Special Report

March 2, 2024

New Enugu City: Splendour, Investments Beckon

New Enugu City: Splendour, Investments Beckon

New Enugu City: Splendour, Investments Beckon

By Uche Anichukwu

Enugu/Enugwu, as the name implies, is a city  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, plus 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 – Udi mine, followed by the Iva Valley mine.

But while all these were going on, the British were already acquiring land from the natives right from the coastal city of Port Harcourt, about 243km south of Enugu, for the Eastern Line railway to cart the coal to the sea for onward journey to Europe where it powered their industries. With the presence of the coal mines, completion of the Eastern Line railway to Enugu in 1916, and setting up of the European Quarters (GRA), the Coal City transformed dramatically, officially attained a township status in 1917.

Ever since, Enugu has continued to play consequential roles in the social, economic, and political lives of the territory today known as Nigeria. In fact, since 1929 when the Coal City functioned as the capital of the southern provinces, it has played the role of capital city defunct Eastern Region, East Central State, old Anambra State, old Enugu State, and the present-day Enugu State. And it was also the capital of the defunct Republic of Biafra and it has remained a highly cosmopolitan city. With such rich history, it did not come as a surprise when in 2014 the Rockefeller Foundation listed Enugu as one of the world’s “100 Resilient Cities”.

 Nevertheless, the city is challenged. It is only natural that Enugu, officially recognised as a township way back in 1917 has aged, especially in the absence of any deliberate urban renewal and major infrastructural overhaul to bring it in tune to modern times. However, in his manifesto, Governor Peter Mbah, proposed to Ndi Enugu to make the state the premier destination for investment, business, tourism, and for living in line with his vision to grow the state’s economy, derisively described as civil service economy, from $4.4bn to $30bn through private sector investments. Sequel to this, he proposed to embark on urban renewal and massive infrastructural development to make Enugu City attractive and enabled for tourism and investments.

READ ALSO: Mbah signs new Enugu city, GIS, ENSIEC bills into law

Among them, he proposed to tackle the perennial water scarcity and deliver water to the city’s homes in 180 days. This promise he fulfilled on November 25, 2023 when he inaugurated the ultra-modern Ninth Mile Corner 24/7 Water Scheme, which includes a 4.4 megawatts gas plant to ensure non-stop water supply. This, coupled with new installations and overhauls at Oji and Ajali Water Schemes have raised water production capacity from occasional 2 million litres to 120 million litres as against the 70 to 75 million litres currently needed to service the metropolis. As he rightly admitted, it is not yet Uhuru, as massive reticulation expansion works and fixing of aged and bust pipes continue. In fact, most of pipes were asbestos products laid by the colonialists and the Okpara regime.

In October also, he 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 the 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 processes of land acquisition to expand the City. However, no further steps were taken in terms of its actualisation.

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 are emerging all over in the past 20 years, particularly in Latin America, 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.

Therefore, on assumption of office, Mbah swung into action towards realising what he named the New Enugu City. The New Enugu City, which caters for today and the future, measures 9,730.204 hectres of land properly acquired, endorsed by the State House of Assembly and gazetted by the administration. It cuts across five LGAS, namely, Enugu South, Enugu East, Enugu North, Nkanu East, and Nkanu West. The first phase of the project, which Mbah is pursuing with vigour, covers 26 square kilometres and will be delivered in 24 months.

Flagging off the construction of 17km dual carriageway road, feeder roads, and other infrastructur, 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 – the 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 a centralised public utilities such as dedicated power plant, central sewage system, high speed internet, 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 cities 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 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.

For instance, although there were originally no relocation and compensation plans at the time of earlier acquisitions, he built compensation and relocation into the New City development plan. Again, although the communities were by the publicised acquisition starting from previous administrations served notice, Mbah, nevertheless held various consultations with the affected communities in person and through his appointees. He has also assured the communities that government would complete the ongoing construction of modern buildings, smart school, Type-2 healthcare centre, roads, and other necessary amenities in their new community and properly relocate them before any demolitions. The government equally made provisions for massive farmlands for them 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 to 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 fulfill 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 that thinks not just about today. Indeed, for Ndi Enugu, tomorrow is here, for in the New Enugu City, splendour, investment hub beckons.

Anichukwu writes from Enugu

Vanguard Newspaper