Mbah’s Enugu as a Coastal State: True or False?

by Mike Ebuka

Shortly after the governorship primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State, Peter Mbah, the lucky winner during a thank-you visit told the people of Uzo-Uwani that the council would be very important to him, stressing that through Uzo-Uwani, Enugu had become a coastal state.

The aforementioned assertion kept many people wondering what he meant by “Enugu as a coastal state”. Some argued that the only river in the said council was the Adada River in Nkpologu which has no linkage with any other deep seas which could serve as a medium of transportation. It is therefore imperative that we eradicate this doubt by taking a quick voyage to the said local government area, Uzo-Uwani.

Uzo-Uwani is a local government area in Enugu Statethat shares borders with Kogi and Anambra States. Uzo-Uwani consists of towns and villages with sixteen (16) political wards. It is widely known for its agrarian nature and its headquarters is in the town of Umulokpa.

Uzo-Uwani is predominantly inhabited by the Igbo ethnic group. The inhabitants speak a special Igbo dialect aside English. It also has three autonomous communities inhabited by Igala speaking people.

Uzo-Uwani is highly blessed with water bodies which comprise different kinds of rivers, among them are the Adada River in Nkpologu and the Obinna River in Adani which connect other places like Asaba and Ojjor community respectively. Recall that Obinna River supplies water through its dam to the drainage channels in Adarice, an area of land of approximately five thousand (5000) hectares well known for its high nutrients for cultivation of rice and other food crops. On the other hand, Eshi River in Ogurugu flows across the village and snakes its way into the largest river in the area called Omambala which flows between the boundary between Uzo-Uwani and Anambra State. Omambala, corrupted to Anambra by the earlier European explorers, gave the present state its name.

The Anambra River flows 210 kilometres into the Niger River in Anambra State. It is the most important feeder of the River Niger below Lokoja.

Seaport at Ogurugu Community in Uzo-Uwani

Omambala River also referred to as Imabolo River by locals in Ogurugu has been a channel of transportation in the olden days, especially during colonialism. In those days, Ogurugu had a seaport built by the colonialists from where they entered northern Igboland and thence the entire Igbo nation. The Igbos plied their trade and transported their goods and agricultural produce to the outside world through Uzo-Uwani.

To this day, there are still dilapidated structures of the commercial bank used by colonialists and Igbo traders at the port for transactions in Ogurugu. It is worthy of note that aside the abandoned seaport in Ogurugu community there is also an abandoned airport which was built by the government of General Murtala Mohammed in 1975. At the place of abandonment still lies the airport runway and other airport facilities already built there for the project which was awarded to Franco Company (a topic for another day).

If things had gone the normal way, Enugu State would have been one of the most economically viable states in Nigeria in the likes of Lagos, Rivers and Anambra State. This is because Enugu as a coastal state had witnessed the presence of colonial infrastructural legacies in Uzo-Uwani which was well felt by the Ogurugu communities.

In conclusion, when the frontline governorship candidate in the state, Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah during the unveiling of his manifesto promised that his administration will evolve a multimodal transport system incorporating light rail, tram services and inland waterway services to complement the existing road transport system, my heart leaped with joy that Enugu state is about to move to another height. His vision to replicate his Pinnacle miracle in Enugu State by attracting a similar petroleum products terminal at Ogurugu near the Omambala river from where oil and gas will be easily accessed by petroleum marketers in the South East and North Central regions is such that should be applauded and encouraged by those who want the progress of the Igbo nation. The economic gains and multiplier effects of enabling Igbo traders to bring in their cargoes down to a strategically located river port in the South-East can be better imagined.

Indeed, Peter Mbah was right when he said that Enugu is a coastal state, and his willingness and readiness to get to work on this abandoned project and bring some exciting modern innovations to it is a thing to be celebrated. Uzo Uwani is Enugu’s gateway to the larger world through water bodies. Truly, in the words of Dr. Peter Mbah, Enugu is not landlocked.

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