Abia at 29 and Ikpeazu’s plan to deepen State’s economy
Abia State is one of the five states in the south-East region of Nigeria and one of the thirty-six (36) States of Nigeria with seventeen (17) Local government areas (LGAs).
Abia was carved out of the former Imo State on August 27, 1991 and covers an area of 6, 320 km.
The name “Abia” is an abbreviation of four of Abia State’s densely populated regions Aba, Bende, Isuikwuato, and Afikpo.
The capital is Umuahia, and the major commercial city is Aba, which was formerly a British colonial government outpost in the region, and is also one of the most populated areas in Nigeria.
It is also the 5th most industrialized State in the country, and has the 4th highest index of human development in the country, with numerous economic activities and fast-growing populations, as recorded by the United Nations in 2018.
Abia State is bounded on the north and north-east, by the states of Anambra, Enugu, and Ebonyi. To the west of Abia is Imo State, to the east and South-east are Cross River and the Akwa Ibom States. And to the south is Rivers State.
The southern part of the State lies within the riverine part of Nigeria, it is a low-lying tropical rain forest with an oil-palm brush. The southern portion gets heavy rainfall of about 2,400 millimeters (94 in) per year and is especially intense between the months of April through October.
The rest of the State is moderately high plain and wooded savanna. The most important rivers in Abia State are the Imo and Aba Rivers, which flow into the Atlantic Ocean through Akwa Ibom State.
Abia is endowed with Crude oil and gas, which contributes over 39 percent of the State’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The industrial centre of the State is in Aba, with steel fabrication, garment making, pharmaceuticals, soap and cosmetics, and footwear.
With its adequate seasonal rainfall, Abia has much arable land that produces yams, maize, potatoes, rice, cashews, plantains, and cassava. Oil palm is the most important cash crop in the State.
Agriculture employs 70 percent of the state workforce.
Ikpeazu’s dream for a better Abia
Trade and commerce come naturally to the people of the South-East and particularly Abians and that is why it is featuring prominently in Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s economic blueprint, the “Five Pillars” of economic development.
The other four pillars are micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME), education, agriculture, and oil and gas.
In drafting the “five pillars”, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu (PhD) in conjunction with his economic team, considered those economic activities that the people of the State do better than others in Nigeria, those things that the State has both comparative and competitive advantages over other States and trade and commerce is one of those activities.
Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, has the largest population of any city in the South-East/South regions of Nigeria and the commercial hub of the regions. Its industrial prowess could be seen in the production of finished leather goods-shoes, belts, and bags, garments, steelworks, plastics, paints, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
The city’s Ariaria International Market is one of the biggest markets in Nigeria and West African sub-region and attracts patrons from the West Coast and Central Africa.
It is however the Governor’s belief that trade and commerce cannot thrive in the absence of infrastructure, including good road network and security, which serves as enablers to economic development.
Consequently, the State Government is investing in infrastructure, especially roads and security, is to open up the State and make it safe for investment.
And in doing roads, the Ikpeazu-led administration, also elected for itself to build roads that can outlive his administration.
And not only has it done so many roads, the present administration in Abia State, but has also so far commissioned more than 35 roads, predominantly in Aba.
And if you add up road construction in other parts of the State, the present administration in Abia has done and completed close to 149 roads, while it is currently active on about 75 road sites.
This is about the first time in many years that 3 first-class contractors are working simultaneously in the State. And there is no State within the economic bracket of Abia that has kept 3 world-class contractors, working simultaneously for two years.
These construction firms, include Setraco and Arab Contractors.
As the commercial hub of the State, it is assumed that if you get Aba right, you will get the entire Abia right, because the revenue generated from Aba, would be used to develop other parts of the State.
And that is why all the roads under construction in the city leads to an economic site, either it is leading to Ariaria International Market or to Ahia Ohuru or it is helping patrons to exit the city.
To avert flooding and increase the lifespan of roads in Aba, which is in the rain belt region of Nigeria, the State Government introduced cement pavement technology in road construction in the State.
The State Government is also embarking on a massive reclamation at Ife-Obara pond, which is supposed to take stormwater from the low lying areas of Aba, which Ariaria is within that geographical altitude.
It is remarkable that Abia State, under Ikpeazu, pioneered cement pavement technology in this part of the country, where it is casting 9-inch concrete, before asphalting. In addition, also, it is now a policy in the State that all roads in the State must come with drainages, from end to end, and street lights to extend business hours.
According to Governor Ikpeazu, It has worked, because somebody can stay under the street light and sell fruits and other items.
In the words of the Governor, “I think that with the vision that we have set for ourselves and the speed with which we are going and the promise from God that He will bless every genuine effort, we are confident that things will begin to work for us”.
It is the wish of Ikpeazu to see highly mobilized and optimistic Abia citizenry, confident in what they can do, all of them and half of Nigeria wearing made-in-Aba shoes and garments.
It is also his wish to see young people actively engaged in providing goods and services for the rest of Nigeria.
According to him, “I will like to see people that are not only educated but are capable of producing things with their hands and employing other people.
“I will like to see beautiful cities, not only in Aba and Umuahia. I will like to see a world-class 18-hole golf course at Ohafia that will bring attention to the world about the beautiful undulating hills of the Ohafia area with an event centre that can host the world.
“I will like to see a children’s hospital, where every child under the age of five and the mother, will be safe and healthy.
“I will like to see a situation where if any baby dies before his or her first birthday, the Governor will get a report.
“I will like to see our Abia emergency health service from 2 ultramodern ambulances today, to get 8 to 10 ultramodern ambulances, capable of rescuing people with a heart-attack by 2.00am.
“I will like to see the groundbreaking of Enyimba Industrial Zone, where hundreds of companies, would be manufacturing simultaneously and they are shipped either through the Obaku seaport or Onne seaport.
“I will like to see an Abia rail line covering the 13 railway stations in Abia, getting to Enugu, conveying happy people and goods”.
This is the kind of Abia Governor Okezie Ikpeazu will like to see in the next 5 years.