Nine months after the end of the Nigerian civil war, the country's East Central State -- formerly secessionist Biafra -- still bears the outward signs of the conflict.
Nine months after the end of the Nigerian civil war, the country's East Central State -- formerly secessionist Biafra -- still bears the outward signs of the conflict. Charred buildings, abandoned relief vehicles and the presence of Federal troops testify to former battle zones.
During the past week, the Administrator of the State, Mr Upkapi Asika, has been touring the areas which suffered most for a first hand impression of the other effects of the war -- unemployment, malnutrition, shortage of homes.....
One of the towns on Mr Asika's route was Nnewi, home town of the former Biafran leader, General Ojukwu. the town planned a welcome. But it was also something of a demonstration, with the people protesting about housing, unemployment, education and wages. The placards they carried -- mostly printed rather than hand-painted -- suggested some measure of organisation behind the protest.
The problem of rebuilding is a massive one. The government estimated the total cost to be in the region of GBP200 million sterling (480 million dollars). Already carrying a GBP15 million sterling (36 million dollars) deficit, the government would find it politically difficult to be seen to be giving the East Central State preferential treatment.
The huge foreign relief effort belongs to the past. There are monuments to it in the dumps of abandoned vehicles. A few foreign relief teams are still working to combat malnutrition. At an orphanage in Umuahia, some of the children have still not fully recovered. But a survey by the Save the Children's Fund shows that malnutrition cases now number less than two per cent of the population.
And, even amongst the ruins, there are signs of a trade revival in this once prosperous area. The great markets, for which the area was once famous, are still in ruins, but new open-air trading centres have sprung up.
The housing shortage is perhaps the East Central State's most pressing problem. Overcrowding is fairly general. Many families even envy the soldiers who live in shacks outside the towns -- an arrangement intended partly to leave more houses free, partly because there is now no security problem in the area.