• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

New Enugu city: Where splendour and investment beckon

Enugu Governor promises mobile network to boost security in Ugbene Community

Enugu, as the name implies, is a city built on a hill, and, according to the holy book, a city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Thus, it is not surprising that Enugu caught the attention of the British, who were essentially on a pilgrimage to acquire resources to bolster their homeland economy.

Besides its alluring scenery, aided by its elevation, what lay underground was even more alluring to the British. With the discovery of the first coal in Nigeria at the Udi Ridge in 1909 and the confirmation of the mineral in commercial quantities in 1913, the colonialists did not waste time in building the colliery known as the Enugu Coal Camp at the bottom of the Udi Hills. This was followed by the establishment of the first coal mine in 1915, the Udi mine, followed by the Iva Valley mine.

The British were acquiring land from natives in Port Harcourt for the Eastern Line railway to transport coal to Europe. The presence of coal mines, the completion of the railway to Enugu in 1916, and the establishment of the European Quarters (GRA) transformed Coal City, which officially became a township in 1917.

Enugu, Nigeria’s capital since 1929, has played significant roles in social, economic, and political life. It served as the capital of various states and the Republic of Biafra. Since then, it has been a cosmopolitan city, with the Rockefeller Foundation listing it as one of the world’s “100 Resilient Cities” in 2014. Enugu’s rich history has made it a significant city in Nigeria’s history.

Read also: Enugu Resident Doctors cancel proposed strike

Enugu, a township since 1917, faces challenges due to its age and lack of urban renewal and infrastructural overhaul. Governor Peter Mbah proposed making the state a premier destination for investment, business, tourism, and living, aiming to grow the state’s economy from $4.4 billion to $30 billion through private sector investments. He proposed urban renewal and massive infrastructural development to make Enugu City attractive, enable tourism, and investments.

The President of Uhuru, Uhuru, has pledged to address water scarcity by delivering water to homes within 180 days. He inaugurated the Ninth Mile Corner 24/7 Water Scheme on November 25, 2023, which includes a 4.4 megawatt gas plant for non-stop water supply. This, along with new installations and overhauls at Oji and Ajali Water Schemes, has increased water production capacity from occasional 2 million litres to 120 million litres. However, massive reticulation expansion works and pipe repairs continue, with most pipes being asbestos products.

In October, he also flagged off the simultaneous construction of 71 roads in the Enugu metropolis, in addition to over ten inter-local government roads like the Owo-Ubahu-Amankanu-Neke-Ikem dual carriageway, a virgin road being done by the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

Nevertheless, it is clear to all, even governments before the Dr. Mbah administration, that Enugu City as presently constituted can no longer cope with the population, traffic, business, etc. The coal city lives on past glory—congested, worn out, and out of tune with what a modern city should be.

This challenge was recognised by past administrations, such as the Sullivan Chime administration, which commenced the process of land acquisition to expand the city. However, no further steps were taken in terms of its actualization.

Meanwhile, Enugu is not alone. There is a quest by governments across the world to set up new cities. According to ArchDaily, new and master-planned cities have emerged all over the past 20 years, particularly in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.

About 150 new cities are in the making. This is particularly so with emerging markets, which tilt towards new cities as a strategy to leapfrog towards knowledge economies with smart cities that draw foreign investors and tourists.

Mbah, upon taking office, initiated the development of New Enugu City, covering 9,730.204 hectares of land acquired through proper processes. The project, which spans five LGAS (Enugu South, Enugu East, Enugu North, Nkanu East, and Nkanu West), has received state house of assembly approval and is officially documented in the government gazette. The first phase, covering 26 square kilometres, is expected to be completed within 24 months.

Flagging off the construction of 17 km of dual carriageway roads, feeder roads, and other infrastructure, Governor Mbah explained that the New City, awarded to CCCC, would rub shoulders with any great city in the world. According to him, “We have conceived a city that we believe marks the beginning of our journey to the position and consequential roles we want to play in the affairs of this continent.”

This new Enugu City will warehouse three islands—Happy Island, Vitality Bay, and Innovation Park—designed with first-class city features in mind. Because Enugu deserves the best, Mbah said the New Enugu City would bring the experiences of Dubai, Singapore, and other major cities in the world home.

It will have centralised public utilities such as a dedicated power plant, a central sewage system, high-speed internet, and anything else that could be found in any best-rated smart city around the world. Awarding the project to CCCC underscores a government matching words with action, given that China is a leader in developing smart cities and smart city technologies around the world.

Meanwhile, it is significant that Governor Mbah is pursuing the project with a human heart. The world over, development, especially a massive one like this, involves the displacement of people and businesses. The important thing is how a leader handles such displacement.

Mbah understands that he is the father of the state, and even his biggest opponents acknowledge that he is a critical thinker. The governor and his technical team had obviously thought through the project.

Mbah has integrated relocation and compensation plans into the New City development plan, despite the initial lack of such plans during earlier acquisitions. Despite the publicised acquisition, Mbah has held consultations with affected communities and assured them that the government will complete construction of modern buildings, smart schools, Type-2 healthcare centres, roads, and other amenities before demolitions. He has also made provisions for massive farmlands for the affected communities in their new homes.

Again, in realising this massive project, the governor decided to clear the first 1,000 hectares, and there are no homes or buildings in the area where work is currently ongoing. The few marked buildings belong to federal institutions at the entrance.

To ensure that no one is left out, he set up the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Property/Land Reconciliation and Compensation in Enugu State, chaired by the Secretary of State Government, Prof. Chidiebere Onyia. The committee has called for submissions.

Meanwhile, when Mbah muted the idea of a New Enugu City during the election, many laughed it off, wondering where he would get the money from to fulfil such and other ambitious promises. But it was the Irish playwright, critic, and political activist Bernard Shaw (1856–1956) who wrote, “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.”

Today, the New Enugu City project is on course, and Mbah is leaving no one, including hitherto doubting ‘Thomases’ that it is realisable. He is deploying highly impressive financing models to pursue this dream, demonstrating by action and power of imagination that he is that kind of leader who thinks beyond today. Indeed, for Ndi Enugu, tomorrow is here, for in the New Enugu City, splendour and investment hubs beckon.

Anichukwu writes from Enugu