- To many entrepreneurs Aba means so much to them. Now with the government spearheading an industrial revolution, the city is capable of becoming the Japan of Africa, writes correspondent, Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Before the advent of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration, Aba lied prostrate. Infrastructure, especially roads were comatose, industrial and commerce spirit of the city collapsed.
But “a Daniel came to judgment when Ikpeazu mounted the states’ seat of power on May 29. Since then there is a new lease of life for the once neglected city that laid the golden egg.
On June 1, Ikpeazu commenced massive roads reconstruction in the city and the excitement that trailed the project was pervasive.
The Aba Urban Renewal Project was initiated immediately to drive the infrastructural renewal of the city.
The essence of the project was to ensure that Aba is transformed into a city of basic modern amenities; restore order and sanity in building of shops, kiosks, offices and residential buildings; drive the park reforms and general rehabilitation work with the goal of making Aba the SME capital of Nigeria.
The reconstruction of roads were accompanied by de-silting of drainages to ensure free-flow of storm water that was necessary for flooding in the city; dredging of the popular Aba River to accommodate more water.
The de-silting exercise will be ongoing to ensure that the drainages do not fall back to their former sorry states.
Efforts are on top gear by Ikpeazu’s administration to reclaim the Small and Medium Scale Entrepresises status of Abia State, and Aba is the pivot, which will drive the economic agenda of the state in the days ahead. Part of these efforts is the upgrade of markets in Aba.
Before now, Aba was noted for exporting leather works, especially shoes to the neighboring West African countries. There are current efforts for artisans from Aba to produce and provide military and paramilitary outfits and for the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC.
This effort comes with the location of a leather and garment industrial cluster. This cluster would be equipped with a resource centre that could enable businessmen to register their trademarks, do quality control and open them to markets beyond the shores on Nigeria. The mindset of Gov. Ikpeazu is to conquer the Nigerian market first and make forays into West and Central Africa.
To ensure that this dream is actualized, he called on the Bank of Industry [BOI] and other development partners to assist and partner with Aba shoe makers and industrialists in the city by funding their businesses. The capacity of artisans in Aba to produce high quality products that would help in the economic development of the nation at large and the state in particular is not in doubt.
The governor told officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who visited him recently that there are about 10,000 shoemakers in Aba who can produce all the boots required by the nation’s Army, Immigration and Navy and Para-military personnel.
The governor said the leather workers have the capability and capacity to produce high quality leather products, lamenting that funding has been a major challenge confronting them and other artisans. He said the shoe makers need assistance in the procurement of equipment required in quality finishing and mass production of their products.
One issue that robbed-off negatively on the city was the refuse situation. But the incumbent administration is tackling the issue headlong. For decades, refuse in Aba did not receive attention. This caused perennial road failure as the underground tunnels were blocked and the storm water found its way on the roads.
Waste management in the city would be unbundled into six operating zones, and one of the operational units will be at Aba-Port-Harcourt expressway, and will receive special attention to address the huge output from Ariaria International Market.
Aba is an international brand which requires reinvention, and Gov. Ikpeazu as the chief brand ambassador of made in Aba goods has embarked on an aggressive promotion of Aba products. He is setting up Marketing and Standard Regulatory Board to ensure that the Aba entrepreneurs are encouraged while all Abians should partake in this effort.