Beyond the glamour of Abuja streetlights, well planned residential locations and storey buildings, there are settlements with ineffable environmental squalor within the city, ADEBIYI ADEDAPO who visited some of these slums reports
Despite series of campaigns on the need to maintain a hygienic society, there are communities, even in the heart of Abuja, where environmental hygiene is still a far cry.
More appalling is the fact that these settlements houses thousands of buildings and over 80 per cent of these buildings were constructed without toilets and sewage system, which forced inhabitants to result to self-help.
To worsen the matter, both the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) and the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) have abandoned inhabitants of these communities to their fate, simply because the settlements are not captured in their development plan.
Recent studies have shown that human excreta have been implicated in the transmission of many infectious diseases including cholera, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, polio, cryptosporidiosis, and ascariasis.
Under-nutrition, pneumonia, worm infestations, are also associated with unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene resulting in reduced physical growth, weakened physical fitness and impaired cognitive function, particularly for children under the age of five.
Undoubtedly, inhabitants of settlements like Durumi village, Daki-Biu (Jabi), Garki village Galadimawa village, and Mabuchi village to mention but a few are at a very high risk of the above mentioned endemic diseases, due to the deteriorating state of environmental hygiene in the communities.
Mabuchi village seems to have worst experience of all. Unlike the other villages, Mabuchi village is densely populated, and in some cases, the residential buildings also serve as market places during the day.
Apart from being heavily overcrowded, another eyesore is the hip of refuse littered at every corner of the community. The village has no access to potable water, toilet and sewage system.
From a distance, one would believe that the very offensive odour that greets every presence is due largely to the refuse dumps by the pathways. But, a closer observation will reveal the fact that the refuse dumps also serve as regular ‘excretion field’ for many residents, as over 70 per cent of buildings in the village were constructed without toilet system.
While it is easily noticeable to see children in two’s and three’s defecate on the refuse-dump at any hour of the day, adults who indulge in this irritable act can only be caught at sight between in the early hours of the day and later in the night.
This discovery is more disturbing because the Gbayi indigenous community shares boundaries with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. Yet, the abysmal condition of these residents didn’t attract attention of senior civil servants who definitely will sight the community through the window of their various offices.
Although, the community has been taken over by foreigners and the Gbayi indigenes living in the over-populated settlement are now in the minority, pockets of Gbayi people still live and conduct businesses in the area.
A cross section of residents who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend explained that regular electricity supply and proximity to the city centre are their major attractions to the Mabuchi village.
Alhaji Mustapha Muhammad who has lived in Mabuchi for over six years said the community is making frantic efforts to clear the hip of refuse. “I didn’t know that I will speak to anyone on this issue. But honestly we the residents are also very worried. Just this afternoon, I made a contribution of N200 towards this project, and other people in the compound also made constitution in like sum,” he said.
Mustapha prefers to stay in Mabuchi village, despite the unhygienic situation.
“Many of us here prefer to stay in this community because you can get rent at the cheapest rate considering the proximity to town and constant electricity. We don’t have problem with light, we have it for almost 24 hours daily,” he said.
When asked if his own rented apartment has a toilet, Mustapha said: “I built the toilet and the kitchen. I renovated the apartment and I pay N4, 000 monthly which is about N48, 000 per year, this is about the cheapest you can get here and this is because I spent money to renovate the place.”
“Many of the houses have no toilet that is how many people live, that is how the indigenes want it and a lot of people don’t mind because of the advantages we have over those who stay in the outskirts of Abuja. For instance, if you’re called for a business, before you get to the Abuja from the suburbs, you would have missed the business. There is no part of the city I can’t access within 10minutes from here, so many of us won’t mind living with this condition.”
“We have leaders of various tribal groups, I am Hausa and we have a Sarki, other tribes and the Gbayi chief is also there, we live here peacefully and we don’t have problems relating with one another.”
Manir Usman, who is a fashion design apprentice said; “I have been living here for more than 15 years, our house has no bathroom and toilet, so we use the public bathrooms and toilets and pay a token.”
According to Usman, very few buildings have toilet systems and the rents are more expensive. “The new buildings are built with toilets, but the rent is expensive. It goes for about N100, 000 to N150, 000 per annum, while those without toilets will only charge about N70, 000.”
A visit to some of the public facilities buttressed Usman’s claim, as the attendants confessed to making huge amounts on daily basis.
One of the attendants simply identified as Kabir, whose facility is relatively clean, said he makes more than N14, 000 everyday.
“I don’t stay here every day, I alternate the days with my colleague but the sales are almost the same. We charge N10 to urinate, N30 to defecate and N40 to shower. I realise more than N14, 000 at the end of every day,” he disclosed.
When contacted, a senior management staff of the Abuja Environmental Development Board (AEDB) explained that the menace in local settlements is beyond the board.
“You know the villages are not planned and, especially in the case of Mabuchi that you just mentioned. Only the department of Resettlement and Compensation and speak on that. But as a temporary measure, we are making arrangements to clear the refuse and put a big refuse dump in strategic places to avoid a repeat of the situation.”
“We are also conducting a massive sensitization exercise with the residents and the chief is giving us the required support, I believe in the next few weeks when you visit, the situation will be different. We did the same in Garki village,” he said.
Until the AEDB succeeds with evacuation of waste and eventually achieve a safe waste management system, the menace of littered environment and indiscriminate defecation which poses serious health hazards to inhabitants of the Mabuchi village requires urgent attention.