Aba, a thriving business hub of the old eastern region now in Abia State is fast losing grip with reality and becoming the epicenter of many things untoward, writes Aniefiok Udonquak
Two related events in the last couple of weeks seem to have tended to give the impression that Aba, in Abia State which is about 70 kilometers from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State has fallen over bad times. Almost on a daily basis, business travelers from Akwa Ibom State and many others having
transactions to do in Abia do return with tales of woes. It is either that some people have been kidnapped while on their way to the city or that traders have been robbed on broad day light.
The twin incident of bank closure in the city an the kidnap of journalists returning from the National Executive Council meeting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on Sunday have highlighted the level of insecurity in the town. The closure of banks in city for many days after armed robbers had raided several banks and financial institutions gave a vivid indication that all was not well with Aba.
Before four journalists were kidnapped on their way home after a meeting in Uyo, a group of young men who had traveled through the town to Owerri for a marriage ceremony, their joy of living happily ever after was short lived when they were attacked on their way home and the groom kidnapped by gunmen. Some of them who were lucky to escape came back with bullets lodged in their bodies.
According to the chairman of Eket Local Government Area, Emmanuel Udoh who led a delegation to visit the victims at the University of Teaching Hospital where one of them was receiving treatment, he decided to visit them as the victims were from his area so that he will be able to brief the governor on the incident.
Narrating their ordeal, a brother to the victim said they were returning from a marriage ceremony late in the evening when their vehicle was blocked few kilometers within Aba adding that the hoodlums opened fire sporadically hitting his brother who was in the front seat with the driver. As usual, the kidnappers demanded for ransom and got the colour of the vehicle they snatched from their victims changed immediately.
But the kidnapping of the four journalists, Wahab Oba, chairman of the Lagos State council and former presidential candidate of the union, the zone G secretary of the union, Adolphus Okonkwo, the council’s Assistant Secretary, Sylva Okereke, Shola Oyeyipo and their driver, Azzez Abdulrauf has further exposed the rot and lawlessness in the once thriving commercial hub of the old Eastern region.
But how did Aba get to be associated with violent crimes? As a commercial town located away from Umuahia, the State capital, it has faced many challenges that have been ignored in the past two decades. First, not being the state capital but perhaps being the second largest city in the State had meant that it has to grapple with limited budget on many fronts. This is clearly seen in the poor road network within the town, blocked drainages and refuse dumps almost everywhere. On the security front, since Aba is not the State capital, it means that the commissioner of police is not there to respond to urgent security issues and it is most likely that the town is under the supervision of an area commander.
Furthermore, the high level of unemployment in the city as in other towns in the south east and south south zones of the country has compounded the problem of insecurity. The collapse of the railway line which had a major terminus in Aba more than ten years ago has further reduced opportunities for youths to find employment in the town. Several other firms have closed shop in the town due to one reason or the other and the problem of inadequate power supply by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has done very little to help matters.
Experts believe that apart from the deployment of extra policemen and soldiers to take care of the deteriorating security situation in the town, there is an urgent need to adopt a holistic approach to the problem.
According to Etete Peters, Chief Medical Director of the University Uyo Teaching Hospital, the solution lies in involving all states in the fight against violent crimes including kidnapping since it has become a national problem.
But others think that for a lasting solution to the crisis in the town, the Federal Government should take a critical look over the developments of the town with a view to addressing its decaying infrastructure.
In the same vein, many people think that the construction of the Ikot Ekpene –Aba highway which has been on the drawing board for many years where most of the robbery and kidnapping take place would go a long way in changing the image of the town.
Normally, the journey between Uyo and Aba takes less than one hour but because of the deplorable condition of the road, it has become a death trap and provided a hideout for the hoodlums to kidnap and rob their victims. Indeed, the authorities both at the state and federal levels need to take steps to bring back Aba to its previous status as a town known for commerce and industry rather than becoming the epicentre of atrocities.