By NBF News

Going by the time they were built, the houses are architectural master-piece, which must have informed the decision of Philips Electronics and Roger Wright, two British companies, to hire the two buildings in the 70s and early 80s for their businesses in Aba.

After the two firms closed shop, the entire floors of the buildings were taken over by churches of different denominations.

But that's just the end of the beautiful story of the two white houses. What goes on at the basement has made them to appear more of the biblical painted white sepulcher.

The area that used to be the pride of Enyimba City has become its albatross and a sore point.

It now serves as a super-highway for hard drugs and haven for their consumers. The place is dreadful and not a few will like to be associated with York any more.

York as the area is now popularly known has given Aba and indeed Abia State a very poor image and it has now turned to be a derogatory word used to describe anybody that behaves abnormally in Aba as in Igbo parlance, 'O bu onye York ', meaning he is of the York stock.

Unofficially, it is said that about 90 per cent of violent crimes, including kidnapping which brought the city on its knees recently, were stoked by activities in York. There is equally the assertion that about 80 per cent of mad people in the city have their roots firmly stamped in York.

The York axis being strategically located plays host to the first cinema house in Aba as well as banks and an elite club, the Recreation club.

According to Daily Sun investigations, the defunct Lobi Bank used the ground floor of No.1 York Street as an office.

It was gathered that one of its security staff unknown to management was neck-deep in the consumption of hard drug.

He normally went out to meet his suppliers at their various spots and after taking the much he could, he returned to his duty post. As the illicit business grew and blossomed, the boys who were suppliers of the hard drugs started paying a return visit to their customer at his place of work. So when eventually Lobi Bank ceased to exist, the young hard drug peddlers like Christopher Columbus had effortlessly discovered a new world and quickly settled down for business. Soon, they so multiplied in number. Today the area is filled with sea of street miscreants made up of men and women who sleep, dream and eat hard drugs. The women among them have converted shops in the area abandoned by traders who could not do business under the prevailing situation into brothels.

It is like the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. Whenever it is 6:30 p.m., nobody dares the road no matter how strong willed. The area is in a different world of its own and its inhabitants seen to be law unto themselves.

The fear of York
The fear of York has become the beginning of wisdom for some residents of Aba.

Not many including those directly affected by the activities in the area would want to speak about the place openly for fear of attack by the miscreants and their baron sponsors. A pastor of one of the new generation churches whose place of worship shares the same vicinity with the hard drug market told Daily Sun under condition of anonymity that 'this is the centre of the town with the main motor park and people coming into the city will be faced with the ugly things that go on in the area and it does not speak good of the state.

'In civilized places, this type of thing does take place in the centre of the city, but at the outskirts or suburb.

'People find it very difficult to pass through this place. They are afraid that something bad might happen to them. And it is unfortunate that government is not doing anything about sanitizing the place. The Abia State government is lacking the political will to stop what is going on in York and NDLEA too are not helping matters.'

Chiefs Cyprian Okoli and Jones Ezenobi, president and secretary respectively of the elite Recreation Club which main entrance is directly opposite the hard drug market, condemned the activities in York.

According to both men, 'what goes on in York is an eye-sore. We've reported the matter severally to the police, but nothing has been done. It was in order to see if the menace could be tackled head-on that we made an NDLEA officer an associate member of the club, yet no tangible thing was achieved'.

Soldiers to the rescue
Prior to the drafting of soldiers to Abia to tackle the menace of kidnapping and otherĀ  crimes particularly in the city of Aba, there were spirited efforts by security outfits to stamp out the illicit trade with little or no success. But the soldiers having identified the area as not only crime prone, but from where crime and criminal activities were exported to other parts of the city, swung into action and have not relented in their efforts at stamping out the illicit business in the area.

Raiding alone would not bring to an end the orgy of illicit drug business going on in the area. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Aba has tried it severally without success.

According to a source close to the Agency, 'NDLEA has carried out raids in the area, but the motor park and other business concerns within York made it impossible to know who is a drug peddler. At other times, we make arrests, but we are unable to take those apprehended to court because of some logistics problems and the state of health of most of them. Seeing we could not do much, they are eventually released.'

There is no doubt that the soldiers who have so far done marvelously well in checkmating kidnapping and other violent crimes since they were drafted to the state in September last year were equally on a rescue mission, they should however evolve a more proactive approach in dealing with the issue of drug peddling in York.

They have carried out several raids in the area to the admiration and applaud of residents of the city, but these would come to naught if after the arrests, the culprits are allowed to return to base.

While the duo of Okoli and Ezenobi agreed that the youths ought to be rehabilitated, they, however, berated NDLEA for failing in their responsibility.

'About this time last year, Bakassi Boys raided the place and killed three of them, but that is not the solution. The boys need to be rehabilitated, but that does not mean NDLEA should not be alive to their responsibility,' they said.

Hard drug business in York is believed to have persisted due to the involvement of some drug barons who are said to make an average of N500,000 daily from the illicit trade.

A pastor of one of the churches in the area captures it thus, 'it has been difficult to stop this drug business here because of the involvement of some barons who have been bribing their way through. Every evening you will see some men on uniform come here and after they had been settled, they will leave and the business goes on. If they muster enough political will this mess around here will be put to an end.'