Following every heavy rain fall, videos of flooded A-line in Ariaria International Market, Aba, are circulated online by sundry persons apparently to demarket the well acknowledged efforts of the Ikpeazu led Abia State Government to fix critical infrastructure in the State in a sustainable manner.
While some of those involved in the video sharing game may have been recruited by the opponents of the administration for political reasons, it is important to lay before the public the true story of the efforts made by the government to permanently fix the challenge.
For many years, the story of infrastructure deficit in Ariaria international market revolved around the famous Ukwu Mango and Ama Ikonne floods which proved intractable until the emergence of the Ikpeazu administration in 2015. Indeed many residents and visitors to the area believed the “fabu” that a certain “mammy water” was responsible for the perennial flooding at those locations. But having carefully studied the pattern and history of the area, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu hired the best available grade A contractor, Setraco Construction Company, to tackle the challenge.
With the massive work done there by the administration, for the first time in more than 20 years, it is now possible to drive from Brass Junction along Aba-Owerri Road to Ariaria junction of the Enugu-PH federal highway. The “mammy water” at Ukwu Mango and Ama Ikonne have long been “killed” and access to the market has been firmly re-established even though Sam Mbakwe Road (formerly Faulks Road) is yet to receive the final wearing course of asphalt.
In addition, Osusu, Okigwe, Samek, MCC and Umule roads leading to the market have also been fixed while work is ongoing along Omuma Road in what many around the area see as the most far reaching effort to reclaim what used to be the second most flood impacted axis of Abia.
With the work done along Faulks – now Sam Mbakwe – Road, the government realized the need to tackle flooding within Ariaria market, especially at A-line, which was made worse by the new elevation of the reconstructed Faulks Road. A decision was made by the state executive council to reconstruct A-line as well as remodel the market shops to deliver a more befitting modern market. But for some reasons, some established traders resisted the effort and even promised to fix the challenge themselves rather than relocate temporarily to a designated area within the market complex.
To push toward its agenda of modernization and permanent flood control of the area, the Government subsequently endorsed an MOU with a private investor, Blessed Henken, a reputable company with prerequisite experience that proposed to remodel the market with existing allottees serving as off takers.
But one Chief Goddy Udunna (Papa Nnukwu) led a group of persons including Elder John Agwata, Chief Sunday Ekpechi (Sunny Black), Mr Emmanuel Ohia (Emma Etalo), Chief Felix Igwebuike Okpara (Emmy Pat) to resist the effort while also requesting to be allowed to remodel and fix the market themselves just to feather their own nests. These traders basically organized an army of dissenters against the planned fixing and remodeling of the market even through they have no record of expertise or the wherewithal required to achieve government set objective for the place.
Indeed, the same Papa Nnukwu went to court to try to obtain an injunction against the government and Blessed Henken that had already endorsed an MOU with the government which stipulated that every existing trader with a shop would repossess the shop upon completion with a friendly payment plan. He failed but continued to lead the resistance.
Given the current situation of the market, with particular reference to A-line, the government is ready to give a maximum of 4 weeks to the concerned traders to peacefully agree with the new developers and move to the temporary shops allotted to them at Ekumi mall within Ariaria and allow the reconstruction and remodeling work to go ahead seamlessly.
As a democratically elected government, we understand the need to patiently consult and agree with stakeholders before carrying out critical activities that might impact our people negatively, in the short term. This disposition should not be taken as a weakness but accepted as civilized way to relate with our people to whom power belongs.
Let those genuinely concerned about the flooding along A-line be assured that the needful will be done and done soon enough.
Chief John Okiyi Kalu
Honorable Commissioner for Information, Abia State