EVERY city in the whole wide world has its dark spots and flashpoints. At such places, heinous acts and anti-social activities are always the order of the day, while miscreants and other dubious elements seize the opportunity to unleash mayhem on citizens in a bid to fester their own nests.
Perhaps, the sight of security presence at such perceived places by constituted authorities confirms the fear conjured by such areas and alludes to the fact that it is a common knowledge that marauders are always on the prowl within such environs, while lawful citizens should operate with caution. In cities like Sao-Polo in Brazil, Mumbai in India, Jarkata in Indonesia, Sicili in Italy, J’harnesbug in South Africa, Monrovia in Liberia to mention just a few across the world, the unwelcome presence of bandits are too apparent to be dismissed. Onitsha is one of the cities in this part of the world that share in the unpleasant presence of men of the underworld. With a beehive of activities, the metropolis captures the definition of a city in conflict with industrial propensity and criminal tendency.
Despite the state government’s efforts to rid the state of criminality and make her much desired haven for residents and visitors, activities in the area, seem to undermine success so far achieved in that regard. Note! The bearing of this piece does not intend to disparage any institution, person or group but bares the hard reality of life within the locus of the bridge called Upper-Iweka Flyover, with a view to changing the fad gradually holding sway.
In the first instance, this is an area that links the west with the rest of the eastern hinterlands. On arrival from southwest states across the Niger, Upper-Iweka provides the onward link with Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia States. Similarly, to exit the eastern region through the mouth of the River Niger, Upper-Iweka remains an easy route any time any day, pending when the inland water channels will be put into good use as alternative to land transportation system in the economic chain. With this strategic location, one can understand why Upper-Iweka will always be a beehive of activities any time and a potential economic hub to the advantage of Anambra State, other sister states within the eastern axis and Nigeria at large. The inference of this strategic positioning is that activities in the area have multiplier effects on not only Anambra demography but Eastern population and their economy.
Consequently, the desire of every well meaning individual operating within the area should be the promotion of acts that can sustain congenial atmosphere for improved socio- economic live. For the cosmopolitan life of Onitsha to hit desired height, security of lives and property must be firmly put in place. Markets in Anambra State have reputation for high propensity. Onitsha Main Market holds a good record for leading in volume of trade not just in Nigeria but in West Africa in the time past, according to verifiable records. Nnewi Spare Parts Market competes among the greatest markets in spare parts dealership in Nigeria and across West Africa. Aria-Aria, Aba Shoe Market has a big reputation in hides and skin products market in West African subregion and many other interconnected markets around the east that share high prospects. These markets attract local investors from different parts of the country, as well as foreigners. Upper – Iweka welcomes them on arrival to east and whatever experience they receive at the area goes a long way in defining rightly or wrongly, the overall state of affairs in the region and determines how much faith, potential investors can repose in exploring investment opportunities as may be flaunted to them. Therefore, if on arrival, they are attacked by miscreants or waylaid by more audacious robbers prowling in the area in recent time, their opinion of Onitsha, Anambra State, as well as Nigeria is left for anyone to imagine.
The questions are, how notorious is Upper-Iweka and what does it take to sanitize it?
According to an anonymous resident at New Cemetery Road, Onitsha, “criminality has gone significantly down in Onitsha in recent years, especially, the last five years. The credit must go to Governor Willie Obiano for his efforts in beefing up security in the entire Anambra State, but there is a growing concern of the return of the hoodlums in some flashpoints of the state of late. Upper-Iweka will always be among this class when roll is called. The truth is that even in day time, Owerri Road, Uga-Upper Iweka, MCC Roads, the service lanes connecting the major roads, all record high level of criminal activities, let alone close to the night. The pickpockets abound in these areas operating like it’s legal business. The snatch and run, the robbers with dangerous weapons, the 419ners, the one-chance shuttle-bus criminals are all there making life miserable for genuine citizens plying there trades within that section of the metropolis.”
Affirming, the above assertion, a business manager, Mr Ignatius Ezeani says the bad boys are back. “At the first years of Obiano’s tenure, he made sure they got no hiding place anywhere in the state. It seems they have made their way back, but I believe the governor can replicate his first feat over and over. He should as a matter of urgency roll the tanks once again and turn the heat on them, especially, in Upper-Iweka. Whoever says they do not know of growing criminal activities in the area may only be playing the ostrich. The good thing is that the governor has demonstrated his capability in dealing with these elements. It’s a matter of prioritising his administration’s agenda.” He surmised.
As a matter of fact, businesses situated within Upper-Iweka axis of the state alone is substantial and equally contribute meaningful quota to revenue generation in the state.The Bridgehead Iron Market, the Drug Market, the Plastic Market, the Electronics Market, the Ogboefere Market, the Relief market, the multi-transport companies to mention a few, are all clustered within the axis. These are business establishments being hounded by hoodlums and miscreants regularly in addition to innumerable illegal levies, tolls and revenue collectors that combine to stiffle life out of business.
Obviously, this is not a scenario that attracts investors by any means and the state cannot afford to surrender her huge investment successes to the mercy of these underworld elements. For the unfamiliar travellers within the area, the cell phones are usually their first target, then money and other valuables, depending on the point of encounter, intent of the criminals and sophistry of their operations. They are usually everywhere and in some cases, posing as security agencies to unsuspecting targets. The pick pocketers usually create artificial human traffics at crossing slabs to cash in on the gathered crowd seeking to cross the road with the slab, dip their hands into unsuspecting person’s bags and pockets and make away with anything they could secretly draw out in the process. It is always swift and one minute is too long for an operation.
The new addition to the mix is the one-chance shuttle bus. They must have borrowed leaf from the notorious Lagos State criminal syndicate that use Danfo buses to rob commuters of their belongings while the vehicle is at top speed on the highway. In the Anambra State version, the Osite shuttle bus is in use for the crime and they operate between Bridgehead and Nkwelle Junction of the federal expressway early in the mornings and late evenings.
It is most unfortunate for a state that prides herself as light of the nation to be so challenged by these morbid characters. Certainly, the terrain will not turn a fertile ground for their habitation when government cracks down on them. Citizens equally have a duty to support the government in the fight against these vandals by providing timely information that could lead to their apprehension whenever they try their luck.
Their next victim could be anybody and turning blind eye to the situation is not in the best interest of the state. Anambra State has unarguably maintained a good run in her flagship as light of the nation and miscreants should not be allowed to dent such enviable image.