The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has begun the dredging of Aba River, to recover the abandoned waterways, linking Abia, Akwa Ibom and Rivers States.
The project, which began from Okpu-Umuobo in Osisioma Ngwa local government area of Abia State, will run through all the channels to Azumini in Ukwa East local government area, terminating at Igwenga, Opobo in Rivers State.
The river which is a tributary of the Imo River, runs through the Ngwa heartland into Azumini, Opobo/Ikot-Abasi (Igwenga) and was formerly serving as a means of transportation between Ngwa people and their neighbours in Ibibios, Anangs and Opobo, during the palm-oil booming era.
Chinyere Igbokwe, project manager, Bokans Engineering Construction Limited and the Eastern Volume Limited, the main investors in the project said the investors were ready to actualise the vision of NDDC for the abandoned river transport route.
He explained that the project would be done in two phases, with the first phase being the desilting of the river, while the second phase would entail the development of the area for business and tourism.
“This river according to history used to be a thriving waterway, but due to some factors, it has been made shallow. We are here to desilt it, open it up and make it clear for so many things that would be beneficial to the people here and neighbouring areas.
“We are opening up the entire length and width of the area. It used to be a movement route for businesses around the riverine communities from Ngwa axis down to Azumini and other places, like Igwenga”.
Igbokwe said the benefits of the project were numerous, adding that it will boost water transportation, re-establish forgotten links and enable the waterways to be more useful, with job opportunities for the youths and women within the areas.
According to him, we are not just opening the sideways, we are also going deep six metres, seven metres down even beyond the scope of the job, so that I would not be shallow and allow speed boats and canoes to move freely.
“The Azumini Blue River Tourist Zone will be enhanced and revived with what we are doing. The vision of the investors is in line with the NDDC, Federal Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Abia State government, to create employment for youths.
Igbokwe explained that the first phase of the project would take about two months,
Azu Egege, the crown prince of Ogbor Ancient Kingdom, in Obingwa local government area, whose community is among the beneficiaries of the project, thanked the NDDC for the vision of reviving the abandoned river route.
“It used to be the major source of export for Ngwa people and Igbos, before the advent of the Europeans. The economic benefits are many. This River gave birth to the city of Aba. It used to be the economic channel of the old.
“Reopening this route will help things get better and ensure serious links between Aba and neighbouring towns. It’ll help link communities for better communication. “It takes barely 30 minutes from here to Oron in Akwa-Ibom State and Opobo in Rivers State. It’s also about 45 minutes to Calabar. Reopening it will be the best thing that’ll ever happen to us for many years”.