From the beauty of the main entry point, the popular Faulks Road, with the well-paved pedestrian walkway and the concrete median that have helped to control traffic, there is a sense of order and decency that bespeak of the new Ariaria International Market in Aba, Abia State. There is also a memory that has disappeared – the haunting spectre of the flood of Ukwu Mango with its accompanying debris and refuse heaps. There is also the almost nightmarish memory of nagging motorists, barrow-pushers and commuters struggling for space on the road and the daily chaotic drama. All these are things of the past. There is a new orientation and a new atmosphere. But, this is not the Ariaria traders’ tale.
The tale of the Ariaria artisans and traders is captured in the story of Madam Vivian Achuonu, business owner of Mummy Baby Communications, dealers on phones and telecommunication gadgets, whose shop is located at 63 Lock-up Shop, A Line. Madam Achuonu is happy and grateful to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. She is grateful for being a beneficiary of a great vision and initiative of the Governor that have turned life around at the market and engendered a new lease of life in the way and manner business is done at the international market. She, like many others, is enjoying uninterrupted power supply, kudos to the Ariaria Independent Power Project, powered by the Ariaria Market Energy Solution Limited (AMES), a Public Private Partnership project between the state government, Federal Government and the Rural Electrification Agency, an arm of the Federal Ministry of Power. “Our business has improved. We enjoy uninterrupted power supply from 7.30am to 5pm. Power was a major challenge for us in this market. But, now with the power plant, the problem is solved and the tariff is cheap and affordable and the power is full. We shall remain grateful to Governor Ikpeazu,” declared Vivian Achuonu.
Micheal Amaku, Business Owner of M&C Boss Limited, former Vice Chairman of Ariaria International Market Association (AIMA) and a dealer on suits and clothes sings his own gratitude in a different tune. “We appreciate Governor Ikpeazu for attracting this project. Now, we can use all our gadgets in the market including music equipments and CCTV. There is a lot of advantage in the Independent Power Project. It is efficient and effective and the price is affordable. We are so comfortable with their tariff. Before, we used to pay N4,000 weekly to some private generator plants but with this new one we pay N2,000. It has made our business easy. Our Governor is a man of vision,” he affirmed.
Mr. Chika Eze, produces leather materials like bags and belt. His story is that of eulogy and thanksgiving to Governor Ikpeazu for the vision of the power project which, according to him, has consolidated his Made in Aba promotion drives and assisted new business start-ups to grow. “Power was a major issue here for us. From the shoe-makers and leather workers and other artisans, our story is the same. But, this singular effort of the Governor has changed our narratives in the way our business is done here at Ariaria. We now work round the clock without any hindrances,” he said.
Indeed, the Ariaria Traders’ Tale is a loud endorsement to visionary leadership. It is both a commendation and a vindication for a leader, who, from onset, has remained passionate about fostering a new orientation in the Aba artisanship economy – a very vibrant economy that had long been neglected. For Governor Ikpeazu, AMES is one of the critical vehicles for driving the state’s policy of promoting SMEs; a successful adventure that has become one of the major signposts of the administration and for which he has been roundly applauded. There is a sense in which the Ariaria Traders’ Tale is not only a lullaby of victory for the leader but also a measure of the collective sentiment of acceptance and contentment with the creative metamorphosis of Abia in the hand of the Teacher-Governor.
The pilot phase of the Ariaria Market Energy Solution Limited started in 2017 at the A-Line section of the market. Later, approval was given for the construction of the permanent site of the plant. The power plant was eventually commissioned on 29th January 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari, with a total capacity of 9.6 mega watts. System Operator of the Plant station, Engineer Kelechi Nwankpa, disclosed that the company started off with 2 mega-watts. Yet, even with the many shops that have hooked up to the grid, the consumption is still not up to 1 mega-watts.
“The reason is that the market is not fully integrated into the power grid. The station has the capacity to serve the entire community beyond the market. It’s a gas-flared power, not just gas but compressed natural gas from Total Support Plant, Eleme, Port-Harcourt,” he said.
Last line: the vision of Governor Ikpeazu AMES is to ensure uninterrupted power supply to all customers, Aba artisans and traders at the Ariaria International Market. From the testimonial of beneficiaries, Governor Ikpeazu has scored a big pass mark. There is a new orientation and a new atmosphere of business at Ariaria. Come, let’s visit Ariaria.
•Adindu is the director-general of the Abia State Orientation Agency