Rescuing FCT from dirt
It is no longer news that Abuja, the capital of the most populous country in Africa, is littered with dirt and now that the rain is here, excreta, which had hitherto dried are now freshened up by the rain and stenches from them fills the air. So, apart from dirt than can be seen physically, ones nostrils are also assaulted almost everywhere.
The Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) created pursuant to the AEBP Act of 1997 with the mandate to secure the environment by way of cleaning and minimising the impact of physical development on the ecosystems of the territory had since gone to sleep.
The relationship between the agency and residents can be described akin to cat and mouse. Residents are complaining that the agency is only interested in arbitrary billing without performing their own part of the bargain; this claim might not be to strange to Nigerians as it comes to play too in the power sector.
The agency too is dropping blames on the doorstep of an Abuja Chief Judge, Justice Ishaq Usman Bello of the High Court, who was said to have suspended the AEPB’s mobile court in December 2015.
Deputy Head of Information and outreach programme unit of the agency Samuel Musa told The Guardian that the agency is only in charge of the management of waste in Abuja metropolis and policy regulations and enforcement in the city centre, while area councils are responsible for the suburbs.
Musa said the agency mapped out 37 districts with various contractors that are in charge of clearing up trash at specific locations. But the contractors seem not visible.
The minister Muhammad Bello is spitting fire; he would have none of the filthy state of the city. Recently, he did some major shakeup in the agency and directed that the new crop of officers he gave the reins of the agency should device means to recover the N9.8b debt owned the agency. Bello has also said that he would go into partnership with the private sector to achieve the level of cleanliness he desires for the city.
Bello blamed the poor sanitary condition and environmental degradation in communities on indiscipline and the failure of the society to do the needful. He maintained that if the society, including the institutions carries out their statutory duties professionally and diligently, the issue of dirty environment wouldn’t have arisen.
Town Planners too are not exempted from the blame. Already, Bello said if they and other professionals involved in city planning have done the planning well by providing spaces to dump refuse, the people would have not been dumping refuse by the road side or road dividers.
Enforcement agencies too are no spared, as he pointed out that the peoples’ daily dirty habits and lack of effective enforcement also contributed immensely to the poor sanitary condition. Bello insisted that every aspect of the society have a role to play in order to keep the entire environment clean as well as green; and therefore called for holistic change of attitude.
“Unless we tackle all these and change our attitude, we would continue to flounder in dirty, which of course is unacceptable to his administration,” he said.
Artisans like hair dressers, SIM card sellers, hawkers of various snacks and food said they part with N200.00 per day to the men of the agency and that serves as their passport to sell. At Berger Bus Stop, dirt generated from these snacks and food are thrown over the line of rail that was used to demarcate the walk way, the demarcated area is supposed to be a green area, but now filled with dirt.
Musa opined that putting a waste bin at this junction would mean legalising the activities of these hawkers.
Some residence complained on how they put up with the nightmare of breathing in pungent smell produced from both refuge dump and human excrete on fallow lands. Particularly, Shaibu, who lives close to one of such places, said despite having a waste bin in a central collection point, some people still prefer to dispose waste on the empty land. He calls on the AEPB to bring more waste bins and keep them at strategic places for easy access because the situation is usually terrible in rainy season when rainwater stirs up the smell afresh.
Meanwhile, residents of Idu Karimo alleged that the AEPB do not work in their area, let alone bringing their van to clear up waste. Madam Rose Ekene, a market woman, said they sweep and pack waste themselves, and sometimes pay wheel barrow boys to dispose them. Similar scenario plays out at the Nyanya Market, Kubwa Market and the rest.
However, sources at the board told The Guardian that, apart from certain internal and external constraints limiting their services, member of the public are not making their job any easier, as they are seen as enemies in the sight of most market people that violate their laws. They also complained that members of the public on duty constantly beat up their men, particularly the tax force agents.
They added that apart from the issue of being under paid, delayed salaries and logistics, the current suspension of mobile court has further made their work more strenuous as law violators are arrested and discharge without any trial or prosecution.
Apart from partnering with the private sector to clean the city, the minister may also need to look into the direction of open defecation.