By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Before now, several issues bore negative testimonies on Abia (the God’s On State), especially Aba, the state’s commercial heart beat. The refuse situation of Aba got to a point that one celebrated columnist, who later became a member of the lower chamber of the national assembly named the refuse dumps littering the nooks and crannies of Aba the flower pot of a former governor of the state.
Aba was also seen as a disorderly city and a metaphor for chaotic traffic system where motorists, especially the commercial ones among them park their vehicles indiscriminately and pick passengers at random.
Not only that the ugly refuse situation has since been addressed during Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu’s tenure as the Deputy General Manager of the state environmental protection agency, ASEPA, Ikpeazu’s led-administration has also sustained and improved the refuse situation since its inception and the ugly refuse testimony and negative narrative of the commercial hub have since disappeared.
On the same measure, Ikpeazu’s government has stepped up efforts to delete every negative attribute previously associated with Aba in particular and Abia in general .The latest effort is the inauguration of a-12 man technical committee on the harmonisation of motor parks and mechanic villages in the state.
The mandate of the committee chaired by a renowned lawyer and a man with robust track record of achievements, St.Moses Ogbonna are to create motor/ trailer parks and mechanic villages at the outskirt of the metropolitan cities;establishing a mechanic and allied villages close to motor parks.
Others are the establishment of a data bank for vehicle operators to checkmate crime, to suggest locations for citing of mega motor parks and mechanic villages in the three senatorial zones; to harmonise effective routes of vehicle operation for easy accessibility by passengers; and to initiate any other action that will help them realise the objectives for which they were constituted.
Surely, if the committee delivers on its mandate, in the next six months Abia,especially Aba will be the envy of other cities across the country. From my brief interaction with the chairman of the committee, St. Moses Ogbonna, my assessment is that he has very bright ideas of his responsibilities and possess the requisite capacity to deliver, barring any unforeseen impediments. His words:”My committee will do all within its ability to turn Abia cities around to the envy of other states and people who hitherto thought that Abia will continue to lag behind. The beauty of Abia will manifest through the Transport Ministry”. I strongly believe that the duo of Barr. St. Moses Ogbonna and another cerebral lawyer in the house, a former commissioner in the state and presently Adviser to Gov. Ikpeazu on transport, Akujuobi Nkoro will ‘walk their talk’.
It will be recalled that prior to the inauguration of the12-man technical committee, Abia State had established the Traffic & Indiscipline Management Agency of Abia State (TIMAAS). The mandate of the agency include traffic the control & enforcement of state and national laws that govern the safe use of vehicles on roads in Abia State; to deter and apprehend road traffic offenders; to conduct highly visible day & night traffic patrols ; to enforce traffic rules and regulations; and to rid the highways of obstruction, among others.
The agency which is backed by Abia State Road Traffic and Safety Management Law No 2 of 2010 and Law No 12 (amended) of 2015 had the Passing out Parade (POP) of its personnel on 27th January, 2016 .They were trained at the Federal Road Safety Academy, Udi, Enugu State where they were exposed to knowledge of traffic signs and control, the psychology of road users, accidents and victims, agility.
The establishment of the agency has not only improved the employment situation in the state- over 200 graduates, National Diploma and School Certificate holders were employed by the agency- but has restored sanity on Abia roads. At strategic locations in the state, young men and women smartly dressed in their yellow and black uniform control the traffic.
Unarguably, Abia under Ikpeazu’s administration is on the speed lane to achieve many hubs- the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME) hub of the country; the poultry hub of the country. With these achievements, the state is an investors’ destination and these negative narratives must change immediately.
It is on the above premise that the state government recently banned all forms of touting, explaining that the embarrassing activities of touts have been projecting the state in a very bad light and warned that it would do everything in its power to ensure that the ban stands.
The ban has been in force since the State House of Assembly passed a law to that effect. Unfortunately, these touts have always defied the directive. But the state government has stamped its feet this time around and has directed security agencies in the state to arrest anybody found touting. The state Commissioner for Information, Comrade Bonnie Iwuoha said it was the decision of State Executive Council, adding that the state government frowns at the high level of touting in all parts of the state. According to him, since the present administration has zero tolerance to such illegality it decided to ban it in all forms.
Indeed,there is need to revolutionise the Abia mindset. Despite the huge efforts of the current administration, some residents of the state either by omission or commission are sabotaging these efforts. For a couple of days now, announcements by the state environmental agency,ASEPA have rented the air through local radio stations, drawing attentions of the public to some negative practices.
One,despite huge sums invested by the state in construction of roads and drainages, some residents are of the habit of dumping refuse in these drainages with the intentions of disposing through the aid of storm water.The implication of this is that the refuse will block the drainages and expose the newly-constructed roads to flooding. In turn, after sometime the roads will deteriorate again.
Second, some individuals who run car wash operations along some reconstructed major roads in Aba such as St. Michael’s and Ochefu have defied directives by ASEPA to vacate the places. Their activies constitute major threats to these roads as some corrosive materials they use in their operations could fast-track the erosion of these roads.
Gov. Ikpeazu has reiterated that the new Abia philosophy is”quality” and his poised to deliver to Abians roads that would outlast his administration. According to him, it is unfortunate eventually a government secures loan facilities to construct roads and within its term secures another loan to rehabilitate them.
On this note, my appeal is multi-dimensional. ASEPA should go beyond media announcements to adopt other measures within the ambit of the law to ensure strict compliance from the defaulting public. Abia residents should have it at the back of their mind that the duty of recoverng Abia from huge infrastructural deficit and restoring its dignity is a collective responsibility.It is hightime the Abia mindset is revolutionised. Let us embrace the new Abia mindset.
Ukegbu is the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Gov. Ikpeazu on media.