Abuja residents helpless as refuse dumps, cow dung take over FCT

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Residential areas within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, are gradually becoming uninhabitable due to refuse dumps.

Bellnews took a tour of some places such as Karu Site, Jikwoyi, Kurudu, Kubwa, Gwarinpa, Utako and other places under Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC, and discovered not just the indiscriminate dumping of refuse by residents and cart pushers, popularly known as ‘Baban Bola,’ but also lack of activities by government and its agencies keeping the FCT environment clean.

For instance, residents indiscriminately dump water sachets, used cans, and other garbage across the city centre.

Bellnews sighted “mountains” of refuse heaps that have been unattended to for several weeks in those areas.

The refuse heaps are growing everyday beyond the available spaces and in some places, cover part of the roads.

This could, no doubt, have a devastating effect on the health and livelihood of the residents of those areas.

It ought to be the primary responsibility of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Administration, through the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, and the Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC, to attend to the growing refuse heaps.

Improper garbage disposal, according to environment experts, poses significant threats to both human health and the environment.

It could bring about vector-borne diseases, air pollution, water contamination and could also create food safety risks, especially when it is done near agricultural areas as it attracts pests.

A resident of Utako (behind Yoruba Mosque) Beatrice Nwaneka, told Bellnews that contractors assigned to empty waste bins in the area do not show up as often as they should.

According to her, “I moved in here around April last year and since then, what I’ve discovered about this place is that this waste bin here is a problem.

“The stench fills the whole place and it can be like this for so long, sometimes for weeks before they will come with their truck. Now you can see for yourself how this place is.”

Bellnews also met some residents of Gwarinpa.

One of them, simply identified as Sheyi, residing at First Avenue, said “Everybody already knows the condition of this place. If I say that they don’t come at all, it would be a lie, the problem is that they do not come regularly.

“Should I say, once in a month in a place like this where you have thousands of residents who must eat and do other things that generate waste on a minute by minute basis. It’s terrible. How people manage to stay around here still remains surprising to me.”

There is a similar outcry from most of the residents who spoke on the situation, including Abu Farouq, a fast food shop owner, whose business is located just some metres away from a dump site in Lugbe.

He said his customers usually stayed away from his eatery whenever the dump site grows, adding that “sometimes, it remains like this (pointing at the refuse heap) for two to three weeks before you see the waste management people with their truck.

“And during this time, there is no business. Nobody wants to eat in a dirty, smelling place.

“Had it been I have enough money, I would have left here the moment people started throwing [dustbin] wastes here. It started very small and gradually this place is now a dump site.”

Deputy Director, Information, at the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, Mrs Josephine Peni, said the refuse dumps are supposed to be evacuated “thrice in a week.”

Another environmental hazard observed by Bellnews are the activities of hundreds of scavengers known as Baban Bola and herdsmen, who confidently parade their animals in the nation’s Federal Capital Territory.

‘Baban Bola’ or scavengers’ activities are becoming a serious environmental and security threat in the FCT.

Cattle rearers on the other hand, allow their animals to walk along major roads causing major traffic jams with cow dung littering the streets. This has continued despite assurances by subsequent governments to see them off the FCT.

Speaking generally on these issues in an interview with Bellnews the Deputy Director, (Information) at the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, Mrs Josephine Peni, highlighted some of the reasons behind the situation in the FCT.

She explained that places like Kuje and other area councils within Abuja were not under the AEPB.

According to Mrs Peni, the agency focuses on places under Abuja Municipal Area Council.

She said, “The board is in charge of cleaning the city centre.

“Kuje falls under satellite towns and the cleaning of those places are usually done by the area councils and satellite town development.

“They are supposed to clean those places. Lugbe is under AMAC so it is under our jurisdiction and AEPB is also in charge of Gwarinpa.

“We are not responsible for cleaning the cities; we have contractors, all we do is to supervise them. Making sure they clean the place.

“We have supervisors and coordinators located in each district. If there’s any problem we talk to the contractors. At times we intervene.

“For example if the place is dirty we talk to the contractor one or three times. They’ve not cleaned, we have an intervention unit which is deployed to the job then we deduct from the contractors’ money to pay people that did the job.

“I don’t live in those areas, I don’t know whether the contractors over there are doing the job or not but since the residents are complaining, it means they’re not doing their job.

“People call to complain. People call me from Gwagwalada, Kuje and what I usually advise them to do is to go to their area council, there’s an environmental health unit to lay their complaints.

“Lugbe is under AMAC, Gwarinpa is a vast place, so I don’t know which area you’re talking about, we have about two to three contractors cleaning that place.

“Refuse is meant to be cleared twice or thrice in a week. It can’t take up to a month. But if that happened at any of the places within our jurisdiction, the report did not come to the office because usually when we get such reports, we speak directly to the contractor and if you fail to do it, then there’s an intervention.

“We have supervisors, coordinators and residents who call us and even good samaritans; we now draw the attention of the supervisor of that place. We query the supervisors when we get such reports.”

Asked if the AEPB is receiving all the necessary backup it needs to carry out its responsibilities under the current Federal Capital Territory Administration, Mrs. Peni added, “Yes we are, gone were the days supervisors were not being paid but since the new administration, we have not been having that problem.

To a large extent, the minister is trying and we are happy about it but just like Oliver Twister, we want more.”

Speaking on the nuisance caused by herdsmen and scavengers in the city centre, Mrs Peni said, “They are more of security threats than environmental threats, the police are taking care of that.

“For Baban Bola, we have a serious problem with them removing manhole covers. So, we try as much as possible to know them. We encourage them. At dumpsites, we give them areas they can go and scavenge instead of staying in the city and to a large extent, they are more of a security threat to us than environmental.

“We have an enforcement team that goes about to arrest street traders and they even arrest Baban Bola but we cannot do it alone.

“But then I think with the collaboration we are having with security agencies, we can remove them from the streets of Abuja.

“Our collaboration with the security agencies is very strong. We had a meeting with the Minister and the Commissioner of Police and this subject was extensively discussed.

“Something is going to come up. We are in a serious collaboration with the police. Because honestly they’re a serious nuisance to us.

“They’re threats, some of them go as far as surveying what is happening in your house. I’m very sure that very soon, with the Minister we have now, they’ll be off the streets”.

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