•Residents lament absence of roads, electricity, others at Wisdom Layout, Obosi
Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Onitsha is the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State. It is thickly populated and until recently, had the largest market in West Africa.
To contain the large number of residents, people are forced to reside within the satellite communities around Onitsha from where they go to their business premises. These include residential layouts like Awada, Ugwuagba, Oduke,Oba, Iyiowa and the rest whose geographical locations are in Nkpor and Obosi, Idemili North, Idemili South, and Ogbaru, among others.
Among the residential areas harbouring a large number of Onitsha businessmen is Wisdom Layout, Mkputamkpu Obosi. An extension of Awada, Wisdom Layout is located behind the Onitsha Military Cantonment which houses both the 14 Field Engineering Regiment and the 302 Artillery Regiment.
Located few metres away from the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, the layout was supposed to have derived immense benefits from the authorities. Unfortunately, the reverse has been the case.
While the military cantonment detached from the layout with a long fenced wall enjoys constant electricity, good internal roads and potable water, Wisdom Layout suffers total deficit in public infrastructure.
Practically impassable before now because of the horrible state of its access roads, the place has been the den of smokers and dealers in Indian hemp. In fact, because of the large number of smokers and dealers in marijuana operating in the area, Solar Lawrence/Oba Avenue, the major road that links the layout with the expressway was nicknamed ‘Ghetto’ and ‘Kalakuta Republic.’
Residents of the area who narrated their plight to Daily Sun noted that car owners visit mechanic workshops on weekly basis because of damages caused by bad roads to their vehicles while some park their vehicles at a safe distance and trek to their homes, as the cars cannot access some of the streets where they live.
The reporter gathered that residents in the area have been practically providing all basic amenities for themselves, including electricity, water and access roads. Governor Obiano while on a visit to Holy Trinity Parish, Awada in 2018, had said that all the roads in the area have been awarded for reconstruction. Two years down the line, nothing has been done in that direction.
The Parish Priest of the Blessed Iwene Tansi Parish located in the area, Rev. Fr Augustine Oburota described Wisdom Layout as the forgotten part of Awada, Onitsha Urban. He wondered that even polling booths where people could vote during elections were denied the people of the area despite their huge population. The people have to walk many miles to cast their votes during election, he said.
Fr. Oburota noted that moving to different outstations of the parish for morning masses has been like a daily nightmare, adding that his car and that of his vicar, Fr Cosmas Uzodimma are almost totally damaged just after one year in the area.
“Apart from high-rise buildings housing thousands of people, there are economic activities with markets, industries, factories, hotels and restaurants in this layout. There are hospitals, medical laboratories and patent medicine shops while schools are countless. What is seriously lacking here are good roads and enabling environment for prosperity which government can provide.
“The least the government can do is to at least come and give them roads as one of the basic infrastructure. Even if it means government and private partnership, the people are ready to contribute. At least the people can build the gutters while government builds the road.
Providing roads here would give the government more revenue because the population here is quite big and when they reciprocate government gesture by paying taxes, government would gain more.
“When people feel abandoned, the tendency is that some demagogues will start influencing them. Some will tell them – “you say you are a Nigerian yet government does nothing for you. How are you to prove you are actually a Nigerian?’ And from there rebellion can start. In situations like this, it is difficult to sing the National Anthem because such people feel they don’t belong,” he said.
Pioneer Chairman of the Wisdom Landlords Association, Chief Peter Enemuo recalled the horrible state the residents met the layout and their determination to ensure that a new city was achieved.
“We came in by 2005 and this place was very bad. No electricity or any symbol of electrical accessories and everywhere was in darkness. It was in 2007 that I was prevailed on to take over the leadership. There was a formal election where I was elected chairman and we took up the task immediately to bring electricity into the area.
Challenges of government neglect and under development at Wisdom layout worsened during the tenure of the immediate past executives of the area. Ä new leadership was put in place last year when an interim committee was set up, led by Polycarp Muoka (Abirikete). Within seven months, they started rehabilitating the bad roads and began ridding the area of criminal elements.
Speaking on the struggle so far since he accepted to lead the interim committee pending the time for a proper election, Abirikete said they decided to plough the little funds realised so far into road rehabilitation to ease the sufferings of the people of the area.
“They called this place ‘ghetto’ but I know that ghetto is supposed to be an area that is not habitable for sane people. Many sane minds, including successful businessmen and other educated people reside here. We decided not to divert money to private pockets but rather use funds judiciously and that is why we can rehabilitate this road to this stage,” he said. He lamented that their efforts to rid the area from hemp smokers and dealers have not been totally fruitful.
“Arrest them in the morning and the police would release them in the evening. Instead of charging them to court to serve jail terms they are released on several occasions, which indicates sabotage, inside conspiracy and connection.
“We have been fighting them and we won’t relent. I also made a vow that under our leadership, they won’t relax. That why we demolished all the wooden structures they fixed here that served as their safe haven and operational base. They hang around but I know they would be decimated totally some day. That’s why we still seek government intervention in this area for development. Government doesn’t help us despite the fact that we pay taxes and other government development fees.”
Former Chairman, Civilian Officers Mess, Onitsha Military cantonment and member of Board of Trustees, Cyracus Udum, in his own summation, expressed gratitude that a new wind of change had started blowing in the area.
He said that Abirikete and his interim management committee deserve a serious pat on the back for taking revolutionary steps in the area.
Udum regretted that the past leadership claimed they realised N21.4 million and spent N21.1 million, leaving a credit of N300, 000. He lamented that there was nothing on ground to show that such money was ever spent.
He commended efforts by the present interim committee to rid the area of criminal elements.
“The interim committee now in charge made it possible that a notorious criminal that terrorised the area before now, popularly known as Old Soldier was uprooted from the area. They also got to the root of the incessant stealing of armoured cables from our transformer. The theft had always put the area into long periods of blackout. The criminal behind such was also routed while the shanties littering the road which they have removed have now exposed all criminal hideouts in the area.
“I also thank the traditional ruler of Obosi, Igwe Chidubem Iweka for his support for the interim leadership. Without his unflinching support, naysayers who want the area to return to the years of the locusts would have struck and destroyed everything.
We appreciate Governor Willie Obiano too. I just pray that those working with him would draw his attention to this place for a thorough facelift,” he prayed.