Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Recent events in Abia demonstrate high capabilities of unlocking the potentialities that abound in the cultural,tourism,hospitality sub-sectors of the state economy, especially Aba, the state’s economic heartbeat.
As 2015 was winding up, Aba Sports Club commissioned its green golf course. The 18-hole course was constructed at N1.5million each and the estimated maintenance fee per hole each month is N250, 000.
The economic implication of this venture on Aba in particular,and Abia in general cannot be over-emphasised. Golf is tagged an elitist sports and is played by high-profile industrialists and the well-to-do in the society. With a functional green golf course in Aba, big time investors will be trooping into the city for tournaments and this will rake in huge earnings for the state through tourism and hospitality.
The expected impact of the green golf course on the economy of the state was aptly captured by the President of the club; Dr. Uwa Onwucheka when he commended Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu for embarking on urban renewal, stressing that when completed, Aba would fully bounce back to its former glory.
“I commend what the governor is doing on urban renewal; fixing the roads and other infrastructure. I appeal to him to help maintain the golf course. People may not realize what we have done for Abia state. Any man who is an entrepreneur who wants a place to recreate, this is what Aba Sports Club represents. From now, most big time investors would look at the calendar and see when the Aba Amateur Open will take place. They can plan to have their holidays in Aba and hotels in the city would be fully booked. Investors would come in. All the factories that had left Aba would come back. We need world class international hotel. People who lodge there will come here and recreate. With this, Aba will bounce back. By extension, Abia state will also bounce back”.
But now that Aba Golf Course has gone green alot is expected from the government to achieve its full economic potentials. One vital area is the maintenance of the course. The financial burden will be huge on Aba Sports Club if they are left to bear the N250,000 maintenance cost per hole every month.
According to Onwucheka, “In other places like Enugu, Uyo, Owerri, government contribute heavily to the maintenance of the golf course, knowing fully well the tourism potentials of the golf course. We plead that the government of Abia state sees the need to invest in golf. This has been done by private capital and individuals. Government must work in conjunction with the people by investing more and helping in the maintenance of the golf course. This would be to the betterment of the state”.
Besides regular maintenance of the course, efforts should be geared towards upgrading hotel facilities in the city. This issue brings to fore the comatose state of the popular Enyimba Hotels. Like Onwucheka appealed to Gov. Ikpeazu to upgrade the facility, Enyimba Hotels require urgent attention.
The facility located at the bank of Aba River(Waterside) was a dream project of the Ukpabi Asika administration of the defunct East Central State and was initiated after the civil war, was supposed a standard swimming pool, garden and other recreational facilities.
The foundation of the seven- storey edifice was laid by the administration of late Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe of the old Imo State. The project,which was to cost N56million, had reached an advance stage- with contracts awarded for procurement of furniture and fittings, utensils, among others when military intervention in politics of December 31, 1983 truncated it.
Regime after regime abandoned Enyimba Hotels until 1991 after the creation of Abia State when it was rumoured that the Aba Chamber of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA) purchased the facility.
One of the remarkable efforts by Ikpeazu’s administration to give the facility a facelift was the ejection of miscreants from it. Before now, the facility was converted to the abode of all manner of miscreants who constituted nuisance to both the security of the city and the beauty of the neighbourhood. Though overwhelming applause trailed the action , there are strong calls to the government by individuals to revoke the purchase by ACCIMA if the chamber fails to expedite actions on revitalizing the hotel.
In mid December 2015, residents of the state were treated to another event that would in the near future shape the cultural and commercial potentials of the state. The Enyimba Cultural Carnival was test run. The event, though was test run, was a huge success .It featured road show, beauty parade, award night, fashion show, amongst others.
The carnival with the theme “Reigniting our cultural and commercial values” was dedicated to the celebrations of the Christmas and Enyimba International Football Club victory in the national Premier League last season. It is an annual event that would attract visitors to Enyimba city every year.
Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu has emphasised on several occasions that Aba is key and and pivot to his administration’s policy. Efforts to achieve this came to a climax few days back when the 1st Aba Urban Development Summit was held .The aim of the summit was as a result of the determination of Ikpeazu’s administration to ensure that Aba attains its full potentials. It was also aimed at providing government the opportunity to seek partnerships from development partners, interested individuals and organisations to help government extract solutions towards the holistic development of Aba.
It is not only that Aba in a foreseeable future would become a tourist-haven but a motion has been set in place to ensure this. The ugly narrative of Aba as a city lying in ruins has changed instantly- courtesy of Gov. Ikpeazu’s Aba Urban Renewal Drive. The drive has ensured the provision of world-class infrastructure, especially roads in the city. Some of these roads are fitted with street lightings and solid drainage.
Also, to ensure that these roads constructed outlast Ikpeazu’s administration, the state has adopted the cement technology. And the perennial flooding that rendered the streets of Aba impassable and contribute to the collapse of these roads has been taken care of through the dredging of the Aba River. This exercise ensures the expansion of the river banks to accommodate more flood water from the channels. Besides existing drainage in the city are desisted to ensure free flow of flood water.
A paper entitled “From This to That: Restoring Spatial Sanity to Aba Urban” delivered at the just concluded summit captured the essence of Ikpeazu’s renewal drive thus:”Urban renewal entails redevelopment, revitalization and remodelling of older structures. Urban renewal projects are crucial to the success of city because they stimulate the economy, enhance property values, in-stall a sense of civil pride, reduce crimes, help existing businesses and attract new ones. Renewal efforts generally focus on areas that have fallen below current public standard. Aba urban is an example of a city that has fallen below the acceptable standard of development”.
Indeed, the stage is set for the potentials that abound in Abia to be unlocked.
Ukegbu is SSA to Gov. Ikpeazu on media.