Chief Osita Chidoka, chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has proposed the creation of Greater Niger Area Commission to make Onitsha, Anambra a successful city comparable to Kigali, Cape Town and Johannesburg. The Commission will comprise of the Five Local Government Areas of Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Ogbaru, Idemili North and Oyi to enable regional planning, agglomeration and scale to reverse the progressive decay of urban services in Onitsha.
Chidoka recalled that Onitsha, which was once home to some of the finest in academia, lawyers, businessmen and transporters from Igboland is now a shadow of its self.
He said that the city of the largest market in West Africa lacked critical municipal services like efficient transport system, mapped routes, coordinated sewage system, reticulated water supply system and planning that separates residential from business areas.
The former minister of aviation in a statement issued by Ikechukwu Okafor in Awka on Sunday said Onitsha had lost its traditional setting to urbanization and that no institution or modern governance structure was in place to develop the area.
He noted that Onitsha was now an agglomeration that had crept into neighboring council areas like Idemili North, Oyi and Ogbaru and therefore required a development model that accommodates such areas.
“Onitsha has lost its traditional setting of the people of Onitsha with no modern institution taking its place, this is the reason for decay of public services; we don’t have urban services and sense of community anymore.
“I want to propose the creation of Greater Niger Area Commission to comprise Ogbaru, Idemili North, Oyi and the Onitsha area to take care of the common challenges of the area like sewage, waste management, transport, water supply and other services.
“We need the restoration of Onitsha water works built by the Colonial government in the 1940s, set new targets on sanitation and save the area from emerging slum in the area
“Onitsha has no municipal water supply system to homes which is a characteristic of modern societies and the worst of them all is sanitation where there are no treatment plants for liquid and solid waste.
“We have to invest massively to evolve accessible, affordable health and education system partly with the revenue generated from here,” he said.
Chidoka said there was need to digitise governance of Onitsha municipality as there was no online presence of the two Local Governments that control Onitsha.
He called for a clear mapping that differentiates market area from the business area as well as a central sewage system that ensure good sanitary environment.
According to Chidoka, if the UN habitat plan for onistsha was implemented in the last seven years, Onitsha would not have been where it is today.
“Again Onitsha does not have website or city plan, the only one I saw was the Greater Onitsha Water Scheme plan on the World Bank website. You can’t access basic municipal services online in Onitsha, every service is still rendered manually. Onitsha needs internet access with the creation of Onitsha dot org. or dot ng.”
“In Africa we have succesful cities like Cape Town, Kigali and Johannesburg. These cities have some defining characteristics some of which are; they have strategic goals and publicise those goals; they have developed systems for staff and performance management and they prioritise stakeholder interactions.
“For Onitsha to be a successful city, we need to set clear goals, we need to engage stakeholders; we need our best hands employed and trained, we need to empower them with required sets of skills for efficient service delivery. Our greatest export to the world should be knowledge.”
“In Onitsha municipal we need organised transport systems, with proper route mappings to replace the current system with disrupting the private sector led model that is available now.
The new Greater Niger Area must plan to turn around the current situation where a vibrant city like Onitsha has no sewage system, no power system, no clear zoning of residential and commercial areas, making the city one huge market with low livability.
“Onitsha needs a vision and I suggest that a vision “to be family friendly, sustainable, livable and resilient city with a strong sense of community” can be a place to start with.
The recent fire at Onitsha should serve as a wake up call to all stakeholders.
“For all these to work, we need three concepts of Uche ‘Knowledge’, Uchu ‘Enterprise’ and Egwu Chukwu ‘Values’,” he further said.