Okpoko residents jubilant as Soludo turns slum into livable town in 2 years


By Our correspondent

Residents of Okpoko community in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State are in jubilant mood over the urban regeneration and facelift of their community in terms of construction of roads, pipe borne water, hospital, electrification and other infrastructural projects currently being experienced in the community at the moment.

Findings showed that Okpoko, a slum and densely populated community, has not had such developments from “time immemorial.”

For precisely over five decades, the community has never experienced any government presence, the correspondent, who visited reported, adding that Okpoko community is notorious for harbouring street urchins and other criminal elements, who can also be very dangerous, just as poverty is rife in the area. Roads, potable water, liveable homes were all lacking in the slum before now.

Findings revealed that large families consisting of parents and children live in one room makeshift houses, usually made with either wood and tarpaulin, or wood and corrugated roofing sheets, while toilets attached to them are far away from the compound, and more often than not, they are meant for children, while adults only have the privilege of going to toilet only very early in the morning before daybreak or at night in drainage canals.

In fact, the area was a “no-go area” at nights and early in the morning due to several hideouts harbouring criminal elements who found the area a safe haven to perpetrate their evil acts.

But all these are vanishing fast from the community due to the urban regeneration and facelift it is currently undergoing.

Some community members who spoke said the development, which include construction of several kilometres of roads, installation of street lights, provision of pipe borne water at strategic locations and ongoing construction of a general hospital in the community, and a host of others have opened up economic and commercial activities, as well as boosting security in the area.

This was why the joy of the people of the community knew no bounds, as they thronged the various venues of the inauguration of these projects to appreciate the state governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, when the governor visited the community on Monday to commission the projects.

Addressing the people at the St. Charles Lwanga Catholic Church ground in Okpoko, Soludo recalled with nostalgia the historical significance of Okpoko community, lamenting how over a million people have been deprived of basic facilities, such as pipe-borne water, good roads, street lights, general hospital, among others, over the decades.

Expressing concern about the situation, the governor maintained that the area, which has also been hampered and devastated by perennial flood, constitutes the major urban regeneration agenda of his administration.

Soludo stressed that his administration would not relent in providing the needed infrastructure facilities such as pipe-borne water, street lights, and good road network to the area.

He observed that Okpoko was the first place he visited immediately after his inauguration as governor in 2022, pointing out that before now, people spent hours moving around the community due to the deplorable condition of its roads as it had adversely affected commercial activities in the area.

He said, “I have come here again. Two years ago, I was here and Okpoko is one of the reasons that kept hope alive for me. This is the biggest urban slum in Nigeria, with no facility, nothing and I decided that when God makes me governor, Okpoko will be my first port of call, which was why on my inauguration day, I came here and we started clearing the gutters and drainages.

“We are very optimistic that the infrastructure would stimulate the economy and improve the life of the people of the area.

“What I want to tell Okpoko people is that they have not seen anything yet. About 15 kilometres of roads are ongoing simultaneously. You have never had health facility since the creation of Adam and Eve, but today a general hospital is being built for you. As we were driving through the streets of Okpoko, I stopped at several places to turn on pipe borne water and they were running.

“Since time immemorial Okpoko people have not drank pipe borne water. This is the first time the people of Okpoko are having pipe borne water and a general hospital, there has never been a general hospital here. We are committed to making Okpoko great. Okpoko people are parts of Anambra State.

“Everywhere is illuminated, the solar-powered street lights are working and it has given a night life to Okpoko. Someone sent me a video of Okpoko at night, and we saw night life in Okpoko, Okpoko that used to be a no go area at night, is now suddenly bubbling with night life.

“The children of the poor must be given the same opportunity that the children of the rich have, and that is why we are giving free basic education across the state. Every child will now be able to access medical care free of charge. With the coming of pipe borne water, typhoid fever will go.”

The governor averred that great things are happening again in the state, noting that Onitsha, the biggest market in West Africa must be rebuilt.

He enthused, “We will rebuild Onitsha, the biggest market in West Africa. It appears like it is dying, Onitsha will rise up again. We are trying to give Onitsha a better face lift. We are doing great things there. The testimonies some bus drivers are giving are touching and we are in government to touch the lives of everybody in the state.

“A shuttle bus driver, who saw me at Port Harcourt Street in Onitsha fell down before me and gave me all the money he made for the day, thanking me for the roads construction in the state. He gave me all the money he made as he made them, N100, N200. I thanked him and blessed him and told him, that his money will be in millions.”

Speaking to South-East PUNCH in separate interviews, Coordinator of Shuttle Bus Drivers in Anambra State, Osita Obi said, “We are so pleased with the roads. The shuttle bus drivers are happy as their buses are no longer being taken to mechanic for repair everytime. The roads have opened up economic and commercial activities in the community. We have never had it like this for many decades.”

A community leader and octogenarian, Chief Mike Okorie, said, “I am happy that the development of Okpoko is happening in my lifetime. We have never had it so good like this. For many decades, we did not feel the presence of government until now. A lot of people have died due to diseases and lack of medicare, but all those are becoming a thing of the past.

“Insecurity and criminalities used to be our greatest issue in the community in the past, but since the installation of the solar-powered street lights and the roads being done, everywhere is illuminated and there is no room for criminalities anymore. No hiding place for criminal activities anymore. The people are happy at this development and everyone is enjoying night life in Okpoko.

“Everywhere in the community used to be filled with filth here and there, thereby blocking drainages and causing flooding, but all those are gone now. As you can see, everywhere in Okpoko is now tidy. I urge the people to maintain the standard as it would be of immense benefit for us all.”

Earlier in his remarks, the Transition Committee Chairman of Ogbaru Local Government Area, Paschal Aniegbunam, and the member representing Ogbaru staye constituency 1 in the state House of Assembly, Mr Noble Igwe, appreciated the governor for fulfilling his campaign promise to the people, even as they pledged continued support by the people for his administration.

They added that since 1999, the people had been neglected by successive administrations.

Other stakeholders who eulogised the development were the President of Ogbarru Main Market Traders Association, Chief Ndubuiisi Ochiogu; former Secretary-General of Okpoko Development Union, Chief Raphael Agu, aka Commodore; a chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Zeribe Ezeanuna; patron of Ogbaru Main Market, Chief Nnamdi Ezesinachi and the Parish Priest of St Lwanga’s Catholic Church, Okpoko, Monsignor Theophilus Odukwe.

They urged Soludo to put in more efforts towards achieving rapid transformation of the state, consider all sectors as critical and above all, ensure crime free Anambra State.

By Ifeizu Joe

Ifeizu is a seasoned journalist and Managing Editor of TheRazor. He has wide knowledge of Anambra State and has reported the state objectively for over a decade.

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