The urban population boom, high unemployment, poverty, decaying physical environment in our three major cities of Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi and the inability of city planners to build functional satellite towns are rapidly causing decay of these cities.
Today, many Onitsha businessmen and women prefer to reside with their families in Asaba, because of the uninhabitable state of Onitsha, leading to capital flight to Delta State, while no meaningful efforts are being made to make Awka capital city and the Industrial town of Nnewi, grow sustainably.
Anambra State under Governor Peter Obi, partnered with the UN-Habitat and designed a 20 years Structural Masterplan (2009-2028) for each of three of our major cities, Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi. These plans are meant to restore urban planning and guide their growth into the future. Our State was the first in Nigeria to adopt structural plans for its cities. These plans, if fully implemented , will systematically grow our State as a major economic centre in Nigeria and West Africa.
The implementation of these Structural Masterplans started with the elaborate urban renewal programme of Peter Obi’s administration. As Commissioner for Environment, during that period, I oversaw the opening up and dredging of the Otumoye/Nwangene Creek, the Sacamori drains – the underground drainage channel that drains flood water from parts of Onitsha into the River Niger; the evacuation of hundreds of thousand tons of wastes from various parts of Onitsha metropolis including Creek Road, Enugu Road, Ochanja, Main Market, Okpoko etc., and the conversion of some of these illegal dump sites to various economic uses by the government. We also created two standard waste disposal sites in Onitsha alone and one each in Awka and Nnewi, conducted Housing Enumerations and started House-to-House waste collection in the three major cities. We equally turned the then notorious Upper Iweka Roundabout into a Garden Park; removed the livestock sellers in Onitsha Bridge Head and beautified the Anambra Gateway from Delta State. The same were replicated in Awka and Nnewi.
However, further and phased development of these Structural Masterplans have been abandoned today. Indeed, the all-important Nwangene creek that drains Onitsha flood into River Niger is sand-filled and is now being sold for housing development. With just 8years to the terminal date of the Masterplans, urgent attention is needed to bring the implementation back on track and rectify the mistakes already made.
As at today, Onitsha may be submerged under flood over a period of time, if the continued sand-filling of the Otumoye/Nwangene River and the dumpling of refuse inside the drainage channels are not stopped. The impact of flood in Onitsha, each time it rains, is already alarming and calls for urgent action. A number of houses including churches are built on top of existing underground stormwater channel unregulated, blocking the free flow of flood through them. Many internal roads built by previous Governments in Onitsha and these other cities are today deteriorating and street hawkers are back displaying wares by street corners making the roads impassable.
As government, we shall begin the total turnaround of these three cities following the guidelines from their respective Structural Masterplans.
We shall on coming to Office:
a. Review the Structural Plan to bring it up to date with the reality of the moment.
b. Develop State Policies and Programmes for land use, city beautification, road infrastructure, Industrial Development, Housing, Waste Management and Disposal, Water supply etc
c. Commence immediate implementation of the revised Structural plan in all its ramifications.
We shall begin:
a. Regular rehabilitation of inner-city road networks, periodic re-asphalting and dualization of some of the roads where necessary;
b. Open and reconnect our drainage systems to ensure free flow of flood;
c. Reconstruction of Sacamori Storm water drainage channel in Onitsha, recover Otumoye/Nwangene river and open same into the River Niger to drain the city;
d. We will enforce efficient waste collection and disposal system in the state,
e. Institute development and periodic servicing and maintenance of drainage and storm water channels and sewage pipelines;
f. We shall implement the development of abandoned Awka Integrated Storm Water Management System as well as Nnewi Storm Water Management program.
g. Street sweeping; street lighting, planting of flowers, trees and ornamentals will be prioritized.
g. We will reintroduce periodic maintenance and repainting of public buildings, creation and management of public open spaces as were done when I was Commissioner.
h. Abandoned public buildings in our cities shall be completed to improve the skyline of our cities.
I. We shall restructure ASUDEB and ensure strict enforcement of urban planning and development laws, to make for sustainable development of our cities.
Join us, let’s go to work.