Fifth Year Anniversary: Gov Ugwuanyi’s life-touching achievements and expansion of Enugu’s tourism frontiers
By Emmanuel Ike-Jonathan, JP.
Tourism is described as the act and process of spending time away from home in pursuit of recreation, relaxation, and pleasure, while making use of the commercial provision of services. Tourism is a product of modern social arrangements, beginning in western Europe in the 17th century, although it has antecedents in Classical antiquity. It is distinguished from exploration in the sense that tourists follow a “beaten path,” benefit from established systems of provision, and, as befits pleasure-seekers, are generally insulated from difficulty, danger, and embarrassment.
Tourism, however, overlaps with other activities, interests, and processes, including, for example, pilgrimage. This gives rise to shared categories, such as “business tourism,” “sports tourism,” and “medical tourism” (international travel undertaken for the purpose of receiving medical care). Modern tourism is an increasingly intensive, commercially organized, business-oriented set of activities whose roots can be found in the industrial and postindustrial West.
Countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Italy (Rome), India, China etc, have made fortune in religious, medical, business and leisure tourism. This development is not fully exploited in Nigeria despite the huge tourist potential the country is endowed with.
However, Enugu, a south eastern state in Nigeria created in 1991 from the Old Anambra State, is a tourist’s delight, with ancient historical relics, several tourists sites and recreational spots. The name Enugu literally means (On top of the hill) as it is known as the oldest urban area in Igbo land, with about 7,161 km2 (2,765 sq m) and is the 29th largest state in the country; it shares borders with Abia/Imo states in the south, Ebonyi State to the East, Benue State to the Northeast, Kogi state to the Northwest and Anambra State to the west. The incumbent governor of the state is Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Some of the several tourists sites Enugu State is blessed with includes but not limited to the Ezeagu Tourist Complex (Heneke Lake a tropical lake with maximum density during the warmest season Lake) which is located in Ezeagu Local Government Area. Awhum Water Fall and Cave situated at Amaugwe village of Awhum town in Udi Local Government Area. Akwuke-Attakwu Beach in Nkanu West Local Government Area is the best place for beach tourism in south east Nigeria, where tourists feel the breath of nature.
Others include the Ngwo Cave, Pine and Waterfall which requires navigational activities due to the large cluster of trees at the beautiful Ngwo Pine Forest, sharp twists and turns along the stone-paved track, as the route slants downward. The Ugwueme/Udi Hills are hills of about hundreds of meters above sea level located in Udi Local Government Area while Ogelube Lake is a tropical oligotrophic lake having desmids dominated by phytoplankton with maximum density during the warmest season. Ani Ozalla Lake and Shrine is a natural lake located at Ozalla in Nkanu West LGA near Enugu where crocodiles which are regarded as goddesses appear from the lake at the command of the chief priest to take offerings from supplicants.
Milliken Hills are located at Ngwo in Enugu North LGA; they are 100 meter above sea level, offering beautiful standpoint for a panoramic view of Enugu metropolis, especially at dawn and dusk. The hill was named after one of the earliest colonial administrator in Enugu. The first road into Enugu city winds through the foot of the hill bounded by a deep gully. Also, we have the Silicon hill located near the Nkalagu campus of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) and it has very important mineral deposit called “silicon”. The hill which is more than 300m above sea level and almost half a kilometer long has strong “silica” an important raw material for glass manufacturing. The Opi Lake and Adada Beach are also beautiful tourists sites to behold.
So Enugu has always been noted for its abundant natural splendour and recreational sites. Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in line with his four-point agenda and in addition to his efforts to explore all these huge tourist potential, is currently creating a new tourists site at the heart of Enugu aptly named, “Enugu Unity Park”. The park is being developed at the former Forest Reserve adjacent to the popular Michael Okpara Square in the state’s Three Arms Zone, Independence Layout, Enugu.
The state-of-the-art Unity Park Tourists Site located at the heart of the ancient Enugu town is very close to Enugu Government House, Enugu State House of Assembly, Enugu State High Court and other Court Complexes. There are also many beautiful 3-star hotels, the SPAR shopping mall which will complement the services and patronage of this tourists centre. The modern relaxation and recreation centre is also highly beautified with art works such as an artificial water pond and a sculpted roaring lion of about 30ft height and 60ft length, among other numerous artefacts.
The park is well secured with well-designed metal railings in line with state government’s urban renewal drive which will also ensure orderliness at the tourists site to control human and vehicular movements into the complex. The large cluster of pine trees are an added beauty to the Park and create ample walking room and movements to give tourists a sense of fun while exploring the facilities.
Reacting to the ongoing Unity Park development, a sports enthusiast, Mr. Stephen Osita, who makes use of the Michael Okpara Square for his daily fitness activities, commended the Governor for coming up with such an ultra-modern relaxation and recreation complex.
Mr. Osita who is also a physical fitness trainer, maintained that Ndi-Enugu will appreciate the dream when completed, adding that they are familiar with the location being that it is where majority of them carry out their early morning physical fitness activities.
“Before now, people regard the Forest Reserve as Love Garden considering the fact that love birds come to relax there, get more bonded to each other and also take their pre-wedding photos and videos. A lot of local films have been shot here without these beautiful features currently being introduced by Gov Ugwuanyi’s administration in the Park.
“It is therefore pertinent to say that these beautiful features being introduced in the Park with a natural set up, will attract tourists from far and near to enjoy the facilities therein. I have no doubt about what I am saying because people need natural environment where they can relax and ease off tension,” Osita explained.
On his take about the Enugu Unity Park development, the state Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Hon Ugonna Ibe, said, “it is a welcome development and one of the legacies for which Gov Ugwuanyi will be remembered considering the value it will add to the Tourism/Recreational life of the state.
“Enugu is a choice destination point for tourists with many natural tourists sites. Enugu is also ranked as the most peaceful and business friendly state in Nigeria. There is no doubt that the Unity Park which is underway by Gov Ugwuanyi’s administration will spice up the receptive nature Enugu is known for in the area of tourism and recreational facilities.”
The commissioner explained that the priority attention given to security of life and property in the state is the reason people troop into Enugu for either business tourism,” “sports tourism,” “medical tourism,” “religious tourism,” “political tourism,” “leisure tourism,” etc.
Explaining further on what necessitated the state government’s action towards the execution of the project, the Commissioner for Works & Infrastructure, Engr. Greg Nnaji, said, “all we are doing is to introduce nature and other artefacts that will improve the aesthetics of the state and provide comfort for relaxation and recreational activities within the city center where people can easily access to have fun in a natural environment with high conservation and preservation of Pine trees forest.
“When completed, there is going to be a water park from an artisan water flowing from the House of Assembly, the State Judiciary and emptied into the artificial water park. All we have done is to utilize the artisan water that we see there to form a water park that will be in the semblance of water fountain, where people can sit around and have fun.”
Nnaji said that efforts will be made to secure the Park, provide first aid unit, install lightings within the area so that once you approach that vicinity from the Government House, House of Assembly, Agric Bank and Mkpokiti junction, you will see a modern city on a descent. It is going to be actually completed in record time.
“Also for jamboree activities, we are going to mount an artificial lion that will accommodate up to four people sitting in its bowel (undercarriage). Each of the legs of the lion will have a stair case for people to move into the undercarriage. If it is an airplane, you can say undercarriage; that’s where the passengers stay. The undercarriage of the lion as a structure will be mounted there.”
The commissioner who also said that the closeness of the Unity Park to Okpara Square will boost people’s patronage of the recreational centre, revealed that the state government will in no distant time focus attention on the upgrade of facilities in Okpara Square, “because we noticed that over the years, Okpara Square has been the centre of activities for all state functions. We are going to build five new additional pavilions to improve the facilities there. And of course, with relevance, improve the VIP stand, the landscaping to ensure that the Okpara Square becomes a historical place.”
The state government within the period under review, has carried out other developmental programmes that will complement the Unity Park Development like the construction of over 600 kilometers of roads which will enable tourists, from within and outside the state, to easily access the Park when operational. The administration has also distributed N5 million to each community in the state in line with his community and rural development policy as first tranche of the N10 million “one community, one project” scheme, which is an initiative that gives every community in the state the opportunity to decide their priority projects.
In the past five years also, Gov Ugwuanyi’s administration, has also focused much attention on improving facilities in the health sector. These contributions in the health sector of the state which will no doubt enhance medical tourism to complement the Enugu Unity Park development, includes the construction and renovation of district hospitals and several health centres across the state under the primary healthcare programme and universal health insurance package and the upgrade of Udi District Hospitals and Polly Clinic, Asata, to General Hospitals.
The construction of 200-bed Igboano-Orba Specialist Hospital which has been designed to serve as facilities for the ESUT College of Medicine recently relocated to Nsukka in Enugu North Senatorial District by a state legislation, is bounded by communities in Benue and Kogi state’s and will to a great extent also increase medical tourism to the state to complement the Unity Park when completed.
The swiftness of Gov Ugwuanyi’s administration in containing the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the state and also ensure that the effect of the pandemic does not adversely affect the state’s developmental programmes, calls for commendations as the Executive Council chaired by the governor approved and released N350 million to the State COVID-19 Multi-Sectoral Rapid Response Team to tackle the health challenge. Isolation and Treatment Centres for COVID-19 have been established and fully equipped in the University town of Nsukka, ESUT Teaching Hospital Parklane, Enugu and the ultramodern Enugu State Medical Diagnostic Centre in Enugu, as isolation and treatment centre to enhance the state’s preparedness and capacity to fully tackle the pandemic should the disease escalate.
One of the major drivers of tourism the world over, is security and Gov Ugwuanyi in the past five years has equally carried out great interventionist programmes in this sector via enhancing the security architecture of the state. Enugu, considered the administrative nerve center of the South-East and highly revered by the Igbo, is a place where every Igbo, regardless of status, strive to own a home. To this extent, Ugwuanyi’s administration broke the record of being the first governor to set up a Forest Guard structure with 1,700 personal recruited, repositioned the Vigilante/Neighborhood Watch groups and purchased 260 security vehicles for them for Community Policing operations across the state. He donated 100 units of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) patrol vans equipped with communication gadgets to the security agencies to aid their operations in the state. In the area of fire-fighting, five trucks were also procured and handed over to the state fire service to enhance their efficiency and effective response to emergencies.
Also, in the last five years the labour and education sectors have fared well as workers are paid their salaries on the 23rd of every month in accordance with the new minimum wage recently approved by the Federal Government. The administration of Gov Ugwuanyi has employed over 5000 teachers in both primary and secondary schools with over 897 classroom blocks and other school projects constructed, renovated and equipped with learning tools to improve the standard of education in the state. The state-owned tertiary institutions, like Enugu State University of Science And Technology, Enugu State College Of Education Technical, Enugu State Polytechnic have all experienced interventionist packages of the state government with the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, conducting convocation ceremony for the first time in 11years under this present administration.
In the area of empowerment and scholarships award to indigent students, the administration of Gov Ugwuanyi in the last five years, has empowered 3,600 genuine traders across the markets in the state with the sum of N50,000 each to grow their various businesses in the first phase of its traders empowerment scheme which the Federal Government emulated by setting up Trader Moni empowerment scheme. 750 youths have also been empowered in skills acquisition under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) programme.
Scholarships were equally awarded to 680 indigent engineering students of Enugu State Polytechnic, Iwollo, Ezeagu L.G.A and the IMT, Enugu, up to graduation and also 22 indigent post-secondary school students who are presently studying at Mewar University, India were equally offered scholarships. In a bid to sustain Enugu’s rating as one of the healthiest and cleanest cities in the country, the governor Ugwuanyi administration launched the Enugu Clean Team Project which has engaged 1000 youths (additional 1000 underway) in cleaning up the state. The state government under this administration also established Enugu State Traffic Management Board with over 1000 Youths empowered with employment for the control of traffic in the state. A lot Youths and farmers have also been empowered with Agricultural loans to boost food production in the state through the Enugu State Agriculture Development Alliance Programme with over N3, 000. 000.00 each.
The judiciary was not left out in this developmental strides in last five years as the Gov Ugwuanyi’s administration has embarked on the construction of modern court complexes across the LGAs of the state alongside a gigantic Customary Court of Appeal modern Office Complex which is the first of it’s kind with the aim of addressing issues of limited offices and court rooms for speaddy delivery of justice that will in turn reduce the number of awaiting trial cases in the state.
It is pertinent to note that despite all these achievements in past five years, Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration was greeted with recession as a result of the drastic drop in the crude oil prices in the international market and currently the Covid-19 pandemic which shutdown the world economy and activities. However, in line with the dreams of the founding fathers’ of making Enugu a place to be in a peaceful and secure environment irrespective of class, the governor has remained focus in diversifying the economy through the strengthening of different sectors like he is doing in the tourism sector that has boosted the internally generated revenue making the state to be exempted from the insolvent state’s that cannot be able to operate without federal allocation.
The development of Enugu Unity Park which is one of gigantic projects being executed within the first one year of his second tenure in the last five years, is a further demonstration of the Governor Ugwuanyi’s determination to diversify the economy and create more recreational facilities for the people of the state. It will also by extension create jobs for Ndi-Enugu and increase the Internally Generated Revenue of the state.
The state’s emergence as the second best in ease of doing business by the world bank evaluation is another factor which will strengthen tourism activities in the state.
What is therefore expected is to ensure adequate and effective maintenance of the facilities provided to the benefit of both the government and the good people of Enugu State when this tourists attraction becomes operation.
Emmanuel Ike-Jonathan, JP, a public affairs analyst writes from Alor-Agu in Igbo-Eze South LGA, Enugu State.