Where are the sanitation officers?

AWAAL examines the effectiveness of sanitation laws in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)  

Streets of most of satellite towns in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are fast degenerating to dumping grounds for refuse under the watch of the relevant authority, even as some parts of the metropolis are not insulated from the nuisance of wastes.
The menace is pervasive, manifesting in some areas like Garki Area 1, Mpape, Nyanya, Lugbe, Mararaba and Kubwa, amongst other communities, where rubbish heaps are gradually becoming key features of the roads and residential areas.

Another worrisome dimension to the unhealthy practice is that traders and their customers also care less about how they dispose waste, littering the markets and public domains with fruit wastes and other items that have been identified by experts as constituting health risks to residents.
Besides, the drainages are also stuffed with human faeces, polythene wastes and other heavy wastes leading to unhealthy pollution in sections of Area 1, Wuse and other parts of the city.

Some residents who spoke to Blueprint said that street littering and growing heaps of refuse was not the fault of the people but of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) for failure to provide proper and effective means of waste disposal in the metropolis –more particularly in the satellite towns and villages.
“Nobody likes the way the capital of Nigeria looks. Look at remnant of food, paper and all manner of waste scattered about in the middle of Abuja.

“It is an eyesore. How can this stop? It can only be arrested if the FCT Minister provides a proper and more efficient way of disposing waste. For now, there is none”, a man who identified himself as Rufus Duniya said.
A commercial taxi driver in Area 2 Junction Park said: “if you look at this park, you would see that there is no official waste disposal point, even though we are located close to the office of Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB.

So if you arrest us here for not keeping the place clean, it will be on what basis?”, he queried. A shopkeeper across the road from the park, who identified himself simply as Chinedu, said the shopkeepers try to take sanitary measures on their own but they are sometimes frustrated by AEPB’s delay in coming to help dispose off the bins of refuse gathered.

Chinedu said the office showed more interest in the money they can get from the traders, and not really the health of the residents and the environment. “Sometimes they don’t come until rains fall and spill the bins, creating an unsightly mess in the environment.

I think AEPB officials do this deliberately for an excuse to swoop on us and get taxes; I don’t believe they are interested in a clean environment”, he said The agency charged under the FCT Administration to keep Abuja clean, is the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, which was established in 1989. The duties of AEPB are as follows: Waste collection and disposal, landfill development and monitoring of cleaning contractors.

The AEPB is also charged with the maintenance of the central sewer lines, evacuation of septic tanks, drainage/ storm water control, maintenance of treatment plants and aerators, rehabilitation of degraded sites, management of incidental open spaces, cemeteries, etc.

It is also charged with conservation of biodiversity, house to house inspection, vector and pest control services, abatement of nuisance in the FCT, collaborating with the six Area Councils of the FCT on sanitation, organise environmental clubs for schools, control of industrial waste, burrow pits and quarry sites, pollution monitoring and control services, laboratory analysis, Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) control, biodiversity studies, environmental impact assessment, revenue generation and administrative work.

AEPB’s budget for 2013 was about N3,674,416,761 (estimate of N3.7bn) approved by the National Assembly and Blueprint learnt that most of it was released, yet there was no improvement in enviromental protection last year. Besides, the agency generates fund through fines, sale of waste bins and uses other means to generate monies not remitted to government coffers as prescribed in section 162 of the 1999 Constitution.

The agency has failed to monitor the activities of traders and residents of Abuja as regards the environment, as passengers and drivers commit drive-by littering in the suburbs and even right in the cities without any arrests or fines.

The agency has no evidence in the last two to three years of conducting staff training on environment and its impact on climate change and has nothing much to show for the huge allocation that goes it way every year. More than 40 per cent of the agency’s staff are casual workers and yet to be regularised as permanent despite outcry for the AEPB to do so.

Rather, AEPB is focusing on morality policing and has taken upon itself the task of monitoring the arrival of prostitutes into the city, their residences and their movement within the city, a function that  is clearly not on its list of duties.

For its ‘effort’, the agency, which has recorded dismal performance in the last 10 years, has been rewarded by the National Assembly, from the prodding of FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, with the task of disbursing a whopping N5 billion to take prostitutes off the streets Meanwhile, inside FCT, Blueprint observed that a foul stench has become permanent feature of the air around Utako Park in Abuja. Specifically, the road that lies between the popular Utako Park and ThisDay Newspapers’ office is badly polluted by urination and defecation, no thanks to the absence of public conveniences there.

The oozing stench forms alliance with the air and thus, threatens residents and passers-by with imminent air-borne diseases and other diseases facilitated by pathogenic microbial agents. When our reporter visited the area, it was a reprehensible sight as men and boys were seen either urinating or squatting to pass faeces.

One thing that was unanimous among those interacted with was the ‘cry’ for provision of modern toilet facilities. Efforts to make them realise the fact that those doing there excretion business around there could as well pull resources together to make the place comfortable were futile; they insisted that it was ‘government’s duty’ since they pay levies and other fees. A shop owner who gave his name as Ufine Otu said: “How will we provide toilet facilities for ourselves when we pay revenue to government? Please help us appeal to government to come and put these things in place”.

Another businessman who simply identified himself as Baba said: “Those of us who stay around here know that we are at risk of outbreak of diseases. Just look at that place (pointing at the road side) and count how many people are responding to the call of nature publicly.

Look how big the park and area is which could be developed for leisure activity or tourism, but this is the kind of situation one gets”, he lamented in view of the attendant suffocating odour that assails the affected area. Residents’ concerns are legitimate because the health and wellbeing of a people depend largely on the sanitary condition of their immediate environment.

AEPB as well as the Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC, are alleged to have abdicated (perhaps unconsciously) their responsibility of ensuring a clean and neat environment, for human habitation. It is more pressing now (with the outbreak of Cholera in some states) more than ever, that government intervenes to provide a solution to the fast decline of the Abuja environment.