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Nnebisi Road: The heart of Asaba

July 4, 2010

From Fraser Ottanelli:

By some estimates Asaba is a city of over 700,000 inhabitants. However, in a country of over 160 million people, Asaba does not even make it into Nigeria’s top 50 urban centers. Dwarfed by cities like Lagos to the west, Kano to the north and even Onitsha just across the Niger River, Asaba has a reputation as being relatively safe and free from the traffic congestion that paralyzes larger cities.

The town’s main commercial artery is Nnebisi Road, a four-lane paved road that runs north on a bluff along the Niger. In a cacophony of engines, blaring music and constant honking, a steady flow of beaten-up cars and vans, colorful trucks, motorcycles and three-wheel vehicles popularly called “keke napep,” weave back in forth across the road (and sometimes even against oncoming traffic) cutting each other off in a perilous display of driving skills and nerves of steel. It seems that most everyone along Nnebisi Road is selling something either from open storefronts or more commonly from makeshift stands, tables and even wheelbarrows.

Many of the Asaba’s most important landmarks line Nnebisi Road, among them the access to the bridge to Anambra State, followed by the Delta State Police Headquarters, the Central Post Office, the Federal High Court, the Mungo Park House Museum (formally the headquarters of the Royal Niger Company,) the Grand Hotel, St. Joseph’s Cathedral and the Ogbogonogo Market.  In this video clip, we try to  convey some of the sounds and sights of a drive down Nnebisi Road.

The entrance to each village, or quarter, in Asaba is marked by a statue

A large tree across from the entrance to the Grand Hotel marks the spot where on October 7th 1967, people assembled to parade to the village of Ogbeosuwah, where the largest single killing of civilians took place (see “What happened at Asaba”).

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