By Patrick Asonye
Apparently keying into the rejuvenated Arochukwu spirit of self actualization, Amasu village is seriously thinking outside the box.
It has taken the bold step of exploring and exploiting its immense maritime potentials in business and tourism, for the benefit of its people and the economy of the larger Arochukwu community.
For years as a dream project, the Amasu Development Association (ADA) has now taken the proverbial bull by the horns, determined to open up its waterways to marine transportation, an initiative projected to have multiplier effects on the economic well being of its people.
With eyes set on an holding an elaborate fishing festival in 2021, Amasu village is preparing the ground for the programme, and more.
Already, Aro News learned that its indigenes at home and abroad are raising funds for the tasks ahead.
Contacted on telephone, the President General of ADA, Mazi Charles Eze, who spoke with Aro News from his London base, said:
“ADA has taken up the bull by the horn and has started a direct development initiative. In this quest, we have concluded vehicular accessibility of three major roads in the community which will trigger development in agriculture, fish farming, building and tourism. It is now possible to access Onuasu River and Mary Slessor Skills Acquisition Centre by car and truck respectively, the tourist sites inclusive.
“Our main objective, going forward, is to clear the Onusau Waterway which covers over six nautical miles – Onuasu Nta, Onuasu Ukwu, Asunwankita, Ibayi Ikpanja, Nkpukpu Etiti, Asang Junction, Onuasu Bekee. This is huge and requires a lot of logistics, financial supports, and goodwill from Aro, NGOs and State government.”
In a memo in response to Aro News inquiry, the ADA P-G wrote:
“We were inspired by the unique geographical location of Amasu as the gateway to Aro kingdom in the past and the enormous tourist potentials kept on the back page of Aro history.
“This concern and the need to empower our community brought together a few patriotic Amasu indigenes resident abroad and Nigeria to register a development-service-model that would have an immediate impact on the community and unleash our tourism.
“Our Vision, essentially, is to open up Onuasu-Amasu Waterway for economic activities and create an enabling environment for agro/aqua businesses to serve Amasu and Arochukwu in general.
“For the records, Onuasu Amasu was the gateway to Arochukwu in the days when cars and tarred roads were fairy-tales.
“Onuasu holds the confluence of the two stretches of rivers that run through Aro and also was the entry point of Christianity and Education to Aro Kingdom. Opening up this waterway again will bring enormous value to the Arochukwu economy; gradually we will reopen the age-long coastal trading relationship with Akwa Ibom State.”
He continued: “In 2001, two historic sites (Onuasu and Mary Slessor) were earmarked as tourist sites for Abia State during the 2001 Arochukwu-British war centenary commemoration held in Arochukwu.
“Unfortunately, twenty years after, nothing concrete has been done to preserve these sites. It is on record that the Scottish government had made several attempts to immortalise their daughter (Mary Slessor) who first settled in Amasu during her missionary work that stopped the killing of twins in the South East of Nigeria.
“They celebrated her bravery in their currency (Ten Pounds note) displaying the map of her missionary journey through Amasu Arochukwu on the flip side of their currency, a gesture Aro community has wittingly played down.
“Nonetheless, if our government can’t develop these sites that should uplift tourism in our State, then the house keeper shouldn’t stand idly by.”
Conscious of the enormity of the work, ADA, in October 2019, reached out to the Federal Inland Waterways Authority (FIWA) with a detailed proposal “for the Construction of Amanagwu-Ujari-Amasu Link Roads to the Famous Onuasu River; and the Dredging of Onuasu River, Amasu”, seeking its collaboration to drive the project.
In it, ADA contended that “in today’s world, technology has affected the way we live and respond to our daily needs; it has helped rural people to grow fortified crops and created cooperative marketing tools for the sales of their produce like never before.
“Not many communities are so lucky, especially in the South-east of Nigeria, which is why we are taking up this stride to save our natural resources, revive our tourism, empower our people and the larger Arochukwu community to a better life.
ADA continued: “After an in-depth research, we came to the conclusion that once we open up our waterways, the Onuasu River, which links to Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, it will unleash the potential of our people, revive our agriculture, fish farming, rice plantation, tourism and bring wealth to Arochukwu; over 100,000 people will have direct impact.
To achieve this objective, the river which covers six nautical miles to Akwa Ibom needs urgent dredging including the rehabilitation of roads that lead to this historic river.
Indeed the Onuasu River is remembered as the ancient trade route of the Aros with her Ibibio neighbours in today’s Akwa Ibom State; and Ito, Itu, Asang and Bakasi in Cross Rivers State.
The course of the river flows from the undulating terrains of Utughugwu, Ugwuavo, Obinkita and Ibom, down to Amanagwu/Ujari and empties at the Amasu confluence point (Asunwankita) while the sister river – Inyong Creek which flows through the Southwest waterside fringes of Amuvi, Atani, Amukwa, Ugbo, Amoba and Ibom carrying along its course rich silts of red/brown mud to empty at the same Amasu confluence point of Asunwankita.
From this confluence point, the two streams jointly continue into the bigger/broader Cross River, which finally empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
This route was closed during the civil war for obvious reasons. More than three attempts had reportedly been made by the State government and individuals but bureaucracy literally swallowed the project.
To the ADA, the benefits of the projects are enormous:
The outcome of this project will create life changing opportunities in Arochukwu, especially its economy and tourism as highlighted below:
* Encourage water travels across the community within Arochukwu and establish coastal trade with Akwa Ibom State. Some riverine communities in Akwa Ibom State still depend on Arochukwu market for their domestic appliances including commercial hardware.
* Boom in Agriculture as more lands will be retrieved from waterlogged areas along the coastal line and in particular crops like rice, cassava, yam and vegetables will be cultivated.
* There’s large deposit of sharp sand in the water which will be a source of employment for sand merchants, as well as help bring down the cost of building houses.
* It will resuscitate fish ponds and fish farming in most villages bordering the river. However, fish pond will be fully functional and better managed by consultants thereby creating job opportunities and commercial activities.
* Additionally, a free flowing Onuasu River will boost the community’s economic activities, attract visitors and empower locals to be self-reliant. Water Hyacinth from the river would be converted to many domestic usages and boost local entrepreneurship.
* Interestingly, two sites (Onuasu and Mary Slessor) were earmarked as tourist sites for Abia State during the 2001 Arochukwu- British war centenary commemoration. Unfortunately, nothing concrete has been done to preserve these sites. Despite the international publicity to our community in the Scottish Ten Pounds Note with the portrait of Mary Slessor and map of her missionary journey through Onuasu-Amasu, nothing remarkable has been done till date. This tourist sites are not only beneficial to Arochukwu but Abia State. Needless to say that reviving this river will boost tourism in Abia State.
* This was the route through which Christianity and Education entered Arochukwu while the famous Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade started from the shores of Onuasa, which by now should have been a revenue-generating outlet for the State and LGA, examples are abound in places like Badagry Slave Routes in Lagos and the Cape Coast Slave Castle in Ghana which are revenue-generating outlets.
To demonstrate its seriousness, ADA, under the Phase One, engaged some hands from the neighbouring community of Ikpanja to do the manual direct labour clearing of the water ways, aimed at linking Amoba village axis.
It followed it up on December 7, when “we started the Phase Two, to get to Amoba port. Few individuals have been supportive, and we are indebted to them.
“The third phase, hopefully, kicks off in January 2021 and we expect people who value our rich cultural heritage to sign up to secure this historic river, which will one day be the cornerstone of our tourism,” ADA enthused.