June 15, 2024

Maximising the Potential of the Enugu New City

Maximising the Potential of the Enugu New City

By Bismarck Oji

On Friday, 1st of March, 2024, the Enugu State Governor, Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, signed into law two bills that can effectively deal with the agelong scourges of Enugu city’s congestion and oversized house rents.

They are the New Enugu City Development Agency and the Enugu State Geographical Information System Service (ESGISS).

Both laws are visionary and have the capacity to appreciably cure the age old scourge of oversized house rents in Enugu – the Coal City. According to Governor Mbah, “we now have a legal framework (New Enugu City Development Agency) that permits us and even future administrations to continue to expand the New City. Through the Enugu State Geographical Information System Service Law, which would oversee the automation and digitization of processes for service delivery, starting with land administration, we have created a system that ensures that residents and investors commence and complete the processing of certificates of occupancy within 72 hours.”

With this, the ogba-na-eche-agu scourge shall be effectively dealt with as digitalization of the land acquisition process shall eliminate various sharp practices from youths and other members of Enugu metropolis host communities, which often place stumbling blocks on the paths of estate developers in the city.

Unlike Onitsha and Aba that are commercial hubs, thereby having more per capita income and cash inflow, Enugu is largely a civil service city. Yet tenants in Enugu city pay relatively exorbitant house rents. In fact, Enugu has the highest house rents in the South East region.

Although the jury is still out regarding the reasons for the coal city’s relatively high tenement rates, one factor stands evident. Of these three sister cities, Enugu has the smallest rate of metropolitan expansion.

From 1999 till date, Enugu metropolis has not been able to expand beyond Old Enugu Urban, comprising Enugu North, Enugu South and Enugu East LGAs. On the other hand, Greater Onitsha has expanded beyond Onitsha proper, comprising Onitsha North and Onitsha South LGAs to now include Idemili North, Idemili South, Anambra East, Oyi, etc. Also, with a little intentionality by the Anambra State Government, Awka can become seamlessly joined to the Greater Onitsha Megalopolis, as one conurbation. In fact, as of today, the sister cities of Asaba and Nnewi are part of Onitsha conurbation. Aba metropolis likewise has grown beyond the initial two LGAs of Aba North and Aba South to encompass Osisioma, Ugwunagbo, Obingwa and Ukwa West LGAs.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case in Enugu State, as past governments have concentrated more on ‘carve outs’ inside the already congested Enugu metropolis rather than expanding it into adjoining LGAs. In fact, since 1999, there has been a steady rise in the population of Enugu city, with rising insecurity against Ndigbo and Igbo investments outside Ala-Igbo, as well as increased number of tertiary institutions being sited therein. However, the Udi Hill, stretching from Miliken Hill through Idaw River and Akwuke, is a natural barrier to westwards expansion of Enugu City. A new road extending across the hill from Idaw River, Enugu South LGA to Nsude, Udi LGA is ideal as a by-pass from the densely populated Awkunanaw area of Enugu metropolis to the Enugu-Onitsha expressway through Nsude. Most importantly, it will open up that sparsely inhabited area between Idaw River to the East, Ngwo Asaa to the North, Nsude/ Udi/Abia to the West and Akwuke/ Akegbe Ugwu/ Ozalla to the South.

The Enugu State Government has taken the first decisive step towards ensuring the metropolitan expansion of Enugu city through the instrumentality of the laws setting up the New Enugu City Development Agency and the Enugu State Geographical Information System Service (ESGISS). With these, Enugu can witness metropolitan expansion, thereby crashing the exorbitant tenement rates. These laws were long overdue, but either for lack of vision or political, they have been sidestepped until Mbah assumed office and took the bull by the horn. These bold steps that Ndi Enugu appear not to really understand the ramifications of its import to the much awaited investment, business, tourism, and overall development of the Coal City State.

However, that display of disruptive governance can be taken even further through the siting of different new Enugu cities along various corridors (entry points into the city). One, the Enugu-Abakaliki Corridor. The already approved New Enugu City, from Emene to Owo and beyond is sited there.  However, dualization of the Airport Flyover – Ebonyi State border section of the Enugu-Abakiliki-Ogoja-Cameroun continental highway is ideal.  And it is commendable that the Mbah Administration already has the Federal Government’s approval to do the dualization up the Enugu-Ebonyi border. A flyover is already being contructed at Eke Obinagu.

The second is the Enugu-Four Corners-Awgu Corridor. Metropolitan expansion along this corridor should aim at urbanization of the Agbani-Agbogugu-Udi to Gariki stretch, thereby encompassing UNTH, Ituku-Ozalla and Akwuke. Already, the Ogbonnaya Onovo and Rangers estates exist in that corridor. However, creating a new layout will be a game changer. Besides, the layout along this corridor can be called Rangers Layout a deserving tribute/monument to that embodiment of the Igbo spirit.

The third is the Enugu-Nike Lake-Nsukka Corridor: Metropolitan expansion along this corridor should aim at joining Nsukka to Enugu through the urbanization.

Then of course the Enugu-Awka Corridor. Metropolitan expansion along this axis should be in two spheres. Firstly, 9th Mile should be linked to Enugu metropolis through urbanization of the 9th mile – Trans Ekulu stretch. Secondly, Ugwuoba-Oji River should be urbanized to serve as the Eastern spur of the Greater Onitsha Megalopolis. The recent clearance of hoodlums and shanties at Ugwuoba Gariki by the Mbah Administration is a commendable step in that direction.

One of the challenges of Eastern economic growth is the absence of a megalopolis. Onitsha has the potential of becoming the Lagos of the East within the next five years if the concerned state governments, namely Anambra, Delta, Imo and Enugu approach the issue with intentionality. International developmental institutions like the African Development Bank can evolve the institutional framework to drive the process and ensure proper planning, conceptualization and implementation of the proposed Greater Onitsha Megalopolis Masterplan.

According to Geography, towns are founded and grow based on their functions and econo-political relevance. For instance, Enugu was founded and owes its growth to the coal industry, which led to its becoming a regional capital. Onitsha and Aba are both expanding more than Enugu due to the higher rate of economic activities going on there. Therefore, in order to ensure organic expansion of Enugu metropolis, there should be increased sustainable economic activities along those aforementioned four corridors.

For instance, now that Mbah is fast revitalizing various moribund assets in his state, including the United Palm Products Ltd., Hotel Presidential, NIGERGAS, International Conference Centre, etc., the Enugu State Government should in the spirit of regional integration also liaise with the Ebonyi State Government to revitalize NIGERCEM, Nkalagu, as a joint venture to harness the Nkalagu-Amechi Idodo limestone deposits. With that, Nkalag -Amechi Idodo-Owo-Emene shall become one metropolis. UNTH Ituku-Ozalla and ESUT, Agbani, are two institutions that can drive metropolitan expansion within the Agbani- Four Corners-Ituku-Ozalla–Agbogugu stretch of the Enugu-Awgu corridor.

In essence, apart from the mega, 10-hectre New Enugu City, which is designed and is currently being fast constructed as a smart city by the Chinese Communication and Construction Company, there should also be a sort various other, but perhaps, less sophisticated ‘New Enugu cities’. The State Government’s duty is to create the new layouts and provide infrastructure. To achieve this, the Local Government Chairmen of these satellite LGAs need to be people, who like Mbah, are not career politicians, so as to effectively key into his disruptive governance gospel. Again, the Nsukka and Enugu Chambers of Commerce have a big role to play in the business of Enugu’s metropolitan expansion. An Oji Chamber of Commerce is also ideal to harness the abundant potentials of the emergent Oji River City.

Intentionality implies that the government shall have a policy that only those ready to embark on immediate development should acquire land in any of the new layouts. Churches, labor unions and professional bodies can develop low cost housing estates there.

This road, if duly taken is another instance of Mbah’s Disruptive Governance aimed at making Enugu a 21st century city in all ramifications.

Finally, after one year in the saddle, it is so far so good for the Mbah administration. But whether he is able to sustain the pace and vision remains to be seen.

Mazi Oji, MNSE, COREN, is the publisher of Hoohaa online newspapers and Convener, South East Good Governance Project (SEGGOP)