“Enugu State under us will pay a special attention to rural development because the bulk of our people live in the rural areas. We will create more urban areas to boost economic growth. In line with this, we must equip and modernize Nsukka – a University town founded over half a century ago – to compete with other University towns in attracting technology and knowledge based businesses and other industrial support ventures, bearing in mind that Nsukka is the second largest town in Enugu State.” Nsukka Town
– Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Inaugural speech, May 29, 2015).
The best suited title for our musing today would have been “Before It Is Too Late.” But because former President Obasanjo had used it as the title of his Open Letter to the then President Jonathan back in 2013, it would amount to plagiarism using it here. Otherwise, there is no better term and time to sound this warning to the custodians of Nsukka urban development plans than now.
Before 2015, Nsukka urban had looked like every other satellite town and settlement area for mostly low income earners. An outlook it sorely maintained for decades.
But within five and half years of Gov. Ugwuanyi’s resolute efforts at giving the ancient province a facelift, there has been noticeable mass thronging of people (this time high income earners), into Nsukka, causing exponential surge in migration and resettlement flowchart of the town and its environs; and this calls for urgent concern.
True to his promises in the inaugural address cited above, Nsukka urban has witnessed a colossal infrastructural boost under Ugwuanyi’s strides. An upgrade to the quintessence from “status quo ante.”
No doubt, siting University of Nigeria in this town placed it on the world map. But it remained a humdrum town until recently, when its feeder roads were rehabilitated and modern housing estates built with eccentrical luxuriation.
It was heartwarming seeing the weather-beaten Opi – Nsukka road upgraded to cutting-edge state. It was well guttered and thickly layered; ashphalted with 9-inch high nylon coal tar, such that it became the envy of many of its contemporaries in Enugu town where former Governor Sullivan was Emperor of uncommon development. The new Anglican road was also beatified with another grotesque renovation.
The road networks were well planned, and the contractors played by the rule, thanks to Hon. Ugwuanyi’s uncompromising strictness in sending them back to sites where people are complaining against their works, like he did in the case of the same Aku/New Anglican road project.
Already, the Utramodern Nsukka Township stadium is at its advance stage of completion. These and many more have redefined the shape of the town, which was one of the oldest administrative provinces of the defunct Eastern Nigeria government.
However, in the euphoria of seeing Nsukka wear a metropolitan garb, so many things have started going wrong in negative reciprocity to people’s attitudes. The geometrical increase in rural-urban drift calls for scrupulous caution.
Granted, everyone has the constitutional right to live wherever one chooses. But prudence demands that one avoids debaunching the sanity and serenity of a town while one crave for spaces in it.
In all honesty, this rapid influx of people who are taking residence in the area was not unexpected. When in 2013 ex-Gov. Sullivan shortened the distance between Enugu town and Nsukka by constructing the Opi-Ekwegbe-Ugwuogo Nike-Enugu Road, many a people who had fair knowledge of town planning, predicted an impending population explosion in Nsukka.
Some civil servants from the city centre who work in Enugu town retreated back home and started plying to work through the road. It was easy and cost effective.
Today, a trip to Nsukka town, will make one marvel at the rate by which both residential and commercial buildings are sprouting up indiscriminately. Most Landlords have started expanding their frontiers to maximize gains in the renaissance of the town.
But greater percentage of these structures are being erected against the Nsukka urban development masterplan.
And that is where the danger lies.
The city is topographically hilly.
So this mad rush need to be checked on time, else, flooding will rear its ugly head across the landscapes. Without appropriate regulation, it won’t be long before the whole empty spaces get clogged. We should not forget the basic economic theory of the famous English demographer and political economist — Thomas Malthus that “the supply of land is constant.” And even though geophysical science had tried to prove otherwise, the case of Apapa Lagos is an attack on mother nature, which gets justice retributively every rainy season through “annual” incidents of flooding.
It is therefore germane that preventive mechanism be enforced now, or the lithosphere with its coordinates stand the risk of gully erosions and perennial denudation. At such, incidences of collapsed building which were rare in Nsukka may turn an unpleasant tide; and then we will begin to blame it on Governor Ugwuanyi’s good will. Because it is becoming a notorious norm, that at any instance of public misfortune, blame-shifting and guilt-tripping are inevitable weapons at the disposal of the masses against government.
Most happy stories of social development in our clime often mix with tragedies; because, people in embracing new development tend to lose their sense of reasoning. They will begin to adjust and take counsel only when they hit the dead end.
Between 1979 and 1985 old Anambra state witnessed similar unprecedented infrastructural development in many spheres, under the magic hands of Gov. Jim Nwobodo. Rural roads were reconstructed at the snap of fingers, and feeder roads metamorphosed into urban highways in a space of months.
The coup de’tat that toppled that government came on December 31, 1983, but because some of the contracts were already awarded and paid for, in full, the works continued according to plans up to ’85. What we know today as Obollo Afor-Obollo Eke-Ikem-Ehamufu-Nkalagu road was among those projects.
At the completion of that road, most drivers began to sleep off on wheels as the brand new highway sang lullabies to their brains while on steering. Road traffic accidents became daily occurrence. Kids whose parents were so carefree not to guide them on how to cross the paradise of a road were smashed with reckless abandon. Harvests of death dotted 1985/87 along that road.
Then people started heeding advice, as Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) was also established during that time, to further help in this regard. Road Safety codes were observed and the rural dwellers conformed to the reality of urbanisation that greeted them within that short period.
Similar reality, with arguably less tragic propensity in the short term, is mirroring in Nsukka metropolis presently, and we can not afford to allow our people learn the hard way again.
If something urgent is not done, the town may, in foreseeable future, become excessively peopled, congested and disfigured.
This is a clarion call for the Local Government Town Planning Authority to rise to the occasion before Nsukka becomes another Awka, where lack of compliance to appropriate geophysical planning template made an administrative capital city look like a commercial one. They have to dispense themselves off any sign of perfunctory approach to duty.
It is certain that after raising structures promiscuously, and the Town Planning Authority intervenes, it will be labelled “medicine after death.” And when they begin to pull down some houses that violated the master plan, it will be tagged wickedness, man’s inhumanity to man, political witch-hunting etc. We knew all manner of names people called Mallam Nasir El-Rufai when he implemented the Abuja master plan.
For Nsukka town, it is early days yet.
However, worthy of note is the worrisome trend of suspected corrupt practices among the rank and file of Town Planning Authority management staff, as allegations of bribery blind them from standing tall to their duties. The ripple effect of such offence is usually pathological and intergenerational. Precautionarily, the state government need to apply strict measures and supervise their works; and prosecute as appropriate, erring officer(s) to serve as deterrent to others.
Have a blessed New Year.