By MAGNUS EZE
Sanitation and waste management are no doubt, part of the corollary challenges of urbanisation. In Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which recently turned 40 years, the government and the residents contend with poor sanitation, especially in many of the satellite towns that can easily pass for urban slums.
Checks by Abuja Metro revealed that the environmental sanitation system of the nation’s capital has collapsed, raising concerns about the efficiency of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB). The situation also brings to focus the failure of the Area Councils to discharge on sanitation, which is one of the primary duties of the third tier of government.
The filthy state of Abuja recently attracted the attention of the Senate Committee on the FCT, which summarily gave the Area Councils 21days ultimatum to clean up the parks, markets and the entire FCT or face sanctions.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), who gave the directive when the committee met with the chairmen of the six area councils, said the FCT was too dirty to be the seat of power and a capital city, stressing that no state capital around the world was as dirty as the nation’s Capital Territory.
His words: “This committee is giving you three weeks to clean up the metropolis. The environmental sanitation in the FCT, the area councils, especially AMAC, is poor. You see heaps of rubbish on the roadside. Abuja is the pride of Africa, we cannot let this continue. After three weeks, if you don’t clean up the FCT, we will clean you up.
“You cannot be collecting revenue from the market and the market will be very dirty. You go to our parks and it is an eyesore. Two weeks, you would not clean the parks and you are generating money from that park. When they ask, you will say there is no money. We are very serious about cleaning up the city within three weeks. Clean up Abuja, especially the satellite towns.”
One of the bad advertisements is Jiwa, a densely populated urban slum in the Gwagwa-Dei Dei axis of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). The dusty road to the community veers off the main artery leading to the popular Dei-Dei building materials market.
Jiwa community boasts of social amenities, including primary and secondary schools, a primary healthcare centre, women’s skill acquisition centre and a police post to mention but a few. Also, it was gathered that the Turkish International School is fast developing a school there.
Two strategic public schools – Government Secondary School (GSSS) and Local Education Authority Primary School – which are adjacent to each other usher a visitor into the breezy settlement.
But any visitor to the community is soon greeted by an eyesore of sprawling refuse dumps that run through the perimeter fences of the two schools. The refuse dumps with the repugnant stench literary form the signpost that welcomes any visitor to the community.
Not a few visitors wondered that the authorities, including the traditional leadership allowed such a despicable scene on the gateway into the community, not to talk of the hazardous health implications to the pupils and students of the schools.
Effort to speak with the Seriki Jiwa, Dr. Musa Idris, was not fruitful as he was not in town when Abuja Metro visited. Also, the Hakimi Jiwa (district head), whose house is a shouting distance from the Seriki’s, was not at home and he did not pick repeated calls to his telephone.
However, a middle-aged man at the traditional council’s secretariat who would not want his name in print, told Abuja Metro that the dumps have been of concern to the Seriki.
The source said the Seriki recently gave a portion of the land near the GSSS gate to some persons to do their businesses, in a bid to curtail dumping of refuge in the area.
“It is even the man that Seriki gave the place to sell sand that has changed the look of the place. Without him, people may not walk through there again because all manner of debris sometimes overflow to the main road”, the source stated.
Alhaji Sani Jimeta, who commenced selling bagged sharp sand and gravels by the GSSS fence a few weeks ago, said it took him and four others he hired five days to clear the portion he now occupies for his business.
Alhaji Jimeta told Abuja Metro that the Seriki has allotted the remaining part of the cleared space to another person who was yet to begin business there.
He confirmed that it has been tough for him prevailing on people to stop pouring their wastes on the road.
Investigation revealed that similar illegal dumpsite had existed at the entrance of Junior Secondary School, Idu-Koro in the same AMAC until recently, when the school authorities cleared the place and mounted a signpost with the inscription, “No Duping of Refuse”.
But across the road, at the nearby Idu furniture market, there was still a huge refuse dump.
When contacted, the Head, Information and Outreach Programme of Abuja Environmental Protection Board, Mr. Joe Ukairo, told Abuja Metro that it was not part of the board’s mandate to clean the Area Councils, adding that the agency was to supervise the councils to ensure that they maintain clean environment.
The agency’s spokesman explained that it was the responsibility of the AEPB to clean the Federal Capital City (FCC), otherwise referred to as the city centre, comprising the Areas, Wuses, Asokoro, Maitama, Gwarimpa and Life Camp.
“Jiwa is AMAC’s responsibility. At AEPB, we don’t have subvention or budgetary provision to clean the area councils. And under the 1999 constitution, the sanitation services are under concurrent jurisdiction; the one local government councils will do and the one state government will do. So, in this case, the FCT is like a state. For service provision, we are in charge of the city centre and the city centre is slightly above 200 kilometres. The city centre is made up of the Areas, Wuses, Asokoro, Maitama, Gwarimpa and Life Camp. Kubwa is under Bwari Area Council. So, Jiwa is under AMAC, including Nyanya and Jikwoyi.
Ukairo said the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, had for four consecutive Saturdays been visiting the Area Councils with the AEPB to sensitise the people on the importance of cleanliness.
He stated that the Area Councils have also been charged to ensure that they create environmental departments, where they did not exist.
But a government official reasoned that while the area councils are being lampooned for inactivity, it is also important to ascertain whether they have been given the funds to work since September last year.
“There are supposed to be (monetary) subventions to the Area Councils to work. There is need to find out whether the funds have been released to them as required”, the official, who pleaded anonymity, said.
While the FCT Minister and the Senate committee on the FCT drive the Area Councils and mouth the ‘clean up Abuja’ slogan, observers believe that the rot is from the head; in this case, the FCT Ministry.
All eyes are on Minister Bello to see how long he would allow the present decay in the FCT, which has earned it the unenviable tag of the dirtiest capital in the world.