Environmental Neglect, Decay in Aba (Enyimba City), Abia State Nigeria – Matter of Public Disgrace & Shame!


The commercial city of Aba (Enyimba City) in Abia state, Nigeria was a small farming community nestled in the flood plain of the Ogbo River before the British colonial administration transformed the area into an urban settlement almost a century ago. Vegetation-wise, most of Abia state belongs to the equatorial rain forest zone of Southeastern Nigeria and receives annual rainfall of 90-100 inches of rain. The Aba urban area sits on loam alluvial soil with a relatively high underground water table. Unless all these soil qualities are factored into the design, construction and maintenance of road transportation infrastructure earmarked for this sort of terrain, paved roadways would not last more than a few rainy seasons, at best, before they break up. That’s exactly the problem with Aba City. Haphazardly and shabbily built streets and roadways within and around Aba hardly last for a few years before they break up.

The next important scourge of Aba is poor handling of solid waste generated by the city. Solid waste dumped along the streets and major roadways constitutes a hazard in multiple ways. The uncollected trash and garbage impede traffic that routinely ply on the streets and roads in the city. During the rainy season, solid waste litter is washed away downstream by uncontrolled storm water runoff where it completely blocks up drainage channels after only a few rains. For rest of the rainy season, storm water runoff from all parts of the city has nowhere to go than to flood neighborhoods in the lower parts of the urban area. Port Harcourt Road axis and Ariaria Market neighborhoods are often affected. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic must, to be able to move at all, then wade through stagnant pools of flood water that soon acquire all the attributes of open sewerage. 

Because both business and residential districts are affected, the economic and health consequences of pollution and flooding in the Aba urban area are legion. As stated by the YouTube video, self-employed merchants and storekeepers along the flooded streets and roadways are confronted with the the bad choices of shutting down their businesses or relocate out of the city. Other residents of the area complain about mosquito pestilence due to extensive breeding habitats offered by widespread flooding and lack of drainage of accumulated stagnant surface water. Water-borne diseases abound due to admixture of sewerage discharge and stagnant water that often lasts through the months of rainy season and maybe longer.

The environmental challenges in Aba metropolitan area are no cakewalk because of what it would require, in terms of time, money and knowhow, to derive and implement a lasting solution to them. The most essential in implementing a lasting solution must start with public enlightenment of inhabitants of the Enyimba City. Half of the problem can be solved instantly by instituting a proper system for solid-waste collection and disposal, for example. The total land area involved in flooding can be reduced significantly if solid waste is prevented from getting into and clogging up the gutters and drainage channels in the area. Management of surface storm water can be brought under better control if all newly constructed buildings and other structures in natural flood plains and paths of drainage channels are demolished to restore unimpeded access for surface water runoff. The government and community leadership lack the will and capacity to do the heavy lifting required to effectuate the latter.

So, the environmental eyesore in Enyimba City shall yet linger for some time to come. The World Igbo Environmental Foundation (WIEF) had commissioned a video documentary on Aba Eyesore in May 2005 which is now available on YouTube at (https://goo.gl/S6jUV5). Comparing the 2005 video with this recently made one shows that nothing has changed or improved since the past 12 years. In fact, the situation may have worsened despite the fact that three different administrations have overseen the affairs of Abia state government and Aba municipality since the 2005 video documentary was recorded.

The environmental quandary facing Aba is witnessed elsewhere in Southern Nigeria, especially in the East. A fundamental rethink is, therefore, required in restructuring the country’s governance in a fashion that shall empower local authorities more through systematic decentralization away from the over-centralized control of resources and project prioritization by persons who have no existential connections with the problems at hand at the local level. Minders of the status quo still believe that short-term cosmetic fixes are all that one can afford in the interim. But experiences abound to underscore the fact that the only solution which would make any sense must be comprehensive, systematic and locally managed each step of the way.