24 Years After… Anambra Still In Search For A Befitting Capital
•Gov Obiano Rethinks Awka Master Plan
•Residents Quake Over Possible Demolition
A RECENT fatal accident involving an ash-coloured Toyota Camry and a container-laden truck at the Agu Awka end of Enugu-Onitsha expressway, Awka, Anambra State, has, once again, raised issues of poor planning of Awka as state capital. The victim, Mr. Okechukwu Odinigwe, was crushed to death, alongside his wife and eldest son. The three surviving children (two boys and a girl) were rushed to Regina Caeli Hospital, Awka, for treatment.
Anyone that is conversant with Awka knows that the capital city boasts of only two major roads: the dual carriage Zik Avenue (which is the old Enugu-Onitsha Road), and the Enugu-Onitsha expressway. Besides these two, others are mere link roads and streets. While Zik Avenue is more of a commercial hub, with street traders stretched out on its corridors down to Eke Awka Market, Anambra, as a state, is practically limited to the Enugu-Onitsha expressway. And with this road currently under construction, the traffic situation has worsened.
Apart from Governor’s Lodge, Police Command, DSS Office, Prisons Headquarters and a few other offices sited in Amawbia, all other government establishments are on the expressway. Name them: Government House, Women Development Centre, Central Bank, Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), Water Corporation, Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission (ANSIEC), State Library, Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), and Teaching Hospital.
Towards Ifite Awka, residents and real estate investors, who are cashing in on the lodging needs of students, largely determine development pattern. But for few homes of civil servants and locals, many buildings around Ifite are hotels for students of Nnamdi Azikiwe University. In many cases, it’s simply a matter of buying a plot of land; how the project is executed does not matter. This reckless subdivision and sale of land by individuals and government agencies has moved the town closer to becoming an urban slum. As it is, expansion has created a major headache.
On August 27, 1991, Anambra State was created from the old Anambra, which had Enugu as capital. With the vicissitude of the military, few people expected the administration of Navy Captain (later Commodore) Joseph Abulu to give Awka a befitting status as capital city. He had spent only a few months in office (August 27, 1991 to January 1992).
By the time Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife was sworn in on January 2, 1992, as first civilian governor, there were hopes his administration would create a master plan for Awka and possibly champion the development of a proper capital. Unfortunately, Ezeife’s tenure ended abruptly November 1993, leading to the appointment of four successive military administrators who ran affairs of the state at different times.
The coming of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju on May 29, 1999, presented yet another opportunity for Ndi Anambra to move Awka from a ‘glorified town’ to a suitable capital. But just as Mbadinuju folded his sleeve to work, he was engulfed in a power tussle with his ‘god father’. Consequently, he spent half of his four-year tenure battling powers that be in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for a second tenure.
By May 29, 2013, when Dr. Chris Ngige took over as executive governor, there were signs that the dream of Awka having a facelift could materialise under his administration. The issue of land tenure system, however, became a major setback, forcing the then government to concentrate more on opening inner roads in the state. This led to the reconstruction of the Tarzan-Afor Nkpor-Nkpor Uno Road, Nkpor-Obosi Road, Nkpor-Umuoji Road, Ugwu Nwasike link road in Ogidi, Ogidi-Abatete-Oraukwu-Nnobi Road, and others, mainly within Idemmili Local Government Area.
Like his predecessor, Ngige along the line, became entangled in a power tussle with his ‘god father’ over the sharing of state resources, and was eventually removed from office by the Election Petition Tribunal in Enugu, paving way for the emergence of Mr. Peter Obi.
Obi’s administration worked hard to restore peace and unity to the state and also pursued the vision of attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015. Using the Anambra State Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) as vehicle, his tenure witnessed development, especially in the areas of health, education and roads. Little was, however, done towards giving the state capital a turnaround.
Though what is officially known as Awka Capital Territory is a 10km circumference from Governor’s Lodge in Amawbia (which includes communities such as Agulu, Nise, Nibo, Enugu Agidi, Mgbakwu, Amansee and others), previous governments seemed to have concentrated on Awka town, leading to the present level of congestion. But with the setting up of the Awka Capital Territory Development Authority (ACTDA) by the current administration of Governor Willie Obiano, it seems Akwa Capital Development could go full circle.
With a mandate to accelerate development of the Awka Capital Territory, prepare a master plan and implement same, provide infrastructure services and coordinate all building developments by the private sector and government agencies within the territory, ACTDA has developed a model city concept for Awka, which adopts efficient, productive, lucrative and affordable design principles.
Findings revealed that the agency has also completed aerial photography using a mapping system that produces higher digital terrain model height accuracy for urban planning and engineering designs, and aerial photogrammetric method of surveying that involves measurement and interpretation of features directly from aerial photography. Driven in partnership with the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), the model is expected to bring Awka at par with modern cities across the world in terms of layout and infrastructure. The new city will make provision for new market, recreational areas, good road network, housing estates, motor packs and other facilities.
While Anambrarians eagerly await paper works to be put into action by the Michael Okonkwo-led ACTDA, the state government has, in the mean time, embarked on improvement of the capital, with construction of flyovers at strategic sections along the Enugu-Onitsha highway, replacing roundabouts put in place by past administrations.
The first, located at Aroma junction, will make commuters heading from the Government House axis into Enugu fly over Aroma, consequently easing traffic bottleneck under the bridge from Umuzeoche Road into the Secretariat Road. The second flyover at Akwatta Junction, few metres after the UNIZIK Junction, will take care of traffic in Akwatta and provide another road for vehicles to turn under the bridge. The third flyover at Amawbia by-pass will ease traffic from that axis, paving way for easy access into Amawbia and Zik Avenue.
Though Governor Obiano has been heavily criticised for using state funds to finance a project of such magnitude on federal road, its completion will give the state capital an aesthetic boost and enhance its value.
“It is a good idea because this expressway is becoming very busy. As you can see, almost all offices are along this road. Before now, this footbridge on UNIZIK Junction used to be the only thing on this road. With these three flyovers coming, Awka will begin to look like a state capital,” Osita Nwafor, a trader at Arthur Ezeh Avenue said.
For Silas Nnabuike, development of the capital is long overdue. “Anambra State was created in 1991, alongside other states like Delta. Today, you cannot compare Awka with other capitals. Development is about infrastructure, but it’s unfortunate that previous governments never paid attention to the state capital. My only problem is that the resources we could have used for other things are now being used for a job that should have been done many years ago,” he said.
Though the Awka Capital Development project is cheering news to some residents, the idea has sent shivers down the spines of many property owners who fear a massive demolition could be on the way.
“I don’t have issues with what they are trying to do, but the reality is that a lot of structures will fall for them to actualise that master plan. So, the question is: are they ready to pay compensation? If you ask me, government should have allowed this built up areas to remain, while they map out a virgin land for the new city project. That way, the resources they will spend in paying compensation, would be expended on the project. Don’t forget that Awka is an ancestral home to many here. So, there will be issues,” Chuma Mbanugo said.
Meanwhile, there are doubts in some quarters over whether the plan is achievable under Obiano’s government.
“I’m from Enugu State, but I live here in Awka; I know what’s going on,” said one Simon Odoh. “The truth is that internal politics is a major problem to development in this state. Many wealthy people in Igboland are from Anambra, but it has not reflected in the development pattern. With the current tussle between APGA and PDP in Anambra, Obiano’s second tenure is shaky. And if he fails, then some of these efforts will go down the drain as abandoned projects. I think it’s left for the people to determine what they do with their future.”