Obohia: A public health disaster waiting to happen!
By Lawrence Nwimo
If hygiene is a measure of safe living of people in a particular area, then Obohia is nonstarter. It is a town known for its trepid outlook, slum-like streets and poor hygiene, a condition its residents have been putting up with for long.
It is an apt metaphor for the horrendous life of Aba residents. These residents are, obviously, not the happiest set of people, especially during the rainy season. To them, that is a season they would rather wish to have deleted from the world cosmic calendar. It is a season where the young and the old get drenched by dirt occasioned by dirty environment – streets, roads and dwelling places – all around them.
Wide prevalence of messy roads, streets in ruins and roads strewn all over with pools of putrid fluids in refuse-infested surroundings with rain boots as the favourite footwear for both the young and old. This is just a summary of life in Obohia.
Obohia connects Asa Road, Ngwa Road and Ugwunagbo local government area of Abia state and is one of the worst roads in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state.
Once a nightmare for strangers, the road is so bad that transporters dread to ply it. It is a constant nightmare to pedestrians and motorists who grin and groan from the difficulty of wading through the crater-ridden road.
From the beginning of Obohia to Nkwo Ngwa, down to Christo Park Junction and St Peters Anglican Church area, it is the same story.
Narrating a scenario, one trader along Lagos Street, simply identified as Chidoka, told the story of residents of the area almost getting drowned even with the slightest downpour. According to him, a woman escaped drowning by the whiskers when she inadvertently fell into pool of dirty water that occupied large portions of the road. He said the pool had been there for months because the road had no drainage and that the lady was thoroughly soaked and gulped from the pool of infected water.
A resident of Imoka Street by Nkwo Ngwa, who refused being identified, told our reporter that they lived in constant fear of contracting diseases owing to the dirty environment. He said that the residents were always exposed to hazardous diseases, during both the rainy and dry seasons.
“We are suffering here; the whole environment is very dirty and in total mess. There is no proper planning for buildings in the town and that is why it is always waterlogged. Any day it rains, our compounds get flooded for weeks before we hire machines to pump out such dirty water. To hire machine is always a problem because most of us living here are tenants and it is extremely difficult to contribute money to pump out such waters. That is why it takes time to clear such water.
“During the rainy season, we dared not wear shoes or fancy footwears to our shops because we were always afraid of the dirty water that came with the rains. Once there is downpour, we would have to pull off and walk barefooted thereby exposing ourselves to infection.”
In corroboration, an Imo state-born transporter living around Omuma Road said “If you see where we live, you will pity us. Omuma has no road. Sometimes when driving, we get to a point where we have to turn back and find alternative routes because of bad road. Visitors cannot come to us because of the terrible road. Aba is so dirty that if you enter it through Okigwe, you will feel terrible because the environment.”
“People sell foods and food items in very dirty environments. At Nkwo Ngwa in Obohia, you will see how vegetables meant for consumption are kept on the bare ground, absorbing dirt from the dirty road. At Cemetery, by rail line, you see people sell food items in a very dirty environment where people even defaecate into cellophane bags and throw into the same area where such human consumables are kept and sold. Some of these faeces even get ferried by flood into households.
“I have lived in Aba for five years. It has been such a swampy environment that we hardly ever knew the rainy season from the dry season. Total overhaul of the town, in terms of planning, is the answer because the abuse of town planning scheme is the major problem of Aba.
“There is no drainage system in Obohia and other parts; from Ngwa Road, Obohia and even some part of Omuma Road have been blocked and water from Ngwa Road, Ohazu and others barricades Obohia.”
Ohanku Road used to be one of the busiest roads in the old Aba. It is now flooded and abandoned by the Abia state government prompting a Methodist church priest in charge of the Umuogele Circuit in the Aba East diocese, Rev’d Acha David Okechukwu, penultimate month, to hanker after divine intervention over the perennially poor state of Aba roads.
The road connects many villages, cities and towns, including Ngwa Road, Iheorji, Mkpumkpuevule, Ama-nwadi-Ala to Owerri-Aba, Ugwunagbo, Ukwa East and West, Azumiri, Ndoki, Asa, connecting Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.
Unfortunately, this all-important road has remained impassable under many administrations in Abia state and the priest says he has divine instruction to walk through the road from one end to another in his priestly robe.
Jude Urakwe, who said he had lived almost 10 years in Aba holds present and past Abia state administrations responsible for the underdevelopment of Aba. According to him, instead of Aba to get better due to its popular markets, the reverse had been the case.
“Government is not doing anything to help people of Obohia. If people complain, they just start demolishing houses and businesses, pretending to work on the roads. What annoys me about the government of the state is that it did not compensate people whose houses they demolished, purportedly for road works. That is probably why residents resist demolition of buildings.”
He cited the case of Port Harcourt Road where he said houses were “demolished for a long time because of the road but still nothing has been done on the road. All those people … whose buildings were demolished have, up till now, received no form of compensation and the road is, also, not even done. That single demolition sent most people to their villages because of they could neither pay their house rents nor build another house.”
“Government has been awarding contracts on the road but it is never carried out. “
Another resident, named Innocent, said “I blame the town planners because the houses built in Aba do not accord with the town planning scheme. There is no proper drainage system giving way for ponds here and there; a threat to public health. There are no gutters in Obohia but there is big gutter around Waterside area or School Road where flood could be channelled to.
“In Ajah Road, once the weather becomes cloudy, you see residents scamper for buckets in readiness to scoop flood expected to besiege their homes. Some houses have even gone underground leaving the occupants at the mercy of flood.”
Obinna, a shop owner along Ngwa Road, lamented aloud to our reporter that no major work had ever been done on Ngwa Road by successive governments. According to him, when the prayers of Ngwa people were answered, with the election victory of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, an Ngwa son, they believed that attention would, finally, be turned to the city.
According to him, “the road got damaged since (ex-Governor) T. A. Orji’s administration. The road has been totally cut off. No government has done any significant thing about the road.” He ended on a note of lamentation, saying of Ikpeazu, “We are not happy with the man we had thought would be our saviour. He has, so far, done nothing to prove to us, his native (Ngwa) people that he is the saviour we voted for. Ngwa Road is the only road Ngwa people have but it is now impassable to both motorists and pedestrians alike. The road leading to Ahia Ohuru (New Market) has decayed with a vast majority of it turned to pond with thick vegetation surrounding it.”
Months before June 2020, it started like a rumour that the Abia state government, with the help of World Bank had plans to repair the beleaguered road. There was jubilation and high expectation among residents of the area particularly with the assemblage of construction machinery believed to be for commencement of work.
The expectation was not to be as all that was done was the patching of pits created by the rampaging floods on the ever-busy Obohia Road. Even with that, residents felt relieved that the road had, finally, got desperately needed attention, after years of neglect and abandonment.
Barely months after, it was observed that that palliative patch work had returned to its previous state of big pot holes in various locations.
An unconfirmed source had it that the palliative work was actually targeted at fixing the burrow pit that had been an endless nightmare to residents of Obohia. According to the source, “They want to take Obohia gutter to burrow pit and then dredge a tunnel that will link with Orji Kalu Bridge. That is why they are doing the palliative to allow them move their trucks to that place. If they complete the task, it will help reduce water in Obohia as most of the flood water will be channelled to Waterside. It is not a government project but World Bank project,” it said.
If this information is, indeed, true, the question will still remain: who will help Aba out and save her from being swallowed by bad roads, dirty environment, unchanneled storm water, stench from the putrid refuse and effluence that litter the city and the threat of epidemic?