John Adams, Minna
Recently, the Niger State government reintroduced the monthly sanitation exercise with a new slogan: “Stay clean, embrace hygiene.’
The reintroduction of the exercise came about seven years after it was last observed.
Indeed, Minna, the Niger State capital, which was at a time adjudged one of the cleanest, most liveable cities in Nigeria, has lost its allure. It has virtually become a slum, with refuse littered all over the town.
Major roads and streets in the four major cities of the state, namely, Bida, Kontagora, Suleja and Minna, until recently, played host to heaps of garbage.
The immediate past administration in the state achieved some feats in the area of keeping the state clean through its urban renewal programme, but indiscriminate dumping of refuse has remained a challenge.
In 2015, the state government restructured the Niger State Urban Development Board. The agency was charged to oversee the beautification and sanitization of Minna and other major towns.
The board was also mandated to restore the distorted Minna master plan, including the removal of illegal structures, relocation of artisans to appropriate sites within the city, and removal of abandoned vehicles and other objects on the major roads in the capital, among others.
The state government recently started the beautification of roundabouts in the capital city, even as traffic lights and streetlights have been restored.
Also, the Ministry of Environment kicked off the monthly environmental sanitation initiative. To ensure a proper waste management strategy, government also introduced environmental vanguards, where ward heads, councillors, religious leaders, women and youths regularly monitor their communities. In addition, sanitary attendants have been introduced in Bida, Suleja and Kontagora.
It was also gathered that the state government would soon start a partnership with a private waste management and recycling facility, Jospang, in Accra, Ghana, to turn waste into productive materials for use.
The Accra-based firm is expected to establish an outfit in the state to take care of waste sorting and organic waste.
To actualise the partnership with the firm, the Niger State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, led a powerful delegation to Accra to have a first-hand knowledge of the firm and its operations.
Commissioner for environment, Alhaji Tanko Zakari, who was part of the governor’s delegation to Accra, said Bello took a tour of six out of the over 50 different companies of the Jospang Group. The commissioner said Jospang, with over 30 years in managing waste, has drastically made Ghana a leading country in Africa in terms of clean environment and green energy.
The Niger State delegation, according to the commissioner, also visited Accra Compost and Recycling Plant, Zoompak Achimota Waste Transfer Station, Integrated Recycling and Composting plant, Sewage/Liquid Waste Treatment Plant, Plastics Recycling & Waste Bins Production Plant as well as the Tricycle and Mobile Toilet Assembly Plant.
Said the commissioner: “The governor was satisfied with the level attained by Jospang companies in providing a safe and healthy environment for the people of Ghana, which he acknowledged is creating value addition to the country.”
The commissioner noted that the company has been able to take 30,000 people from the streets of Ghana, something he believed would go a long way in turning the fortunes of Niger youth around, if replicated in the state.
He pointed out that the state government was embarking on all these in order to have a safe and clean environment: “Nigeria loses N455 billion annually due to poor sanitation, which is equivalent to 1.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, and the direct consequence of poor environmental sanitation is high morbidity and mortality rates, resulting from sanitation-related diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid.”
Commissioner for investment and commerce, Dr. Mustapha Jibrin, who was also part of the delegation, told our correspondent that the importance of waste management in enhancing the well being of the people cannot be overemphasised, pointing out that most of the diseases result from poor sanitation habits.
According to him, with the establishment of a waste management system, the state will be able to address a lot of the waterborne diseases posing challenge to the health sector.
Mustapha opined that the partnership would not only clean up the state, it would also provide manure, generate gas and indirectly produce a healthy environment.