OPINION: THE IMPERATIVES OF SETTING UP A CENTRAL ARCHIVE FOR ABIA STATE – BY DODOH OKAFOR
In August 2016, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu signed into law, a bill passed by the Abia State House of Assembly Establishing the Abia State Central Archives Commission. Many in the state who know the immense importance of central archives to economic development of the society applauded the governor and the legislators for their wisdom in passing and assenting to the bill. Archives are not just central to economic growth; they facilitate orderly resolution of disputes, preserve ancient landmarks, support urban planning and very strategically- real estate development.
The Abia State lawmakers who debated on the merits of a central archive for the state made all these arguments on the floor of the house as the bill passed the necessary legislative scrutiny before it was eventually passed without any dissenting voice in the assembly chambers. These arguments were also made to the governor who quickly gave his assent in view of the monumental gain having an agency that documents all legal public records would bring to the state.
The Abia State Central Archives Commission was structured to:
- Document every public land, building and related records for long term administrative purposes
- Retrieve records/documents that are relevant to the state but currently held in Enugu, Owerri and other central archives across the old east central state
- Collate other public records and documents scattered across the ministries, departments and agencies in the state
- Process and preserve the records for ease of access by members of the public
- Create an electronic database (in time) to make the records accessible from anywhere in the world on the payment of administrative fee
- Collaborate with relevant LG, state and federal agencies in the state to populate the database as new records and transactions are concluded
- Recruit and train young Abians on archiving and managing public documents
- Enlighten members of the Abia public on document management and preservation
- Make public records available to the courts and other agencies of arbitration when called upon
- And perform all other functions related to records management and administration in the state
It can thus be said that the legislators and the governor meant well in conceiving, fine-tuning and ultimately passing the State Central Archives Bill. The argument was made at the time that establishing an independent State Archives Management Agency would save Abians the cost of travelling to several locations in search of documents a strategic agency like the state’s central archive ought to warehouse. It is sad to see Abians running from pillar to post in offices in Enugu and Owerri seeking documents and land information they could have obtained in the state without hassles. Beyond the cost in time and energy, Abians also pay heavily in these offices to access those records (if they are found).
Several portions of land in many parts of the state have been lying fallow for years owing to disputes over the right ownership. In many places, you also find people building on places that have been traditionally reserved for parks and gardens thereby distorting the development outlay of the cities. Establishing the state’s central archives would correct these anomalies and support the development authorities in their plans and programs.
One would therefore implore His Excellency- Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu- Ph. D- who graciously signed the bill three years ago to go all the way by providing necessary financial and logistics supports towards the take off of the agency. His Excellency may wish to recall that part of the cardinal programs of his administration is infrastructural and housing development.
Developers- especially in the real estate- are often times reluctant to do business in states that do not have a central place where all land information are stored with professionalism. Abia can be set on the path of rapid development if the central archive commission is given the right executive support to take off and expand.
If His Excellency needs any further advice, there are very few qualified Abians who can volunteer their time and expertise to assist with the right dose of professionalism to get a central archive for the state up and running.
Abia has come of age and every society with focus on growth and development like ours must appreciate the importance of an agency that preserves the integrity of its public records for the present and future generations.