Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Abraka area of Asaba, Delta State capital, was a community of notoriety in recent past. Its active economic nature gave rise to the notorious fame.
Migrant traders had long ago settled at the hitherto busy location along the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha Road, and established a commodity market. Brothels subsequently sprung up, giving way to prostitution, which naturally led to a festering crime rate in the neighborhood.
Abraka Market, as it was called, became one of the flashpoints, where criminals gathered to launch terror attacks on innocent citizens. Some of the traders who were mainly from the northern part of the country easily became accomplices for the nefarious activities of criminals by providing them with the safe havens. Notorious suya spots and illegal motor parks equally emerged to complement the brothels and criminal hideouts, which the market was inadvertently providing cover.
However, things have been turned around in Abraka. Government through the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency (DSCTDA) reclaimed the land where the market was hitherto located.
Although, no structure has sprung up from the vast area, perimeter fencing has been erected, ostensibly to prevent encroachment. An open shop painted in blue-white-blue and built by the agency, which it tagged, “Smart Delta Farmers’ Market,” is sitting on one of the notorious spots en-route to the market.
Gardens have also emerged transforming into a modern one, while the market has been relocated to a 12-hectare land farther in Oko community. Director General of the agency, Mrs. Onyemeachi Mrakpor, said the old Abraka Market had no issue, adding that government became worried when it was turned to a den of criminals:
“The challenge of the Abraka Market was that nobody was really in charge, so criminals infiltrated, and it became their den. The market had no problem but the criminal structures around where they were harbouring prostitutes and you have people coming for patronage.
“There were petty traders that were unnecessary to the environment. But you know there are some petty items that naturally should be allowed. So we got approval for the Smart Delta Farmers’ Market for petty traders to serve a purpose of for instance you do not need to go to the market for your onion and egg for break fast.
“The notorious suya joints and every criminal thing going on have been converted to a garden. That place was an illegal motor park, which we have also grassed. In the original design of the capital territory, there is provision for garden at every entry point to Asaba.
“We tried to reactivate them after reclamation, for the original use. We dismantled the illegal motor park. All the miscreants that we hitherto have here moved on as a result of this beautification.”
One of the leaders of Arewa community, Awalu Tukur: “Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has been assisting us since he was Commissioner for Agriculture. He ensured that some of us went into farming.
“When he was Commissioner for Water Resources, there was pipe borne water in Cable, our residential quarters. And as Commissioner for Health, Okowa built health centre in our area.
“As Secretary to the State Government (SSG), he facilitated our political appointments. The governor has said our former place of business was not conducive, so he gave us 12 hectares of land. We will not forget him.”
Another leader, Usman Muktar said the Okowa-led administration has continued to show them milk of human kindness: “We thank the governor for carrying Arewa community along. Despite the fact that our people are stubborn in that Abraka Market by aiding criminals, the governor after demolishing the market did not look back before allocating this place to us, and here is better than that side.”
Meanwhile, similar blue-white-blue shops tagged, “Smart Delta Fruit Arena/Delicacies” were built in strategic locations including Federal Medical Centre, Nnebisi Road; NTA Junction off Okpanam Road and Akpu Junction off Okpanam Road. Apart from complementing the conventional markets, the shops also provided economic safety nets for displaced traders prohibited from street trading.
Beneficiaries of the shops lauded government for the initiative to add facelift to the aesthetics of Asaba, but appealed that the subscription rate of N5,000.00 per month be reviewed downwards. They said if the beautification effort is sustained and extended with more roads reconstructed and rehabilitated, Asaba would be the neatest state capital in the country.
Obiageli, one of the traders at Abraka said: “We are very happy for the shops where we now sell fruits. The shops are beautiful and attractive. It was not like this before, but now everywhere is clean.
“There is water and toilet so that people will not mess it up. We thank the state government for the project, but we want to appeal that the money for rent should be reduced.”
Although, Okowa did not address the issue of rates for shop subscription during a working visit, he nevertheless called for more collaboration, especially with the private sector in providing a cleaner and aesthetic environment in the state. He explained that partnerships with the government would help to create better amenities for citizens.
He commended DSCTDA and some private concerns for the shops: “I am aware that some of the structures have been built either directly by the agency or in partnership with some Deltans. I am also aware that two of the structures were donated to by some very supportive Deltans or people doing business in Delta.
“As a government, we are very grateful. Some willing Deltans and non-Deltans trading in the state have also started to offer support by building some of these structures.
“This tells us that our people should be willing to support government by giving back to the people.
“We will continue to ask and encourage our people to partner with government because government cannot do everything alone.”
Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, noted that the food stands the garden and the park have provided employment opportunities and expanded the frontiers of business activities in Asaba.
He said the agency had positively given a new look to the metropolitan city of Asaba and its environs:
“Even corporate organisations in Asaba have all keyed into the urban renewal dream of the present administration to actualise a ‘Stronger Delta.’
“The agency has gone further in the beautification efforts to enforce some environmental sanitation laws thus resulting in the painting of all private and public buildings in Asaba, routine sanitation in major markets as well as various houses, shops and malls.
“Defaulters were given ultimatum to comply while those who flouted the order faced mobile courts and were made to pay the stipulated fine and also directed to do the bidding of the agency.
“All these were deliberately targeted at having a transformed environment that is friendly to investors. As a government, we appreciate the efforts of every resident for their support and cooperation with the Okowa-led administration.”