Instead of idling on the streets or taking to criminal activities, scores of youths have ventured into the business of collecting and disposing waste for a fee. SOLOMON AYADO who toured the suburbs of Abuja reports.
As early as 6.am, the youngsters hit the streets with their wheelbarrows and handcarts, trucking waste that is gathered from residential homes and other varied commercial places for onward disposal. The young persons are between ages of fifteen and thirty. Many of them have not acquired formal education and cannot communicate fluently in English Language except in their local dialect.
The young men enthusiastically pushed the trucks around and very happily too, as they chant in local parlance, “Mai Shara ya zo” meaning ‘the mobile dustbin man has come.’ Their chant-like intoned parlance is uttered in monotonous cadence to signal any resident who has waste to dispose. The residents bring out their bins that are filled up with rubbish and hand over to the youths who off-load in their trucks and quickly proceed to get rid of the thrash.
Although the lucrative business of refuse collection and disposal is not done for free of charge. The youths receive money from whoever that wants to cast away the waste, depending on the quantity of the refuse and measuring the distance from the residence to the place where the refuse dumping site is situated.
The issue of poor waste management and control has become a current dismal that has fast become a source of worry to residents in Abuja hence the environmental hazards it portends. Also, the negative effect of the littered rubbish is that in no small measure, it enhances various health challenges that can affect the lives of many people.
There are increasing concerns over the refuse brouhaha in Abuja especially in the densely populated satellite towns. There are confused loud cries that the authorities responsible for waste collection and disposal have not done enough in the area of waste evacuation. The authorities have blatantly failed to provide waste bins at strategic points in various suburbs of Abuja to avert the health and environmental problems faced by residents.
Apart from the major municipal areas like Garki, Asokoro, Wuse, Gwarimpa and Maitama among others, where government attention is seriously invested due to its corporate status and the fact that top government functionaries and business tycoon reside in them, it was found that in most of the satellite towns visited, waste is virtually littered all over the streets and remain unpacked for several months. The Abuja-Nyanya-Maraba-Keffi expressway is a typical example. The pedestrian ways are simply overtaken by heaps of refuse.
Investigations further showed that the disarray of refuse dump in some of the areas visited has obviously showed a filthy outlook of the places. Apart from the dirty outlook, the stench that emit from the refuse can propel serious bad ordour. The littered waste also prevent free flow of traffic in the places as persons and vehicles alike, are often seen dodging from the garbage.
Also, it was further discovered that because of non-existence of receptacles, most residents have become seemingly negligible and can litter refuse anyhow hence there are no law enforcement agents to normalize their contravention.
Therefore, in order that the situation might not further get out of hand and continue to trouble the health of the people, the youths have decided to evolve independent means of disposing refuse hence government authorities have appeared ineptitude in addressing the challenge.
Some of the satellite towns visited including Kubwa, Karu, Mpape, Nyanya, Mararaba, Duste, Lugbe and Ado among others, the refuse management situation is worst, not different as to why the mobile dustbin venture is enterprising.
When LEADERSHIP visited Karu site, a highbrow town located along the Abuja-Nyanya road, not too far from the popular AYA roundabout, it was gathered that the patronage of mobile dustbin men was the singular means of disposing refuse, since the existence of the place. Although some residents have procured personal waste bins that are placed in their homes but the disposal of the rubbish is one aspect that necessarily demands the patronage of such youths that are into mobile dustbin venture.
And since then, members of the area have been eagerly awaiting government presence to flag a waste collection and disposal unit in the area, and to station modern waste bins in strategic positions of the community. But their itching wait is just like a far cry that has not gained any attention of the authorities.
Mrs. Sylvia Conrad is a resident of Karu site who has stayed in the place for several years. She said “all residents here patronize the mobile dustbin men because there are no government waste bins stationed here. We pay money to the boys before disposing of the refuse.”
However, leader of the mobile dustbin men in the area, Umar Abdurazak said the business is changing their lives positively. The twenty eight year-old-man insisted that instead of idling around, their engagement in the trade has prevented them from taking to criminal activities.
“We are mobile dustbin men called Mai Shara. We cannot be idle because government has not provided jobs for us. We need money to fend and also meet up with our personal aspirations. Through this trade, we get money to buy food, clothes and sometimes send to our parents back home. We are very happy doing it,” he said.
According to Abdurazak, they hire the trucks and wheelbarrows for N500 weekly and that they make between N3000 and N4,500 depending on how many streets they tour. He said many of them are desirous to save the monies they make and purchase a motorcycle to enable them become commercial motorcyclists.
“My name is Umar Abdurazak and I am from Katsina state. I came to Karu about a year ago and since I came, this is the business I have been doing. We hire the wheelbarrow for N500 weekly and make between three and four thousand five hundred naira. I was a farmer in Katsina before I relocated to Abuja and so far, it has been going well,” he stated.
Continuing the chairman said, “although we have not registered our association to government because we are just people living together, making savings and loans so that we can procure more wheelbarrows and also by the grace of Allah, buy motorcycles to be doing Okada with.”
Another mobile dustbin man, Nura Bello (15) said it was his friend who brought him from the far North into Abuja to do the business. According to him, he is not schooling but wish to make money and someday acquire formal education that would secure him a good job to earn a better living.
“I came to Abuja from the far North and it was my friend that told me about the business which I came to do. I am not in school at the moment but would want to make money and acquire certificate so that I will get a good job,” Bello stated.
Abdullahi Hamza is 25-years-old and very happy to be in the business. He disclosed that he has no wife and children at the moment but noted that his quest to make money through the business is to very soon get married and have children.
“I will make money and marry and have children. Now, we collect the refuse from the residents and proceed to the dumping site near Karu Market and someplace in Nyanya. We sleep here and some of our men sleep under the Nyanya bridge. As soon as day breaks, we go out for business. Some of our men go to Nyanya while some of us go to Karu. We are from Katsina and others from Kano,” Hamza explained.
For Suleiman Abu (28), the business is not as easy as anyone can imagine because pushing the refuse to a far place to dump it takes a lot of energy. “You have to eat well to have the strength to push. And that is why we are appealing to government to assist us with money to buy more trucks or let the government employ us to be working in the refuse disposal vehicles.”
Jude Nwafor is an Abuja based health and environmental expert who said bad waste management practices can cause air pollution that can result to respiratory problems. He said poor refuse dumping is capable of causing epidemics.
“Bad waste management practices can result in land and air pollution and can cause respiratory problems and other adverse health effects as contaminants are absorbed from the lungs into other parts of the body. It is a recipe for great health and environmental problems such as epidemics,” he said.
Currently, waste disposal is one major issue in Abuja that is presently demanding attention of government at all levels. Coupled with the health challenges it posed to the living condition of the people, there is dire need to tackle the problem by establishing waste management stations in the affected areas. The importance to station refuse bins at strategic points to further ameliorate the suffering of residents is very crucial.
The chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC),Abdullahi Adamu Candido stated in an interaction with LEADERSHIP that the issue of waste abuse and its attendant health challenges calls for more serious concern. He noted that the council has placed high premium in addressing the environmental challenges and has initiated weekly removal of waste from the corridors of the roads and streets.
“There is weekly intervention we do to remove wastes from the roads leading into the city and even around suburb towns. But the problem is that, the people are not properly informed and as such, whenever the refuse is cleared, in no time, you see it back there again. But we are back to basics and that is to sensitize the people. We are also coming up with enforcement towards ensuring that anyone who drops wastes recklessly is punished accordingly,”Candido stated.