies and Control Development at the Local Government Level.

Over the years, the Planning Authorities have been ill equipped by the government to enable them perform optimally. One of their major challenges has been lack of earth moving equipment. However, this administration approved the procurement of Bulldozers, Pay-loaders and Graders for some of the Authorities within Aba metropolis.

It is also pertinent to note that since the creation of Abia State in 1991, the Town Planning Authorities had operated with the Imo State Building Regulation, which was in operation before the creation of Abia State. This negatively affected the operations of the Town Planning Authorities, considering the fact that planning is dynamic.

However, in 2021, the government of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazuapproved a new Building Regulation for the state – The Abia State Development Control Regulations, 2021 (DECOREG). This regulation no doubt, will be a useful tool for the Town Planning Authorities in controlling Physical Development activities across the state.

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