In the community of Okpu-Umuobu, in the heart of Ngwaland, the Aba River begins its course, from Abia State along its border with Akwa Ibom State, until it empties itself in Imo River, in Rivers State. Halfway through, west of the town of Azumini in Ukwa East Local Government Area of Abia State, the river changes: at the rapids, it turns clear blue. When it rains, it turns green.
Before colonialism, the river’s route was utilized for inter-communal trade. This includes the oil palm business between the hinterland communities and the Royal Niger Company, as well as the trade in enslaved people. A video by the Ijeoma E. Onuigbo Life Foundation suggests that the river was the site of the sale of King Jaja of Opobo as a slave to Bonny Island.
“Azumini happens to be one of the most secure areas in Ukwa East,” says HRM Eze Professor Edward Ebele Ole, Traditional Ruler of Azumini-Ndoki Autonomous Community, in the video. “Ala Igbo is not landlocked. That’s a fallacy. Azumini is about 50% Igbo culture and 50% riverine culture [the Annang and the Ogini]. We have a development policy here. You bring in the capital, we give you the land and resources. Our current policy is 70-30 or 80-20. You re-coup your [investment] and the community gains. You create employment.”
“Between 1999, 2003, 2007, there was a gazetted documentation by the National Assembly during the time of Adolphus Wabara,” another respondent says. “I think Azumini [inland] port or dry port is also gazetted in the international catalogue.” The community is hoping for the government to maximize the site’s potential.
The quality sand and colourful stones in the river influenced the location of International Glass Industries at nearby Aba. In a preview of Africa Magic Igbo’s Onye Ije The Traveller series, a diver with a bucket is seen preparing to enter the water at a part called Minichu, where it would take him three minutes to fill it with sand. The river has been cited as a research site for Phillipines-based World Fish Center. Reports in Nigeria further credit the river as the discovery site of an extinct primate, the C. Sclateria.
The river has three stretches: Mini Ogigo, Agbatu Samango, and Mini Obuaku, the largest one, with a wholesome view. Tourists often have picnics on the banks, parts of which are sandy, watching birds in flight or fishes wiggling in water or canoes going down the river. The Azumini Blue River Resort makes arrangement for barbecue and beach parties.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, editor, journalist, and curator. He is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture: business, art, photography, music, activism, health, food. He has vast experience working in literature. He has sat on the judging panels of The Gerald Kraak Prize and of The Morland Writing Scholarship. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria's first queer art collective, and Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. For three years, Nov. 2016 to Apr. 2020, he led the transformation of the literary blog Brittle Paper into a continental powerhouse, ideating and administering The Brittle Paper Awards, the first by an African publication. His work in queer advocacy has been profiled in Literary Hub. In 2019, he won The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians." He completed a collection of short stories in 2016 and his novel in 2020. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.