By Louis Amoke
The recent inauguration of the ancient and historic Milliken Hill road, Ngwo, Enugu, newly reconstructed and modernized with street lights and other safety measures by Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration, did not only stir jubilation in the state, it also rekindled the people’s confidence in good governance and participatory democracy. Constructed between 1909 and 1928 by the colonial government, the all-important hilly, undulating road which was hitherto neglected for many decades has today become a centre of attraction and a new bride for motorists driving into the Coal City state through the Onitsha-Enugu federal expressway.
Interestingly, the good news is that the federal road, which was closed a few weeks ago for total rehabilitation by Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration has been reopened to traffic as an alternative route for travelers plying the intractable Ugwu Onyeama section of the Ontisha-Enugu federal road into Enugu City.
Bounded by a deep valley and beautiful pine trees that showcase the beautiful green nature of the Coal City, the long neglected snaking Milliken Hill road also abounds with other natural endowments and a rich heritage that upholds its fame as a key tourist attraction, which needs to be cherished and protected for generations yet unborn.
As a monumental edifice built close to a century ago, the winding hilly road has over the years kept faith with history in terms of what it symbolizes to an average Igbo man.
According to history, British tourists on their way to the Middle Belt from Awka in 1908 sighted the hill at Ngwo, Enugu. In appreciation of its natural, beautiful outlook and anticipation of the inherent mineral potentials drew the attention of the colonial government in Lagos. Consequently, a team of mining engineers was reportedly sent down to Enugu in 1909 to prospect for silver in the hill. They struck coal instead. It was also reported that the discovery of coal attracted the Europeans to settle on top of the hill at Ngwo now known as “Hilltop”, and subsequent construction of the Milliken Hill road which was named after the head engineer, who designed the historic road.
Propelled by this noble vision and the need to protect and preserve the enduring legacy bequeathed to the Igbos in particular and entire country in general, by the colonial masters, and in keeping with his administration’s urban renewal agenda, Gov. Ugwuanyi in spite of the nation’s economic crunch, embarked on the reconstruction of the 12-kiliometer 9th Mile- Ekochin-Ngwo-Milliken Hill-New Market federal road. The project’s peak of attraction is the Milliken Hill section, which was completely reconstructed after being fortified with concrete retaining walls, jersey-kerbs and street lights for its lifespan enhancement and safety of road users.
The giant infrastructural rebirth of Enugu’s Milliken Hill road is not only legendary and novel but also a display of exemplary leadership by the people’s governor, who has continued to remember the long-neglected and abandoned areas of the state.
It is on record that Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration has in the last three years spent over N45 billion on road construction and reconstruction across the length and breadth of the state, covering about 300 kilometers.
This act of governance is borne out of dedication to service, political will and commitment to the wellbeing of the people in fulfillment of the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers of Enugu State.
On the Milliken Hill road, kudos must therefore, go to Gov. Ugwuanyi for spearheading such a momentous and time-honoured intervention laced with vision and passion for the safety of road users and protection of the state’s rich heritage. His footprints on the hill will remain indelible as history will, no doubt, forever remember him for reinvigorating the spirit and vision of the initiators and executors of this landmark project for the service of mankind.
No wonder, the jubilation and excitement that greeted the reopening of the road to traffic by the governor after its reconstruction and modernization. The colourful event which took place at the entry point of the hill beneath the quarters of the miners at Iva Valley and Onyeama Coal Mines, a few poles away from the popular Enugu New Market, saw a large turnout of jubilant residents of the state, including leaders and members of the religious and traditional institutions, market men and women, motorists, “okada” and “keke” riders, and the governor’s teeming supporters, among others, who took to their dancing steps, praising him for his remarkable feat.
Speaking on behalf of the visibly enchanted residents, the leader of the host community and former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Chief Dubem Onyia expressed gratitude to Gov. Ugwuanyi for keeping faith with his promise to reconstruct and modernize the road with street lights and other safety measures. Chief Onyia noted that the road was symbolic and very significant to the people of Ngwo, Enugu State and the entire Igbos, appreciating the governor for his prompt intervention. The community leader equally pointed out that the governor has wiped out their tears for good, maintaining that no government had reconstructed the road after it was built by the colonial masters.
According to him, “Today, you (Ugwuanyi) have wiped out the tears of not only Ngwo people but also the Igbo people. Since the colonialists built this road, no government has ever reconstructed it until now.” He, therefore, reassured the governor of the people’s unflinching support for his re-election in 2019.
Adding his voice of heartfelt appreciation, the Executive Chairman of Enugu North Local Government Area, Hon. Emma Onoh commended the governor for his courage and vision in reconstructing the road for the overall interest of the people of the state and beyond.
Inaugurating the road, Gov. Ugwuanyi, who was overwhelmed by the outpouring of gratitude and excitement, stated that the project was a “great infrastructural asset and rich heritage of our coal city state”.
Describing the Milliken Hill section of the 12-kilometer road as “our natural roller coaster”, the governor disclosed that “no road in our environment affords tourists and motorists the beautiful view of Enugu that this road offers”.
According to him, “I stand here today with joy in my heart, buoyed by the happy faces of Ndi Enugu, to inaugurate this reconstructed, historic legacy, the Milliken Hill road; a renowned tourist attraction which history is consistent with coal discovery in our state in the early 20th century.
“The great excitement that greeted the reconstruction of this legacy road is therefore consequential and our gratitude, most profound, goes to God Almighty for affording us the means and commitment to deliver this project.”
He, therefore, urged motorists to drive slowly and safely with caution through the meandering road, to cherish the natural green beauty and panoramic view, the undulating road offers.
The people’s governor, as the inscription on one of the billboards erected on the road reads: “FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE AT MILLIKEN HILL, HISTORY WILL FOREVER REMEMBER YOU”. The good people of Enugu State and beyond will continue to appreciate this cherished legacy and other numerous giant strides of your people-oriented administration. Enugu State is truly in the hands of God!