Samuel Bello, Abuja
Mrs. Betty Ibi had a heart break last week. It was not about her husband or any of her family members. She had gone to Utako Market, Abuja, with her two expatriate friends to purchase fruits and goat meat.
She had wanted to go to the market alone but her friends, desirous to have a deeper knowledge of Abuja, pleaded to go with her. After the heavy rain that day, Ibi and her friends drove down to Utako. But, on getting to the meat section of the market market, one of her
friends screamed. She turned to know what the problem was, the friend with a scowled mien shouted: “This place is stinking, please take me away.”
The drama did not end there. Her second friend brought out her handkerchief and covered her nose. The duo beckoned on each other and walked away towards their vehicle. She fixed her gaze aimlessly on them with utter embarrassment.
“I have never been so embarrassed all my life as I was last week at Utako. My friends who are nationals of Norway and Canada could not bear the unhygienic nature of the meat section of the Utako Market and ran out of the market. I was heartbroken for several days.”
The situation of Utako Market is the story of several markets and parks in Abuja especially in this rainy season. Ibi said: “The world expects our markets to be better than what they are at the moment. There is no reason to give for our markets stinking and wearing an unacceptable garb. I don’t blame government for this I blame those managing them. They collect tolls but don’t use the money to keep the markets neat.”
A visit to Jabi, Garki, Nyanya and Gwarimpa highlighted the health hazards posed by unhygienic markets. The environment is most times dirty thus serving as a breeding ground for communicable diseases like malaria, typhoid and diarrhoea.
The terrible stench that emanates from these markets and parks is found more in the food and meats sections. Most sections where these foods are being sold are the filthiest as food items are displayed close to heaps of garbage.
Some residents who spoke with Daily Sun also gave reports of social vices like armed robbery and prostitution around these markets and parks. It was discovered there is always robbery from 8pm when darkness has taken over and majority of people are trying to get to their various abodes.
At Garki Village Market, traders expressed frustration at being made to pay local refuse collectors to collect refuse which they say is in the region of N100-N200 depending on size. They claimed that the refuse is either not evacuated or not properly handled. This, they say contributes to the filthiness of the markets.
Faith Chijioke, a tailor, said: “We pay the local refuse collectors depending on how serious the cleaning would be, but most times we pay them N100. Sometimes when we don’t have more than that to spare they still help us. We sweep and gather the dirt ourselves and they come as early as possible to carry it to a nearby dumpster. But, the refuse is often not properly disposed.”
It was also discovered that the drainage system in Jabi is another glaring evidence as holes and gutters are dug haphazardly, leaving the environment odorous. In most cases, the little waterways available are usually blocked by indiscriminate waste dumps.
Emmanuel Udoh, a panel beater, who stays behind Jabi Park, a place popularly known as “Jabi Forest, said: “Many residents have taken it as a habit to drop their wastes in gutters when it is raining, which eventually blocks drainages. After raining, you just see wastes people have been storing, including nylon bags that are enveloped with one thing or the other.
“From 7am, barrow pushers pack dirt from Jabi Park more than 10 times a day. Every five to 10 minutes, a barrow pusher dumps refuse here and the authorities have stopped giving listening ears to our complain.
“We have gotten used to it because it is a normal thing for everyone here. Countless times both young and old, especially hawkers, drop their faeces. There is a public toilet and bathroom for everybody, the fee is N30 but not everybody can spare N30 so they rather use the refuse dump.
“This same place that has turned to a large dumping site still leads to a mechanic workshop and the pathways smell bad. It is filled with excrete and it is unfortunate that many of us here are used to it. My colleague can eat ‘Amala’ and ‘Ewedu’ with flies petching on his food and he still wouldn’t mind, we are in Nigeria, we don’t have a choice because we have to survive.
“The people who are really in charge of environmental issues in Jabi are either not working or don’t exist. May be, they focus on the well developed areas with tarred roads I guess because the only people cleaning this park are barrow pushers.”
A crewman under Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Awwal Ababua, however, blamed the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), for neglecting its official duties and leaving residents to face the perils and dangers associated with dirty environments:
“AMAC officials are in charge of parks and markets, but up till now they are not doing anything. We focus majorly on streets and roads. As for markets and parks, sometimes we touch that axis, but most times barrow pushers are the ones doing most of the cleaning work that has to be done.
“My jurisdiction is just Jabi and we don’t pack from all the streets everyday, we pack like three times a week. There are some places you wouldn’t have to go to because the garbage deposits are not so frequent compared to major roads that we just have to clean everyday.”
In terms of social vices, Stephen Nzube, testified to claims about several cases, especially robbery and pick pocketing: “I just closed from work at night and was waiting for Napep close to Jabi Park to take me to Berger roundabout. The place was very crowded, so I was sure someone bumped into me because when I got to my destination, I found out my wallet was missing. Thank God for a Samaritan that believed that I wasn’t lying that I didn’t have money to pay.
“This is not even a one time thing because I was robbed three months ago that they broke my fingers and I had to go through surgery to fix myself. They got away with over N50,000 I had on me. I only managed to escape with my phone. It is a challenge I face everyday to an extent that I am extremely careful with the kind of public transports I enter because robbers now work with Napep and taxi drivers.”