Authorities of Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), recently lamented that the board was finding it difficult in living up to its mandate, because of the many challenges bedeviling it. NKECHI ISAAC reports that the board is considering increasing waste collection charges in hospitality outfits in order to surmount the challenge.
The Federal Capital Territory has been described as a standard, model city by both Nigerians and foreigners but the astronomical population rise in the city has put a strain on the ability of maintaining the world standard of keeping the city clean.
The Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), the agency mandated to sanitise and maintain the beauty of the city recently made an outcry, saying they were not generating enough revenue to keep up with this onerous task.
Speaking with journalists, the Director, AEPB, Mr. Isa Shuiabu said the board had been carrying out its operations under a lot of pressure without collecting commensurate charges for its services.
He said, “So far our performance as far as revenue generation is concerned is far below expectation. We all know the financial realities on ground and the need to look inward and see how we can improve on our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in such a manner that we’ll be able to deliver on our responsibilities to the public.”
He observed that for the board to effectively carry out its assignment, it had to apply the polluter principle to recoup the enormous resources it expends especially on hospitality outfits.
According to him, “We took a practical assessment of the activities that go on in hospitality outfits in the city including hotels, restaurants and bars, night clubs and plazas, the amount of waste they generate and the service charges they were paying and we discovered that we were enormously being shortchanged.
“We did our calculations and found out that we were charging some 5 star hotels in Abuja as low as N3m per year and about N600 per day in some cases. This bill in the past was just for the lettable rooms in the outfits without considerations that there are other activities going on within the premises that are even more polluting that the rooms.
“There are swimming pools there, people swim there and sometimes they urinate inside the water, there are laundry rooms there and they use chemicals to wash the clothes and there are even night clubs where bottles and cans are generated in large quantities.”
Shuaibu explained that the charge for these hotels and other hospitality outlets had been stagnant for over 15 years.
“However with the economic realities on ground in the current day, most of these facilities have increased their tariffs in line with the current trends. A survey of other facilities in other states show that they pay as much as N21m per annum while those in Abuja which is the preferred area for government meetings pay just N3m per annum. It costs us at least N1bn to maintain our sewage plant in Wupa. That is unacceptable.
“We have shortchanged ourselves for a long time and we are not going to go back to ask for backlogs but we have decided to start implementing the polluter pay principle whereby we will take cognisance of all the activities of an establishment or facility and charge based on hard technical facts of activities of waste generation on ground,” he added.
Speaking further, the director said, “We cannot spend so much money to render services and not charge commensurate rates for the services. As long as we are being pushed to deliver services we must get the money to provide these services. Our services are necessary and government has invested a lot of money on us but we must also generate enough to supplement government’s effort.”
He however noted that the increment would only be very slight for residential homes whose waste generation cannot be compared with that of the hospitality outfits, saying, “The increment for residential buildings will be so minimal they may not even notice because their waste generation is quite minimal.”
He posited that the revenue generated from the venture would be used to procure more state of the art machinery and equipment for effective sanitation of the metropolis.
“Contracts have been awarded for the various forms of machines and equipment that would facilitate and improve our city cleaning services. We will deploy more facilities for effective city sanitation,” he added.
But reacting to the development, the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Dr. Otive Igbuzor said increasing the waste collection charge may not be the solution to curbing the increase in waste generation in the city.
Igbuzor, who is also an environmental expert said, “Increase in service charge may improve the city sanitation but it may also create an unintended negative effect of increasing the price of goods and services which of course will negatively rub off on the poor and marginalised in the society.”
He opined that rather than increase the charge for waste services which may lead to increase in prices of commodities, the administration should explore the avenue of property tax.
“Instead of increasing the waste collection charges, I will advice the administration to collect property tax. They can also consider collecting a special tax for the numerous sky scrapers scattered around town. With that it will be enough to cater for the needs of the board rather than adding more burdens to the poor.
“The gap between the rich and the poor is unprecedented and scandalous; it is simply a life of contract and opulence side by side by deprivation, wealth side by side with poverty. Any responsible government should bring out policies that will benefit the poor, more people friendly policies,” Igbuzor added.