Magnus Eze; Fred Itua
There is a common trend in Kubwa, Abuja’s biggest satellite town; every bridge head is a potential waste dump. It is therefore normal to have all manners of waste, especially polythene bags floating on the stream that runs through the town.
Sanitation and waste management are no doubt part of the corollary challenges of urbanisation. In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), government and residents have had to contend with the issue of sanitation particularly in many of the satellite towns that could easily pass for urban slums.
The situation 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.
Ordinarily, local government areas and in this case, Area Councils in Abuja, should handle waste collection and disposal. Another agency of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), complements the area councils.
AEPB is empowered by FCT laws to issue licenses to private waste collectors in Abuja, especially within the metropolis. Residents are charged between N500 to N5,000 monthly, depending on the area. Those in parts of Kubwa mostly pay N1,000 per month.
However, unregistered waste collectors, appear to be the main culprits in indiscriminate disposal of waste in Abuja. They go round the city to scavenge for waste and dispose them in places not designated for such purposes.
Places such as bridges in Phase 3, by Celestial Church/Deeper Life, opposite Life Solution Church (a.k.a) Solution Ground, in PW and the PW Bridge near New Diamond Executive Suites, all in Kubwa, are fertile grounds for the perpetrators.
The waterway at the beginning of Lawrence Olasehinde Street; opposite Kubwa Parish of The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, near Julius Berger Camp, Gado Nasko Road, Kubwa was a big eye sore as faecal matter; food remnants, and other debris litter the place, causing some repugnant smell to passers-by, when we visited.
If residents could dump waste in the streams, blocking of gutters would naturally mean nothing to them.
Daily Sun also went to the dumpsite managed by Wisma Environmental Services Ltd, along the Kubwa Expressway to speak to the scavengers, popularly called ‘Babanbola’.
A security man there, who gave his name as Idris, agreed that residents of Kubwa had at different times complained that the waste collectors were the culprits because they see them go about with trucks.
While Idris will not totally exonerate the waste collectors, because according to him, any defaulter is usually punished by the environmental company, he however, said many shop owners and residents of Kubwa throw their waste into the streams and water ways.
He explained that it would be glaring anywhere that a waste collector deposits waste with a truck, pointing out that their finding in Kubwa was that people tie waste in polythene bags and sacks; dump them by the streams or throw them away through their car windows while in motion.
Idris, who said he has lived and worked at the dump site for over four years further revealed that the company sometimes post guards to monitor those who dump wastes by the streams especially at the PW Bridge.
“At PW Bridge, we used to post somebody to hide somewhere and monitor those who drop waste there. Sometimes, we have caught some ‘Babanbola’ and when we catch them, we make sure that they pack the whole waste there or we seize that person’s truck as punishment,” he stated.
Sampson Bwala, a barber whose shop is along Gado Nasko Road, Kubwa said he disposes his waste properly, but blamed indiscriminate blockage of streams and water ways on some residents without regards for the environment.
Another shop owner near the Celestial Church at Phase 3, Kubwa, Hauwa Danladi, also agreed that some of her neighbours’ children drop wastes in the stream.
She however, called on government to find a way of addressing the issue as there was a time they had threat of flood in the area because the water channel was blocked.
Nonetheless, Daily Sun checks revealed that the sanitary situation in the satellite towns is compounded by the conflict of interest between Area Councils and AEPB on who should be handling waste disposal. This overlapping and conflicting responsibility has been there since the time of Malam Nasir El-Rufai as Minister of FCT.
Daily Sun’s visit to the Kubwa Expressway dump site was a big eye opener as it was gathered that almost 200 scavengers who operate within and around Kubwa reside there.
Idris told our correspondent that 100 persons sleep in the small dilapidated refuse house, while the rest made tents with flex banners and boards at different locations at the dump site.
On the lucrativeness of their vocation, he merely said that they are surviving with it.
“Dealers from Dei-Dei come and pack the plastics to Lagos or Kano; they take bottles to Onitsha, while cartons are taken to companies that make ceiling or mosquito coil in Kano. They carry the broken bottles to Lagos and use them in making glasses,” Idris explained.
Although our correspondents could not confirm whether some residents of Kubwa use the water from the stream for any purposes, the health and environmental implications of dumping waste in the streams and water channels are quite obvious.
Recall that no fewer than 38 persons had reportedly died in April 2016, in Saburi 1, a slum settlement in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) after drinking contaminated water.
FCTA Health authorities had attributed the deaths to the contamination of their water source by faecal matter.
And in this era of zoonotic diseases like Lassa fever, filthy environment is a potential driver.