By Ori Martins(Owerri), Nonye
Udumiri (Aba), Ovat Mike
(Onitsha), Chuma Austin (Enugu),
Uche Ezeadigwe (Awka), Dan
Aba – Best commercial city, bugged by crime
Abakaliki – Most improved capital
Awka – Most serene, calm
Enugu- Best urbanized in several comparisons
Nnewi – Most industrialized town
Onitsha -Best profit making city, ravaged by urchins
Owerri -Most hospitable capital, most expensive
From a comprehensive investigation conducted by News Echo, it was discovered that cities and towns in the South East are relatively expensive compared to other metropolis in the neighbouring South –South and South West zones. Even when Port Harcourt and Warri are, according to a survey, expensive, it must be remembered that these are two hugely oil cities that are not in any way comparable to any city or town in the South East. In the contrary, virtually all the cities and towns in the north, including Abuja, are relatively low costing. However, the beauty of it all is that, in the midst of high cost of living, there are issues to celebrate about all the cities in the Igbo nation.
For instance, Owerri, the Imo State capital, by the recent survey carried out by News Echo, comes out as the most expensive city in the South East. This is so because all of housing, feeding, education and general standard of living are high. At Federal Housing, Egbu, a three bedroom structure goes for N1.4m annually, excluding agent, agreement and legal fees which put together might amount to N150,000. And the least you pay is one and half years. Federal Housing, Egbu is not an elite residential area. It is higher at Ikenegbu, Aladimma, Okigwe Road, Wetheral Road or Mbaise Road.
As you read this, there is an enclave called New Owerri. Anywhere at New Owerri, be it Civic Centre where all the who is who in Imo State are living, or Udenwa Estate, or anywhere, no salary earner who is not an entrepreneur, first class politician or high riding industrialist can afford accommodation in this area as they are sensationally out of the reach of the poor or the middle class. Despite this, Owerri has been developed as the centre of hospitality in view of the ever present hospitality industry in the Imo State capital which is second to none. ”The fact is that Owerri is too expensive. Food stuff is high. Food itself is very costly. Accommodation is equally high and all other things are on the high side. But you must agree that Owerri is now known as possessing the highest number of standard hotels in Nigeria, I mean capital by capital. The FIFA World Cup can be staged in Owerri if all what it takes is standard hotel”, Mr. George Onyejiuwa, a journalist said.
He also provided reason Owerri seems to be costly. According to him, ”A part of the reason Owerri is very costly is an aspect that you can call a welcomed development – again, Owerri, as a state capital, has the highest number of public universities in Nigeria. There are IMSU, FUTO, PolyNek, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Imo Poly and FECOLAT! This is a record. And, you know, tertiary institutions have a way of making life generally to be expensive”.
Aside insecurity and sanitation, Aba is the best place to live in the South East. Aba, the commercial hub of the zone, has the nature of a city that accommodates people of all works of life. That is, no matter your status, you can survive in Aba. The city is for all comers. One thing you cannot take away from Aba is that it has major industries from glass, textile, iron, beverages, breweries, home appliances, fashion, cottage etc. The fashion industry is booming the same way the leather sector is very lucrative. This explained why Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is promoting the Made in Aba Shoes and other products.
Enyimba City as Aba is fondly called is not as beautiful as other major Nigerian cities, but it is the Nigerian SME capital, where all kinds of entrepreneurs come to do business and succeed. The city has five Local Government Areas; Aba South, Aba North, Osisioma Ngwa, Obingwa and Ugwunagbo. The cost of living in Aba varies, depending on the LGA your home is located.
The most developed areas in Aba are; Aba South and Aba North, where a flat costs between N18,000, N20,000 to N30,000 with a standard running water. Aba does not have a standard taxi network, as the main means of commercial transportation are the tricycles, buses and most times motorcycles, depending on the area you reside.
There are some schools for children of all social classes, however, majority of these standard schools are extremely expensive and unaffordable.
In terms of hospitality, there is no single recreation centres for children, as the only amusement park built during the Old Eastern Nigeria have been converted into a Bar.
The health sector is extremely nothing to write home about. Most of the good hospitals are private, while the government owned hospitals can better be described as semi mortuaries.
However, the major problem of Aba, is insecurity. The level of insecurity in the city is alarming especially the Ogbor-Hill (Obingwa LGA), Osisioma and Ugwunagbo LGA. Sanitation is another problem. Most of the major streets in Aba do not have a single refuse collection receptacle. Refuse and sewage disposal system in Aba is not meant for human habitats.
A bus driver, Uche kalu said the greatest challenge in Aba is insecurity. “I can tell you that Aba is a good place to live in. It accommodates both the rich and the poor. However, the level of insecurity in Aba is alarming. If it is not thieves, then armed robbers, or kidnappers even gunmen, that is assassins. It is that bad in Aba”, he stated.
The fact is that Onitsha is a good city for the beginners. The decision to make Onitsha decades ago, as one of the commercial and industrial cities in the South Eastern region was quite commendable.
As it is now, Onitsha stands as the connecting city that links the South West, South – South and northern Nigeria. In Onitsha, one big headache is the heavy traffic congestion which delays movement for several hours. Onitsha is known for commerce, industry and transportation. Almost all the major transporters in the South East have their bases in Onitsha. In this way, going from Onitsha to any part of the country does not cause a nightmare as travelers from the other parts of the country who want to journey across the Niger even come to Osha, spend a night and dash out the following morning.
Like most other major cities or towns in the zone, Onitsha is deep in buying and selling and this attracts people from all parts of West Africa in the city. It is sometimes said that whatever you cannot buy in Onitsha cannot be bought anywhere in Black Africa.
It has also been noted that people love living in Onitsha is because of it cheap living standard. For instance, a room apartment in Onitsha at the moment irrespective of the area, costs between N30,000 and N40,000, annually, while flats annually go for between 80,000 and 200,000. By all standards, it is the cheapest in the South East. Equally, a plate of cooked rice and beans costs between N200 to N300, just as transport fare from the Bridge Head to the end of Toll Gate, a distance of 25 kilometers, will just take N100. A bag of sachet water for the commoners cost 100 to mention but few.
Onitsha is a home for both the literate and illiterate who want to make out a living without waiting for the government to start life. With the prosperous markets in Onitsha, plus the production companies, Osha is really a city to live in.
However, the three major challenges every Onitsha resident has is the issue of insecurity, multiple taxations and incessant road crashes that have claimed millions of lives. Cases of thugs (agbero) are high and they are very vicious. ”If you ask me, Onitsha should pass as the cheapest city in the Igbo nation. It is a place to be. However, like Aba, Onitsha is a dirty city. Moreover, criminal activities are very disturbing”, a mechanic, Amadi Ofor, narrated.
In Enugu, the Enugu State capital, there is an influx of people in recent times, occasioned by the growing insecurity in some Northern parts of the country. Perhaps, it is against this backdrop that many Easterners particularly Ndigbo are acquiring more land in Enugu than any other city in the South West geo-political zone.
An average Igbo man wants to live in Enugu and the consequence of the high demand for land and accommodation is that it has led to high cost of living in Enugu metropolis and its environs.
News Echo gathered that a three -bed room flat inEnugu metropolis is between N350,000 and N600,000.00 depending on the location. Transportation is another challenge facing commuters or residents of Coal City as the least fare is N50 for mini-buses while taxi drivers charge more than N100 depending on one’s bargaining power.
Acute water scarcity is also hitting hard on Enugu residents as they spend huge money to buy portable water. Tanker drivers are making huge profit from water supply as they charge N4,000.00 for a 50 litre of water. Speaking on the high cost of house rent in Enugu, the Information Commissioner, Chidi Aroh, said that hike in house rents was the prize for good governance, stressing that Enugu remains the most peaceful state in the Southeast Zone. “We have peaceful co-existence in Enugu State. Enugu is peaceful and that is why people from other states are coming here to live.
This has made Enugu to be densely populated. Remember Enugu is the regional headquarters of defunct Eastern Region”, he added. From all available statistics, Enugu is referred to as the modern city in the South East as transportation is relatively cheap; feeding is fair; security is commendable and there is peace. However, accommodation which was low before is now high. No matter what, Enugu is the best city in South East everything considered.
Transportation in Awka city has remained vital to the growth of the society. Analyzing the situation on ground, one would conclude that the transportation fares within the city of Awka are affordable. Reports show that for a private drop of taxi services in Awka city goes for a minimum of one thousand naira while for services taking up to two hours would cost between two thousand and three thousand depending on the hours spent and agreement with the taxi driver.
While public buses charge between N50 and N70 per drop or even N100 in some cases, it can be cheaper if one enters private cars. However, the current administration has also provided a fully long frame buses that render services to residents of Awka travelling to Onitsha, Nnewi and Ekwulobia at the lowest rate of one hundred naira. It is absolutely understandable that the prices of these fares to places has reduced grudges by commuters who ply the road on daily business.
In security, the situation in Awka, the capital territory has so far achieved some commendations. News Echo reports show that since the Obiano administration, securing lives and property has become paramount as the state government always ensure that proper security personnel are being put in place for residence of Awka. A survey indicated that people now go about their daily businesses even at night without any form of harassment, robbery or maiming from hoodlums. Not too long ago, the Obiano administration invited female soldiers in the state as well as employed more vigilante services in virtually all parts of the state with Awka as the head of all security agencies. No wonder why people now sleep with their eyes closed and moving about their business with sure confidence.
Agriculture has been flourishing. Food supply within Awka city has increased tremendously courtesy of the new administration. For example, rice production in Anambra state increased from 80,000 metric tons in 2014 to 345,000 metric tons in 2020. What is more, increased yield in cassava, yam, maize, vegetables and ventures in livestock and fisheries have revealed that Obiano’s agricultural revolution in Anambra state is not only strategic but also holistic. There is also effective partnership with investors by Anambra state government which revived the ranching of Efi-Igbo – a breed of dwarf cattle peculiar to Ndi Igbo. With adequate funding through the Anambra Small Business Agency, ASBA, Efi-Igbo ranches in Eagles Farm, Umuchu Aguata LGA and Wonder Farm, Umunze, Orumba South LGA are thriving today.
Same applies to different poultry businesses springing up in Awka. which was commissioned in 2018 with the capacity of producing a million chicks a year. Today, nearly 15, 000 crates of egg per day is been produced and sold in the state capital.
In order to develop fish production and the aquaculture value chain in Anambra state, Governor Obiano created the Fisheries and Aquaculture Business Development Agency, FABDA in Awka to harness potentials in fishery effectively and develop the value chain for maximum output. Through FABDA, over 3,000 fish farmers have been trained and empowered for increased productivity by the Obiano administration.
More entrepreneurial and employment opportunities are been created in the neighbouring communities, Governor Obiano recently embarked on the building of three fish villages in the three Senatorial zones of the state. In the villages, youths will be trained in the entire value chain while active production and processing of fish continues for local consumption and for export. Obiano’s passion for agriculture and zeal for maximum productivity spurred him to provide mechanized irrigation system. Obiano also introduced agricultural advancement titled Ugbo-Azu-Uno to encourage productivity even at a subsistence level.
This is a capital city that is affordable in living, but low in investment returns.
It was agreed that crowning Umuahia as the capital of God’s own State was a right move towards the full industrialization and total reconstruction of the State, as Aba had already attained the status of a developing city, far ahead of Umuahia and the choice of Umuahia, equally, would also create a two-year town cities for Abia State.
However, 30 years after it became the capital, the city of Umuahia is yet to achieve the commensurate economic development expected of it. Capital injection by investors into Umuahia, especially, those from outside the State are a bit up but not as earlier projected the past administrations in the State.
A typical example is the Ubani Ultra Modern International Market; Ubani Ibeku built for traders of former Umuahia main market, who were relocated after the demolition of the former market at Isi Gate. About 10 years after the completion of Ubani market, business activities are yet to pick up as earlier forecast. Many shops are also still unoccupied, though the situation is blamed on the alleged refusal of traders at Isi Gate and other streets to move into Ubani, as directed by the State government.
But aside business ventures, there are several reasons to consider Umuahia as a place to reside, by any one , especially Igbo men interested in relocating their families from the northern or Western parts of Nigeria.
Ngwa women of Abia State are known for their rich agricultural enterprise as they are regarded as the chief suppliers of food items in Umuahia, even up to Aba, Enyimba City.
In fact, Ubani market in Umuahia, you get food items of your choice at affordable amounts of money, thanks to the ever ready bank of food supplies from Ngwa women including vegetables, fruits and nuts as well as garri.
There is s relative low crime rate in Umuahia unlike in Enyimba city of Aba and this provides a consolation for anyone planning to relocate to Umuahia, especially those fleeing from the menace of banditry in the Northern parts of Nigeria. Though, there are pockets of crime occurrences recorded in the city, it is still low when compared with this of some South East States.
A trip around a South East State recently showed that many youths, especially the ladies appeared in near-naked apparels. This type of ugly and uncultural development is low in Umuahia and this means that training up a child would better considered in Umuahia, especially for parents who cherish having godly offspring.
Unlike in some South East States, most of the tertiary institutions in Abia State are situated at remote areas or outskirts of town and this accounts for low occurrences of cult-related clashes and killings in Umuahia. Abia State University is in Uturu, the home town of Dr Uche Ogah and Prof Gregory Ibe, whose private university is also in Achara Uturu all in Isukwuato LGA.
Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike is in Ikwuano LGA, though not far from Umuahia.
Abia State University Law and Agriculture campuses are in Ahieke Ndume, a boundary community with Ikwuano LGA. And federal agric research institute and national cereal center are also not inside the main town, thus helping in maintaining the sanity of Umuahia town.
For parents who are not buoyant to send their kids to expensive schools, Umuahia provides the fertile land where you can still get a private primary school that charges N8, 000 to N10, 000 per term as school fees. Also private secondary schools that charge below N15,000 per term are available too, though the fees are sometimes negotiable or paid in installments.
But the absence of night life and recreation activities is among the drawback suffered by residents of Umuahia. By 8pm, many businesses are closing for the day but in other towns like Owerri or Onitsha, business is just starting. The presence of national war museum, Ojukwu Bunker and ShopRite have also not given the needed bite to tourism.
Poor street light systems, according to some residents are to blame for the low night life in the city.
However, the Abia State government, through the Commissioner for finance, Dr Aham Uko has maintained that the State government had done a lot to lift the tourism and ecstatic beauty of Umuahia.
Uko, who is an indigene of Ohuhu, Umuahia assured that all street lights in major parts of the city like Isi Gate, Okpara Square, Bende Road , Umuwaya road were receiving adequate attention of the Okezie Ikpeazu administration.
Certainly, with massive road construction, revamped agriculture, return of power and energy and relative security, Abakiliki is the fastest developing state capital in the South East even as there is no more street trading.