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By Ebere Uzoukwa
After decades of neglect Aba, the famous Enyimba City and – an economic nexus of the Nigerian nation and entrepreneurial hub of the South-East and South-South – is deservedly getting a prioritised attention under Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State. The governor, in a rare display of vision, had undertaken the onerous responsibility of rebuilding Aba from ruins. Dr Ikpeazu’s novelty in championing a harmonised but unique economic plan is understandably aimed at rebuilding Aba and its decayed infrastructure. This is to, among other perceived gains, unlock and harness its untapped entrepreneurial potentials as well as refocus the trajectory of the renowned commercial city.
A breakdown of this strategic development plan shows the governor’s ingenuity in deploying well-thought-out public-private partnership initiatives and development-oriented collaborative strategies in project conception and execution. Amid daunting challenges, the governor appears to have systematically entrenched a new order by sufficiently applying an uncommon but unique approach to governance in the reconstruction exercise, from the doldrums of over two decades of wanton neglect and devastating decay. This milestone is also attributable to purposeful and strategic partnership with relevant stakeholders, including the Federal Government and genuine foreign investors, as conceivably worked out by the governor.
The development scorecard of Abia State Government under Ikpeazu remarkably suggests a significant infrastructural transformation within the past three years that cut across the Aba metropolis and surrounding of local governments of Aba North, Aba South, Osisioma, Obingwa, Ugwunagbo, down to Isiala-Ngwa North and South.
The completed road projects include Kamalu Road, Ukaegbu Road, Umuola Road, Umuocham Road, Umule Road, Omene Drive, Jubilee Road, Ehi Road, Hospital Road, Ube Street, Adazi Street, St George’s Street, Echefu Road, ENUC Road, St Michael’s Road, Azikiwe Road, Pound Road, Owerrinta Road, Weeks Road, Park Road, School Road, East Road and Okwunauka Road.
Others are Cameroun Road, Queens Road, Ehere Road, Umuojima Road, Umuojima-Owerrinta Road with Spur from Owerrinta to Umuocheala, Bata-Railway Crossing to Brass Junction, Ibadan Road, Aharandu Road, Onyebuchi Road, Umuehilegbu Road, Asphalt Overlay of dualised Aba-Owerri Road, Ovom Road, Mosque Street, Umuatako Road, Asa Umuka-Ugwunagbo-Obohia Road Junction, Chima Nwafor Road, and Nbawsi-Umuala Road in Isiala-Ngwa North LGA.
The governor is relentlessly making frantic and concerted effort to ensure that all other ongoing road projects in Aba urban and other parts of the state are speedily completed before the 2019 election.
This is also as the governor’s Made-in-Aba Campaign has gainfully unlocked and created several business opportunities for artisans and tradesmen in Ariaria market and beyond. An official statistics released by the Government of Abia State shows that the campaign has progressively attracted over N3 billion direct orders and requisitions into Aba, thus creating an additional employment and engagement of about one million employees and apprentices in the over 300,000 markets around the state.
Also recall that the governor had shortly, after assuming office, worked out a sustainable relationship with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo that has today aided in midwifing the Ariaria Independent Power Project, financed by the Rural Electrification Agency of the Federal Government in Ariaria International Market, Aba. The power project has, indeed, provided an uninterrupted power at the market to 2,000 shops, on a pilot basis, while another power station is also being constructed to provide uninterrupted power to another 34,000 shops in the market.
But what seems to have impressed many and elicited joy all over Abia is the lofty concept and vision for a New Enyimba City. Juxtaposing this ambitious concept with Ikpeazu’s economic thoughtfulness proficiently driving the campaign for made-in-Aba products, a discerning mind would appreciate this spectacular evolution of building a greater economic hub for entrepreneurial integration of the South-east and South-south regions.
The Enyimba Economic City, as conceptualised by the governor, is designated a Special Economic Zone by the Federal Government, with a Free Trade Zone status. The essence is to, among other things, create an economic hub central to the five South-east and four South-south states (old Eastern Region), linked with high-grade access roads, rails, airport and seaports that will transform the region into a manufacturing and industrial powerhouse. This will equally drive commerce, logistics, entertainment, education, health-care and lifestyle. Given the magnitude, it is designed to be a public-private-partnership (PPP) initiative of private sector investors, Abia State and the Federal Government of Nigeria, to be solely managed by the private sector. This involves incorporation of the Enyimba Economic City Development Company Limited (EECDC), which will be saddled with the responsibility of realising the proposed industrial city.
With Dr Paschal Dozie as Chairman of the Advisory Board and Darl Uzu as Vice-Chairman/CEO, the project is ultimately certain of early realization. And, on completion, it will definitely stand as the most valuable legacy Ikpeazu will bequeath to Abians, and the region in general, at the expiration of his tenure as governor of the state.
Also on the Advisory Board as members are reputable personalities, entrepreneurs, industrialists and financial experts, including Prof Barth Nnaji, Dr Abraham Nwankwo, Elder Emmanuel Adaelu, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Mr Chidi Ajaegbu, Prof Anya O Anya, Chief Sam Nwaogu, Dr Paul Ananaba, SAN, Amb Empire Kanu, Amb Tom Aguiyi-Ironsi, Messrs Ugochukwu Okoroafor, Austin Ufomba and Chibuzor Ekwekwuo.
The project is expected to commence soon as the Abia State Government, a Chinese textile manufacturer – Ruyi Group – and Geometric Power Company, Aba have all signed agreements for guaranteed uninterrupted power supply for the proposed industrial city. According to media reports, three different memoranda of understanding (MoUs) that will translate to huge investment in Abia State were signed at the corporate office of the Ruyi Group in Beijing, China.
The Ruyi Group, it was gathered, also signed an agreement with Geometric Power Company as co-owners of the power generation and distribution firm. Nnaji, the CEO of Geometric, was present, as he signed with the Ruyi Group for equity investment in the company, to enable the Chinese firm to mobilise immediate funds for the completion and start-off of the Plant at Osisioma, off old Aba-Owerri Road. Uzu also signed with the Chinese firm for the anchor investment of Ruyi Group in the Enyimba Economic City, while a third signed for the promotion of greater trade partnership between Nigerian businesses and their Chinese counterparts.
While applauding Ikpeazu and his economic team for their thoughtfulness and subscribed commitment to initiating the lofty project, it is equally imperative the governor uses the apparatus of his government to put all necessary enablers on ground to ensure a smooth take-off of this landmark project.
As one may envisage or estimate, this project as ambitiously conceived by the governor, has the capacity to attract quality direct investments to the Enyimba City that will contribute immensely towards a speedy economic turnaround of Abia State.
It is therefore on this note that I heartily join other well-meaning Abians to congratulate Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu and his team for their foresight and vision. I also enjoin the governor to consciously stick to his good thinking, while ensuring that this project is holistically executed to the glory of God and to the benefit of the people.