Ogbonnaya Ikokwu Umuahia
The Ariaria international market Aba has been facing a myriad of challenges of flooding, over crowding and poor access road for several years as a result of indiscriminate erection of shops in the market.
It was gathered that many traders engaged in the marketing or production of goods have lost their shop and goods worth billions of naira over the years to flooding and fire outbreaks.
A trader in the market chief Felix Okoro, told our correspondent that the master plan of the market establish in 1976 after it became popular for its textile and leather industry was messed up by developers under the guise of expansion of the market.
He blamed the poor development on government policies, alleging that people with goverment connections had gone out of their ways to construct shops on water ways, parks and access roads within the market.
Several calls have been made in the past for Ariaria which is one of the largest market in West Africa and nicknamed “the China of Africa”because of its versatility and creativity in hand-made leather works and clothing.
Help finally came in the year 2021 when a young businessman came up with a blueprint to remodel the market and bring it apart with other International markets elsewhere in the world.
Engr. Henry Okoroafor, who is the
Managing Director of Blessed Henken International Company Ltd, is the visioner and developer of the Ariaria international Market Remodeling Project.
Speaking while conducting select Journalists around the huge projects, Okoroafor said the intent is to transform Ariaria into a world-class International market in the next ten years.
He revealed that the project commenced in October 2021 under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with State Government under the administration of former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, adding that the state government had assisted his company to secure a loan of N1.5b to start the project.
Okoroafor, pointed out that he was spurred to embark on the project because of his 25 years experience in China where he saw a perfect working system and he believes the same can be replicated in Nigeria.
He added that the shopping plaza he is constructing has facilities such as fire sprinkling system, fire proof doors, elevators, motor parks and constant power supply
He said, “After spending 25 years in China, l saw a perfect working system, a country that believes in healthy competition, that is what I want to replicate in Aba, particularly Ariaria the Ariaria International Market.
“I have studied the level of development in China, I decided to come home, to see how my State could look better than Lagos or Abuja. Without this level of healthy competition, I don’t think we can make any headway in terms of infrastructural development. We expect that at the conclusion of the project, Ariaria will be talked about all over the country”.
“My Chinese team is assisting in funding this project, the project is doing well since the current Governor Alex Otti led State government, is also working towards making Aba better than Lagos or Abuja within the period of seven years.
“The remodelled shops are affordable and goes for N5m for those who owned shops in the part of market that was demolished before this current construction began, while fresh buyers will pay N6M, the money can be paid installmentally.
“Traders who cannot afford to pay the money at once have an offer to access a loan package from United Bank for Africa, but regretted some that traders also went to court to block such window of opportunity”.
“We demolished over 3600 shops but at the end of phase one of the remodeling of the market, but we will have 4200 shop and enough pack for parks, good access road again drainage system within the market”.
He urged Abia residents to support the project insisting his intentions is transformed Aba into a Dubai in Africa, stressing that on completion, people don’t need to travel abroad or any other part of the country for their shopping as it can be done here in Aba.
Also speaking other trader in some of the newly completed shops including: Francis Okachukwu (Frankman shoes), Mentus (Parripa Jewelries), Mrs. Amaka Obinani (Jack Resources Nigerian Ltd), commended the Developer of the shops, for doing a good job, adding that they are better doing business in the new remodelled shops adding that the customers also happy with the serenity of the entire environment.
Some customers, including Maureen Anaboya, Chinaza Charles, said they love the new remodelled shops, adding that it is comfortable and secured.