By Paul Ikechukwu Njoku
This is part of a historic education series on why Aba remains the most legitimate zone to be created as extra one State in the Southeast region of Nigeria thus making the region at par with other zones of the country.
I’m also exploring the regrettable nonchalance of Chief Nnia Nwodo, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. It would be noted that Nwodo had refused to submit the final recommendation of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo State Creation Committee to the Southeast Governors’ Forum to enable its transmission to the National Assembly through Executive Bill as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari. The reason is simply because Aba was significantly recommended than the insignificant Adada zone of Nnia Nwodo’s nativity in Enugu State.
It is pertinent to note that subsequent to the National Political Reform Conference in 2005, the Apex Igbo Body otherwise Ohanaeze Ndigbo, set up a committee on the issue of State Creation. The Committee chaired by Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu (MFR, JP), Nri Enwelana ll (Anambra State), the Shehu of Borno (Borno State), the Emir of Bauchi (Bauchi State) amongst others.
In 2012, the issue of additional State Creation for the Southeast was convened by the Southeast Governors’ Forum under the then Chairmanship of His Excellency, Governor Peter Obi. The meeting held at Government House in Enugu State it was made clear that Aba State demand is appropriate and absolute.
Attendance in the then meeting included His Excellences, Governor Peter Obi of Ananbra State, Martin Elechi of Ebony State, Sir Emeka Ananaba, Deputy Governor representing His Excellency Chief T. A Orji of Abia State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Sunday Onyebuchi representing Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State.
On the emotional angle, the late Dr. Jaja Anucha Wachukwu, who was the first indigenous Speaker of the House of Representatives, the first Nigeria’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations (UN) who moved the motion for the current structure of the United Nation Security Council, the first Minister of Foreign Affairs who entered into bilateral arraignment with the United Kingdom and United States of America for training the first group of Nigeria’s Foreign Service Officers, the first Minister of Aviation who established the school of Aviation in Zaria also had Aba State as a project in his heart before his demise.
In 1996, the late Dr. Jaja Anucha Wachukwu, appeared before the Mbanefo Panel at Umuahia in Abia State with impaired sight to defend the demand for the creation of Aba State. If elderly Statesman like Dr. M.I. Okpara and Dr. Akanu Ibiam have been immortalized and compensated by creating states in their hearts (Abia and Ebonyi) one wonders why such compensation could be denied to Dr. Jaja Anucha Wachukwu.
Interestingly, the current demand for the creation of Aba State was renewed in 2001 and the memorandum was signed by all the appropriate persons from the area of the proposed Aba State as stipulated by section 8 of the 1999 constitution. When the demand was re-presented in 2006 and 2008 respectively, the same category of persons (elected representatives at various levels) signed the documents.
Meanwhile, there were affixed memorandum and signatures of the persons elected from the area of the proposed Aba State in the National Assembly, Abia State House of Assembly and the Local Government Area Councils to validate the demand.
The resolutions, endorsements and signatures in support of the proposed Aba State creation formed excellent annexures of what a memorandum represents.
The Aba State Creation Movement believes that since government is a continuum, the present National Assembly should as a matter of urgency enforce the referendum of 1983 with the same areas and boundaries as the extant demand progresses.
Recall that the National Conference of 2014 looked into the merits or otherwise the various requests for the creation of more States tabled before it and recommended the creation of an additional State for the Southeast in the interest of equity and geopolitical balance.
The National Conference also endorsed the creation of a total of 45 States, nine from each geopolitical zones as Aba State was primarily endorsed from all parameters to be created from the Southeast.
The proposed Aba State is about 3500 Sq Kilometers. It compares favourably with Lagos State of 3712 Sq Km. The vegetation is evergreen, tropical and supports agriculture. On international comparison, Aba State will be larger than Rhodes Island in the USA with 2588 Sq km and Mauritius of 834 Sq Km. There are many Rivers surrounding the proposed area. The major ones being Aba River, Imo River, Azuminin River, Ekwete River and Nbawsi River. The area is marked by rolling plains and thick forests.
The proposed Aba State has maintained unaltered boundaries. The area has remained one and intact as a supposed education to Nnia Nwodo who dislikes Aba and who is also openly frustrating the imaginable processes of the creation of Aba State for the primitive and unqualified Adada State of his nativity in Enugu State.
Aba State: Its viability
The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo has unprecedentedly vowed not to support and witness the endorsement of the proposed Aba State creation if it does not come from his Adada nativity of Enugu State. He has incessantly accused the Ohanaeze Ndigbo State Creation Committee of corruption and also accused them of influencing the Aba State recommendation process.
He despised the recommendation of the Committee simply because Adada (his home place in Enugu State) was not qualifiedly and viably recommended having considered all the constitutional and economic parameters.
The 1991 Population Census gave the old Aba Zone as 1,095098. From 1991-2016. 30yrs later as at 2020, the population must have skyrocketed resulting to a projected population of 8.5million using 5% for Urban Areas and 2 and half percent for Rural Areas as recommended by the United Nations.
The proposed Aba State has a larger population than at least 8 existing States in Nigeria. Aba State is viable and will not be a burden to the Federal Government. There are arable lands for intensive Agriculture. Aba, Azumini and Imo Rivers are major rivers that are at the edge of the proposed Aba State. It is close to the Atlantic Ocean and Seaports and can be easily established at Obeaku and Akwete in Ukwa East Local Government Area of Abia State and Uzuaku in Ukwa West Local Government Area of Abia State.
The proposed Aba State is an oil producing State and one of the highest gas deposits in Nigeria. There are also many producing and capped oil wells in Ukwa West, Ukwa East, Ugwunagbo and other Local Government Areas in the proposed State.
The creation of Aba State means more internally generated revenue. There is no doubt that every new State will strive to expand its revenue base and this is not necessarily introducing new taxes but by enforcing existing tax laws.
More people will therefore be willing to pay their taxes to the new State of their aspiration knowing that the State belongs to them and shall be in control on how the funds are spent. The economic viability of the proposed Aba State will not be in doubt whilst the summary of its viability is obviously contained in the established economic blueprint.
The proposed Aba State is blessed with very rich Agricultural lands over the near flat and sometimes widely rolling plains of Ukwa Ngwa. Such cash and food crops as oil palm, robber, coconut, cocoa, timber, kola nuts, cassava, plantain, cocoyam, vegetable, citrus, melon and many other abundant food and mineral resources.
The fertility of the area can be gleaned from the widespread growth and production of oil palm trees as epitomised in the huge but abandoned Ohambele oil palm estate in Ukwa East Local Government.
Mineral oil and associated natural gas have been tapped for many years in Aba and are still being tapped in some areas of the proposed Aba State particularly in parts of Ukwa East, Ukwa West and Ugwunagbo Local Government Areas. Mineral oil has been discovered and reserved in parts of Obi Ngwa, Aba South, Isiala Ngwa South and Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Areas. Grass and building sands of high grade quality are abundant in the streams and other areas of the proposed Aba State particularly in Azumini area.
The Ariaria Industrial Market is the hub of commerce in the Eastern States, Nigeria and African States at large. The market produces such high grade goods as shoes, traveling and hand bags of all types, belts, cosmetics, detergents and other essential materials and commodities in high demand exported to ECOWAS countries.
There are other large regional markets like Ekooha Shopping Centre, Eziukwu Road Market and Ngwa Road Market which are patronised by other African countries. There are lots of industrial establishments such as Lever Brothers, PZ Industries, Aba Textile Mills, International Glass Industries, International Equitable Industries, Nigerian Breweries, Nigerian Bottling Company, Seven-up Bottling Company, Guinness Plc, Chemlap Nig Ltd. Starline Nig.Ltd, Tonimas Oil and Gas Ltd., Valumbra Flour Mills, in addition to Pharmaceutical and Plastic Industries, Paper packaging and paper converting Industry as well as all types of paints of high standard.
A new state with all the appurtenances and enhanced infrastructure will give added life and verve to these industries. The area of the proposed Aba State has a vast pool of human resources of all types with professionals that will make the task of governance very easy.
Indeed, as a Centre for Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship, Aba City and its other Urban Areas will be in a position to export manpower to other States in need. The NNPC Deport at Osisioma Ngwa supplies Fuel, Kerosene and Diesel to many areas of the Eastern and Northern States. With deregulation of the power will not be a problem in the new State as some private power establishments in the proposed State will ensure steady and qualitative power supply and guarantee industrial and economic growth. For example, Geometric Power Plant which has the capacity to supply non-stop electricity to Aba, its environs and neighbouring States whilst the Alaoji Power Plants presently supply power to Aba and most of the Eastern States.
More so, the proposed Aba State has a large concentration of telecommunication facilities including NITEL, NIPOST and GSM Firms and there are public and private radio and television stations including Nigeria Television Authority, Channel Six Aba etc..
Aba City has two modern and spacious government lodges which can easily serve with very minimal renovation as Government House and quarters for other government functionaries. The Aba Town Hall and its adjacent offices could easily serve as the House of Assembly or a multipurpose hall.
Nnia Nwodo should be told that Aba City is a strategic industrial hub. It has road and railway route to Imo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa and Rivers States. Nwodo should be educated that Aba is very close to the Port Harcourt, Calabar ports and other international airports with the potential of port locations close to the sea at Ukwa East and West Local Government Areas. It is also relatively near to the Imo Airport located at Ngor Okpala of Imo State. It is midway between Aba and Owerri. Abia State University Teaching Hospital and many other private hospitals and healthcare institutions are located in the proposed State. Numerous hotels of international standard abound in Aba amongst so many other considerable viable infrastructure to be made a State.