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Akwa Ibom Government: Keeping Ibom Plaza Safe For Commerce And Relaxation

By Edet Okpo




In spite of its strategic location and significance to the history and socio-economic development of the State, if you had visited the Ibom Plaza sometime ago, you would easily agree today that it has undergone a considerable and commendable transformation, courtesy of interests shown to it by successive administrations in the State.
Most outstandingly, the beautification and preservation concerns shown to the Ibom Plaza by the Governor Udom Emmanuel-led government can best be described as peculiar, pragmatic and sustainable in terms of aesthetics, sanitation, security, entertainment, business accommodation, traffic control and hawking or encroachment by itinerant traders of assorted wares.
SOLVING THE TRAFFIC CHALLENGE: Before now, those with good knowledge of intra-city road connectivity hardly access the heart of the city or other parts of the Uyo metropolis through the popular Ibom Plaza. The reason was simple and observable. They used to be attendant vehicular traffic jam that can keep you there for long hours on end, with your vehicle at the risk of being hit or dented by struggling, desperate and reckless drivers who, of course, have their appointments to keep or business to catch up with.
As findings have shown, this traffic gridlock was caused by a number of factors: volume of vehicles, commercial drivers’ commonplace attitude of loading right on the road, encroachment of the road by small stalls, wrong or random parking by private vehicles along the area, and concentrated human population.
Most observably, there was the then permissible attitude amongst traders who own stalls inside the Plaza moving to the edge of the road towards evening or early hours of the day, and therefore aggravating the existing traffic situation.
These challenges came with a chain of adverse consequences including, principally, the choking up of the main and adjourning roads by thick traffic, loss of appointments and general inconveniences to motorists and commuters.
It can be argued that, Ikot Ekpene and Oron Roads were the worst affected in the narrative.
The reasons for these were equally obvious. One, these two roads perhaps have the highest number of shops closest to the Plaza. Two, most passengers are loaded on these roads because they both serve as a central pool for commuters into parts of the State. Three, because of the unbroken line of shops along these roads, it is common for prospective buyers to leave their vehicles too near close to the road and four, the nearness of the University of Uyo and heavy presences of commercial banks that increase the volume of pedestrian and motorists.
Interestingly, through effective workable modalities and collaboration between the State Ministry of Environment and its Transport counterpart, the challenge of traffic around the Plaza has been deliberately and drastically reduced, with some tackled to logical conclusion.
First, an imperative had issued from government quarters that, except town service transporters, every other transportation units should relocate themselves to specifically built motor parks that are strategically located a bit away from the heart of the town. These parks, equipped with modern facilities, serve the interiors.
In addition, intra-city buses and taxes were prohibited from taking and dropping passengers outside specially marked bus stops and terminus, otherwise they faced stiff penalties. That idea worked – and is still working. Again, there has been a creation of special task force to enforce compliance to directives issued by government. On a general note, the fact that tricycles operators cannot go beyond specified meters to the main plaza has also been noticed as one of the factors that has mitigated the delays that usually come from these ones who form about the highest per cent of intra-city transportation dealers.
SANITATION: To sustain the ancestral dignity, fame and essence of the Ibom Plaza, the Ministry of Environment through its various agencies must be appreciated for the dedication and seriousness it has attached to the cleanliness of the State, beginning from the Plaza which is just few meters to the Government House. The engagement of street sweepers and roving evacuators with vehicles to ensure evacuation of waste as soon as possible is another dimension to the initiatives that was developed to tackle the problem. These steps may have been augmented by the State’s monthly sanitation exercise.
SECURITY: Not long ago, residents were wary of staying at the Plaza beyond 8 o’clock or too deep into night hours, although the Plaza has its own night spirit of entertainment and recreation. This was because of the ubiquitous presence of miscreants and pick-pockets who are experts at their criminal trades of robbing passengers and pedestrians.
As such, as MetroWatch can report that the State government also came up with the idea of a special task force in the form of vigilante that patrols the areas day and night. Their efforts have been supported by the increased presence of police and other statutory security outfits. The result has been commendable as the bad boys had since taken to their hideouts. The Plaza is now safe any hour of the day!
BOOST TO BUSINESS. To stop encroachment by hawkers and make-shift traders, it is now a policy that all doing business at the plaza do not cross their limits should they fail to relocate to lock-up stores in the plaza.
As result, except on few occasions when schools and work have closed for the day, the plaza is now free of traffic congestion. Traders are scarcely seen obstructing traffic in the name selling wares, as it is made mandatory that you operate in a shop or quit the area. This has also improved internally generated revenue to the State, from tokens from rates and levies collected from owners of shops.
RECREATION: The fact that security at the plaza has improved has also had positive effects on relaxation spots around the plaza. For instance, shops that used to be closed in a hurry or afraid of opening too early in the day now have no reason for fears. A chat with those in this business revealed that life has returned to their businesses, sales have improved, and there is no more tension about closing time.
The presence of an amphitheatre within the plaza and an elevated giant television means that enthusiasts can watch movies, matches, etc there on certain occasions, play games of their choice, sit out with friends, or just go there to catch one or two spectacles that relieve stress. Musicians and comedians have also taken huge advantage of the peace and orderliness that now reigns at the plaza. Almost every weekend, shows are staged and other social events are held here.
Every day, it is common to hear people commending government for responding swiftly and positively to the challenges that almost dented the image and purpose of the Plaza. Some have praised the government especially for the steps taken towards traffic flow and, most importantly, the clearance of miscreants and pick-pockets who were constant threats to pedestrians and residents around the area.
The Ibom Plaza is the centre of Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital. From the Plaza, it takes just few swift steps to get to the Government House, the University of Uyo Town Campus, the State Judiciary Headquarters and Deputy Governor’s Annex. It is from the Plaza that you easily access the other parts of the city because its serves as a multi-directional bridge to your destinations.
The holistic steps taken by the present administration to sustain the peace, order, serenity, and vibrancy of the Ibom Plaza therefore deserves a loud mention, as integral part of the State government’s determination to enhance the beauty and accessibility of the city through infrastructure.

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