Setting FCT satellite towns on path of cleanliness

Abuja City gate

At last, satellite towns in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will begin to wear a new look if the current efforts of the administration to clean up the area are sustained; ELEOJO IDACHABA writes.

The task of ensuring the cleanliness of FCT satellite towns is long overdue. Attempts were made to incorporate them into the mainstream regular sanitation monitoring exercise in the past, but all to no avail. Gladly, that idea has received the attention of the authority which has now woken to the challenge. 

Just recently the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) through the Satellite Town Development Department (STDD) began the clean-up exercise within the six area councils as part of its mandates to keep the satellite towns clean.

The STDD coordinator, Obinna Francis Ogwuegbu, who inspected the exercise, gave the assurance that the FCT minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, and the minister of state, Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, remain committed to ensuring a safer and hygienic territory for all residents.

The coordinator, who added that the exercise is a continuous one, appealed to residents, particularly those living in the suburbs, to desist from dumping refuse on drainages and by the roadsides. He disclosed that as a show of commitment, he and other top management staff of the FCTA would be going round the six area councils in order to ensure that all contractors comply with the marching order. To that extent, he said all hands must be on deck to ensure that all the satellite towns are kept clean.

According to him, following the order, the six contractors on waste management for each of the area councils have swung into action at their various sites, even as he stressed that clearing of drains, dump sites and evacuationg around interchanges and roads leading into and out of the satellite towns are ongoing are in Gwagalada, Kwali, Kubwa, Kuje, Abaji and Karshi.

He noted that waste management is getting bad because of people’s attitude, lifestyle, character and behaviour towards the environment. Ogwuegbu, therefore, called on the residents to stop dumping refuse on the roads as he noted that such practice is not good for human health.

While tasking the area councils, he stressed that it was the duty of the chairmen to clean and manage waste disposal in all the satellite towns, adding that the satellite towns department “is only meant to do intervention when necessary.”

“One of my missions is to maintain and retain the dignity of satellite towns in terms of cleanliness and road usages,” as the construction of roads are also ongoing in some of the satellite towns.

Poor sanitation

Recently, due to poor sanitation in the territory, there had been reports about the break-out of cholera, especially in satellite towns; a development that was largely attributed to the unkempt nature of many remote areas in the area councils. Many lives were lost as a result of this.

In a similar vein, the FCTA has vowed that the ongoing sanitation and traffic control around satellite towns would be sustained to achieve the objectives. 

This is even as the authority warned residents whose stock-in-trade is abuse of the nation’s capital development to desist from the act. 

According to the chairman, FCT Ministerial Committee on City Sanitation, Ikharo Attah, the on-going sanitation exercise was authorised by the minister to checkmate development activities and ensure that contraventions don’t fester. 

This was when the Attah-led a combined team of the task force in continuation of the exercise in Gwarimpa where over 80 shanties and slums were pulled down because they constituted a nuisance to the beauty and sanitation of the estate. 

 He stated that FCTA was making enormous commitment towards the provision of infrastructures in Abuja and would do everything within the law to protect the sanity of the city.

Previous attempts

In what appears as its long determination to attack the poor sanitation in satellite towns, in March 2021, the FCTA had launched inclusive sensitisation on environmental sanitation in Kwali Area Council as a prelude to other council areas.

Flagging off the exercise in Kwali, the minister of state, Dr. Ramatu, noted that the administration was required to implement higher standards of environmental sanitation and orderliness as its 4th Performance Deliverable under the Next Level agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari. 

She said, “To achieve this, all hands must be on deck and everyone has to take responsibility for their actions.

“As we continue to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that communities take action to prevent further transmission, reduce the impacts of the outbreak and support control measures. Proper waste management and good hygiene practices are critical to enhancing public health and are indispensable for optimal economic productivity.

“It is for this reason that the FCTA, through the Satellite Towns Development Department (STDD) initiated the ‘Inclusive Sensitisation on Environmental Sanitation’ in all communities in the FCT to ensure that everyone gets involved in taking actions to guarantee a healthy environment.”

While noting that most of the diseases affecting people are as a result of poor environmental hygiene practices, the effect of which has been a persistent increase in morbidity and mortality rates in children under five, the minister assured that the FCTA shall continue to enforce existing policies and guidelines on issues related to acceptable waste management practices.

The minister stressed that indiscriminate disposal of waste had an impact not only on public health, but also on human dignity and personal safety. She noted that the scheme launched would greatly improve the health conditions of residents of the FCT and take a step closer to achieving one of the cardinal objectives of the administration, while advancing the cause of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Age-long neglect

Investigations have shown that satellite towns are not originally in the blueprint of the territory as they are merely described in the territory’s master plan as ‘the remaining portion of the FCT.’

This, therefore, explains why such settlements are not regarded as being in the mainstream of Abuja master plan, but as the environs of the metropolis.

The master plan, however, indicates that the city and its environs should be planned and developed simultaneously which is exclusive of satellite towns.

Consequently, STDD which is Satellite Towns Development Department was established and saddled with the responsibilities of opening up the satellite towns for development by providing infrastructural facilities for their teeming inhabitants, thereby improving their living standards as an after-thought.

Also, STDD is mandated to provide an enabling environment for the development of the satellite towns via the provision of basic amenities so as to further reduce the pressure on Abuja city-centre, while facilitating the growth and upgrade of the satellite towns. Satellite towns include Bwari, Kubwa, Karshi, Kuje, Karu, Lugbe, Chika, Kuchigworo and Nyanya.

However, an integral aspect of the functions of STDD is to ensure the sanitation of satellite towns in a manner that is synonymous with Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) towards ensuring the cleanliness of the suburbs.

The STDD is, therefore, mandated to facilitate and oversee efforts to ensure a clean environment in the satellite towns in line with the vision and mission of the FCT administration.

Consequently, the agency is expected to make efforts to strike a balance between human needs in the satellite towns and the carrying capacity of the environment through structured environmental sanitation processes.

In the meantime, STDD has promised to deploy more resources towards waste management and general environmental sanitation across the territory.

Mr. Ogwuegbu made the commitment recently while inspecting a recent clean up exercise within the territory.

He said the move has become necessary given the increased appearance of refuse heaps along streets in some satellite towns. According to him, though the responsibility of cleaning and managing wastes in the satellite towns rests with area councils chairmen, the STDD would be making more interventions in that regard, just as the FCTA remains committed towards ensuring a safer and hygienic environment for everyone.

While acknowledging that the situation on waste management was getting worse because of people’s lifestyle and attitude towards the environment, he called on the residents to stop dumping and littering refuse on the roadside, stressing that such an unsanitary act constitutes a health hazard to the people.

Ogwuegbu, while stating that the exercise is a continuous one, appealed to residents, particularly those living in the suburbs, to desist from dumping refuse on drainages and roadsides.

The coordinator further noted that he would be going round the six area councils to make sure that all contractors comply with the matching order, as he called for all hands to be on deck towards ensuring that all the satellite towns are kept clean at all times.

So far, he said following the order, the six area council contractors on waste management have since swung into action at their various sites in Gwagalada, Kwali, Kubwa, Kuje, Abaji and Karshi, adding that one of his missions and priority area is to maintain and retain the dignity of satellite towns in terms of cleanliness and road usages, just as the construction of roads are also ongoing  in some of the satellite towns. 

Ogwuegbu promised to do his best in repositioning the satellite town before the end of the present administration in order to make sure that the promised change of the administration is real, by making the citizen partner with the government in building and making the satellite towns clean and digitalised.

Residents’ take

In a chat, residents of some satellite towns shared their experiences with this reporter. A resident of Kurudu who lives near the Army Resettlement Centre, Augustine Maduka, confirmed that the impact of the clean up exercise is being felt in Kurudu which was notorious for refuse dumps.

“But you know that oftentimes, when enforcement is not met with force, people tend to relax after a short while. Let us hope that the contractor in charge of this area would not relax after this initial exercise,” he said. 

However, another resident of Dawaki, Benjamin Sule, told this reporter that he is not aware that a regular clean-up exercise is ongoing in satellite towns as, according to him, there is nothing to suggest such in Dawaki.

“Look around by yourself. Have you seen anything to suggest that a clean-up exercise is going on? The refuse trucks coming here had been going on since the last administration. I am not aware that there is a new deal on sanitation in the satellite towns. That idea is good though if it is true,” he said.

However, at Ushafa area in Bwari area council, this reporter noticed that a good number of areas hitherto littered with refuse dumps have been evacuated, indicating that the exercise is impactful there. 

Gideon Yusuf, a resident, said if the exercise can be sustained, cholera which devastated the area during the last rainy season would no longer be a threat.

“Last year, (pointing to an evacuated refuse dump), the whole of that place was an eye sore because that was like the central dump site for all the residents here including the estate up there. Due to the poor sanitation of that place, many children and even adults took ill leading to hospitalisation. If this momentum can be sustained till the next rainy season, it would be good; kudos to the FCTA!”

It is not certain if the current move in satellite towns can indeed be a continuous one judging from the past where policies are abandoned midway due to improper funding or lack of will to continue.

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