Owerri, the capital of Imo State, also known as the Eastern Heartland State is witnessing transformation. It is has shown some tremendous exponential growth in the past few years. More growth came since mid-2011 to date. A lot now make Owerri tick. It is unquestionably an education capital in the country. It boasts of five major tertiary institutions [two universities, two polytechnics and one college of education] supplying the city with high volume of human traffic. The educational institutions are situated within the capital territory. Two institutions, an international university and a college of health technology are in the offing at Orlu, an adjoining city 37km from Owerri. Of course, Okigwe is coming up with another tertiary institution. These new schools are courtesy of the Governor Rochas Okorocha administration.
Owerri is truly a city with major access routes to other states in the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones of the country. Hence, it is almost equidistant to Awka, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Uyo, Umuahia, Abakaliki – about two hours; while it takes 30 minutes to Aba. Hence, the city is always a hub of activities.
The residents of Imo State may not be calibrated among the rich, however, they go for high quality standard of living, thus creating series of business enterprises with a corresponding high price tag on everything bought and sold. Also they are very enlightened and informed.
Recently, Owerri began witnessing a huge influx of people, which has raised the demand for accommodation thereby taking up the rent. Surveys have it that the prices of rented apartments have doubled in the state in the last two years, no thanks to massive relocation of families: Igbos and other tribes. Families, especially from the northern part of the country are swapping positions due to constant Islamic insurgence. Another group are former Lagosians who are relocating to set up a base back home. The drive is a rising middle class income levels. The Diasporans are mostly those leading the rush for spaces in Owerri. Many are coming to take up opportunities existing in educational and SME sectors. People from neighboring towns like Aba in Abia State are relocating to Owerri due to changing economic fortunes and improving security here. For instance, the Alaba electronic and spare parts dealers in Lagos have set up what is called the Owerri Business Cluster at Naze – Nekede axis. Some new arrivals are coming also from Nnewi and Onitsha to take a fair share of the buoying economy.
Owerri people are famous for knowing how to have a good time. And this is a definite statement of fact. Till date, the hospitality business and related businesses like bush-bar entertainment spots, fast food restaurants and suya (roasted meat) joints are on the rise. Top of them are: Mimi and NV Lounge, Ibari Ogwa Village, among others. From mid-week these spots come alive with comedies, music, dance, football, food and drink. The saying that Owerri indigenes are a bundle of hospitality with the sexiest dialect of spoken Igbo Language is metamorphosing into mega financial and developmental gains. The Ofe Owere, a well-spiced vegetable soup now goes daily on hotel menus. Lots of hotels of different categories continue to open up in the city, flaunt their delicacies. Latest ones are Star Arrival, City Global, among many others. New Owerri City is the hospitality industry honeycomb. Of course, the older hotels are not left out – they have been upgrading. Top of them is All Seasons, Rockview (formerly Modotel), and Imo Concorde & Casino, a five star pearl. It managed to blend contemporary and rustic styling, to create a unique atmosphere. Imo Concord’s refurbishment covered all guest areas throughout the Hotel including leisure, dining areas, rooms and conferencing facilities. It is now being managed by a South African firm, Silverstar. In Owerri, hotels are booked to the brim as early as Wednesday evening till Monday morning.
Also, lots of other new businesses are cropping up in their dozens in Owerri. They include real estates, continuing education centres, automotive spare parts and mechanic workshops, churches, clothing ventures, hospitals, building material vending, entertainment and leisure, information technology outfits. One thing is special about the development; you can find your class of clients in this city.
By far, the free education introduced in the state by the Okorocha administration contributed a big quota. Many families reasoned that since education is free in the state, the government has taken over a large portion of their responsibilities. Thus they can make do with their empty homes in the villages with a better standard of living. At the moment, the state’s tourism is blooming, with hospitality business gaining much.
Principal among the indices buoying the economy is the recent road network embarked upon by the present administration. Virtually, all the towns adjoining the capital city is experiencing great development as they are linked to the main city via multiple routes.
By: BEN EGUZOZIE