Posted by News Express | 20 August 2013 | 13,281 times

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In Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State, there is an ongoing urban renewal and the residents are so happy for that. The current phrase on the lips of the city dwellers and travelers alike in Onitsha is “Have you seen the new Onitsha?” To some people it seems like a dream land while to others, it is the fulfillment of a long awaited promise from Mr. Peter Obi, the Anambra State Governor.

While work is at an advanced level in several parts of Onitsha, the skeptics are still wondering whether it is really a reality that the once dreaded Upper Iweka, an acclaimed safe haven for hoodlums and criminals, has been reclaimed by the people and now adorned with beautiful lawns, streetlights and recreation parks.

Some years back, the Obi administration came up with an idea to beautify Onitsha. To give backing for the project, the government erected a prototype of the project at Asaba Park in Upper Iweka with the governor’s image and a bold inscription “Let’s make her beautiful again.”

The citizens waited with bated breath for the project to kick off in earnest all to no avail. To the uninformed, the conclusion was that the hype over the project was just another ‘government magic’ to hoodwink the citizenry.

But it was gathered that the initial delay in kick-starting the project was as a result of getting approval and the commitment of the federal government in reconstruction of the failed portions of the Asaba – Onitsha – Enugu Expressway. The project later kicked off in earnest with the massive reconstruction of the Niger Bridge Head axis now renamed Odumegwu Ojukwu Gateway.

The reconstruction and beautification project eventually took off despite stiff opposition from roadside traders and industrialists who erected structures on the portion marked for demolition.

Today, the people are happier as Onitsha now wears the semblance and ambience of a planned city.  From the Niger Bridge gateway to Upper Iweka, down flyover, Abuja Park bypass to Owerri road bye pass to Aba Park, a new city has emerged. The Onitsha – Enugu Expressway is not left out as the Nkpor axis now has a flyover fitted with street lights. This not only decongests traffic in the area but has also reduced criminal activities there.

Before this time, streetlights, walkways, overhead crossings and pedestrian bridges were rare edifices in Onitsha but today things have changed.

Some residents who spoke commended Governor Obi for the giant strides. Amaechi Okeke, a public affairs analyst said that the governor is a strategist who people often mistake for delay tactics or weakness.

“What is happening here in Onitsha and Upper Iweka is a welcome development. Though I’ve been telling people to wait that something new will happen in Onitsha, I must admit that I never envisaged that we can see flowers being planted and groomed in Onitsha. This was a place where the homeless and all manner of people deface, defecate and destroy without inhibition. Upper Iweka used to be no man’s land but today we have taken ownership of here,” he said.

The Anambra State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Mrs Azuka Enemuo, gave further insight on government’s plan for the project and its sustainability, saying:

“It has been in the plan of this government to give Onitsha its pride of place. If you could recall, one of the first tasks His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, engaged upon as soon as he took over the reigns of government was to have a systemised approach to government. And when you think about that in the area of environment, he remains the only governor who gave great attention to town planning. He invited the UN Habitat to do master plan of Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi. He also made the main vision of the government in line with the one adopted by the world bodies which is the Millennium Development Goals and you know one of the goals talks about environment and sustainability. You can also recall that not much was on ground before his administration came on board. Therefore we had too many problems to tackle in all sectors and that was what gave rise to his development approach known as ANIDS meaning Anambra Integrated Development Strategy where all sectors are developed simultaneously.

“So, government has always had it in purview to address the issue of environment in terms of beautification, environmental sustainability where you address the gully erosion ravaging the state, the quality and type of road construction. This administration makes it a point to have all the necessary appendages while constructing roads. So all in all it is a whole package because the beautification of Onitsha is a component of the whole package.”

Talking about sustainability and the worries of the people on how government intends to protect the environment against hoodlums, Mrs. Enemuo also said government is prepared in this direction.

She said: “The whole gamut of what is happening around Upper Iweka, one will see that the package has so many components. We have the expansion of the road network along the Odumegwu Ojukwu Gateway, a five lane structure. All the structures obstructing the way were pulled down despite the caliber of the owners of such structures because of the obvious need to address once and for all the problem associated with that for the collective good.

“Apart from the road network, the criminal frequency there was very high and that was because there were many shanties and illegal structures not just defacing the gateway to our state but also serving as breeding ground for criminals. Because of that we had to demolish all these structures. What we have succeeded in doing now is to push the will and commitment to enforce the provisions of the law. Next to this is the rascality of the commercial bus drivers. We are taking them off the road in order to decongest those stretches of vehicular obstruction. In addition to that, we have even market stalls built of water channels which we have also cleared ensuring compliance with the master plan.”

The Commissioner also noted that the project is quite capital intensive but the government is not only unrelenting but is also carrying it out in phases.

Her words: “We have beefed up security around the area and knowing the concentration of people around the area, reservation parks and conveniences are being put up to complement the project. This will take care of indiscriminate disposal of human wastes which used to be a common thing within the area. In addition to this is the prompt collection of refuse. We have sanitation equipments, refuse collectors, compactors and receptacle and increasing by day the number of adhoc staff whom we engage in maintaining the sanitary condition of the place. We also use the mass media to educate and enlighten the people on the proper methods of refuse disposal and all these are achieving positive results that for each day you pass through Upper Iweka you will agree that it is getting better and better.

“Our expectations here are that at the end of the project the people will see a well lit area, an area cleared of street trading and hoodlums with designated bus stops so as to prevent drivers from blocking the road. Provision of recreational facilities and other things, despite the fact that government is bearing the brunt of the provisions alone without the cooperation of the populace in paying sanitation rates. We also contend with the rascality of past governments in the state who used all manner of agents that delight in collecting revenue from people and diverting them into private coffers.

“Government is also opening up roads that have been turned into illegal parks and markets and all these together will present a gateway that has the characteristics and nature to showcase the hygienic level, the organisational ability and people friendliness of this government.”

The Commissioner for Works, Arc. Callistus Ilozumba, also said that the ongoing renewal in the state will be sustained till the exit of the present administration while it is also hoped that the succeeding administration will continue in the same direction. He said that new roads are being flagged off everyday in different parts of the state while the careful planning and spending method of Governor Obi has ensured that no contractor is starved of funds for the projects.

The Transition Council Chairmen of Onitsha North and South Local Governments, Eddy Okosi and Barr. Ugochukwu Ezeani, all lauded Obi for the urban renewal programme and urged the people to support government programme by helping in protecting the environment.

•Credit (with modifications): Daily Sun.

Source: News Express

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