Years back, the FCT was not known for a place to easily sight refuse dump either by the road side or market place due to its nature as a preferred destination for meetings, world conferences, business and political events that attract people from within and outside Nigeria. However, in the last few years, things have not only changed, they have turned from bad to worse. GABRIEL EMAMMEH reports
There are several dumpsites in the hinterlands, mostly in satellite towns across the nation’s capital. Most of them are designated temporary dumpsites where refuse are often evacuated by the FCT waste management authorities to a central refuse dump.
Sadly this is not so today as residents in various parts of the FCT, particularly in satellite towns are disposing waste themselves indiscriminately causing environmental pollution with a serious threat to public health. Worse of all is the indifference of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
Just recently, LEADERSHIP Weekend spotted a very strange sight in one of the markets around Karu/Jikwoyi axis, just a few kilometres away from the city centre. A walk to this spot can only be best described as one among numerous ugly spots in the FCT.
A first time visitor to Jikwoyi phase II will have to contend with the offensive stench oozing out of the large heap of refuse indiscriminately dumped, which of course has formed a natural boundary between Jikwoyi market, the mini sports centre, shops and even a church and residential area. Inside this market overtaken by refuse, is a restaurant seated just about three metres away from the heap of waste.
This restaurant has customers happily relishing the ‘delicacies’ served in the restaurant taking no notice of the stench and flies swarming from the refuse dump into their food.
The Jikwoyi market dump site serves as the central refuse dump for the entire residents in this area, artisans and traders within. The dump site is undoubtedly one of the biggest in Abuja satellite towns.
Findings by LEADERSHIP Weekend show that the last time waste was evacuated from this particular dump site was in 2016, and since then traders in the market have been left to their fate. Residents and traders who spoke with our correspondent said that there might be cholera outbreak soon if something drastic was not done about the situation.
Worse is that, as the waste continue to pile up daily, some portion of the mini sports centre has been taken over by waste forcing footballers who train in the field to move their goal posts to another spot.
Isaac Osazuwa who plays football at the Phase II Market football pitch said it has never gotten this bad since he started training here.
‘’I have been training here since 2014 and as you can see our goal posts used to be positioned in this direction but we have to move them down here because part of the field has been affected. People come here at night to dump all sort of things,” he said.
‘’When our ball mistakenly goes in there, it gets stained with faeces and maggots, so we have to come down here and even at that, it is not safe playing in an environment like this.’
He called on relevant authorities to find a solution to what he described as life threatening situation.
‘’The situation is even better now compare to during the rainy season when every part of this place is wet and stench coming out of that place can choke someone,” said a resident who doesn’t want his name in print.
He also explained that the community is not helping matters, while authorities have failed to take up the responsibility of addressing the menace. He said the residents are also contending with flying nylon waste stained with human faeces blown by high wind.
Effort to reach the chairman of the market union was unsuccessful as he was not around to give reasons for this ugly sight. However, the former chairman, Mr Titus Lawrence, who was around said he could speak on his capacity haven been part of the process till December 2016 when the dump site was last evacuated.
‘’I can’t really recalled when we last saw waste management trucks here but I know it was in 2016 around December. The truth is that the community is not helping us at all and government on its part has not shown any serious commitment,” Lawrence said.
‘’Issues that has to do with public health must as a matter of fact be taken very serious because we are talking about human lives here.”
Mr Lawrence informed that National Environmental Standard and Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA), has this year alone visited the market up to three times. He regretted that despite these visits and meetings with the community, no action had been taken so far.
‘’This morning alone I have collected nylon bags and burnt them. This has become daily routine for us all in the market. The harmattan has not even started and you can see how all these are littered all over because we can’t control them. They really have to do something about it not only for the environment to be conducive for business but for the sake of our health.”
On his part, Mr Sunny Eneke, an artisan who initially declined speaking with this reporter, said they had long given up because all efforts to compel relevant authorities to salvage the situation had fell on deaf hears.
‘’I don’t know why things like this can be happening in the FCT. We are not happy with this. We pay our little annual land rent and I don’t know why they can’t talk to the government to do something about it’’, said another trader, Eze Samson who was the first person willing to speak as others were scared to talk for fear of being identified by some persons.
While AMAC has been partly blamed for this, there is however the environmental regulatory agency, the National Environmental Standard Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) who has the statutory obligation and responsibility for waste management in the country.
This agency has the responsibility of regulating the collection, disposal and treatment of waste. NESREA Act, 2007, gives it power to impose sanctions on those who fail to comply with the correct methods of waste procedures and practices.
Effort to reach authorities at NESREA Headquarters, Abuja, by this reporter through its Head of Media, Mr Oyofo, was not successful as he did not respond to several calls put across and also a text message.
When contacted by LEADERSHIP Weekend, the Supervisory Councilor, Environment, AMAC, Hon Usman said it is unfair for anyone to say it is over two years since the dump was last evacuated. He however explained that AMAC has never relented in ensuring timely waste evacuation, though there have been financial challenges.
“We came in at about June 2016 and I recalled that we have been there. If someone say it’s up to two years, then no one would be able to live around there,” he said.
“I know Jikwoyi very well to be densely populated and as you evacuate, the next day it is piling up again”, explained Hon Usman.
He explained that AMAC is very large and the challenge has always been funds for waste management, though the council has been doing what it could do even as there are other sister bodies like environmental protection board who also has the responsibility to keep the city clean.
He however assured that plans are already on to clear up the waste.
“As we speak, there is a proposal on the chairman’s table on that and by next week I will update on the progress we have made”, he assured.
Dr Martins Obiagele, an environmental Health Physician said the extent to which environmental pollution emanating from the refuse dump has been really ‘underestimated’.
She said ideally, it is not even advisable in the first place to cite a waste dump around residential areas. ‘’I think there are guidelines provided by bodies like NESREA which limit the proximity between residents and such sites,” Obiagele said.
‘’The effects of living close to polluted environment are numerous and one of them is the risk of birth defects from pregnant women. There have also been reported cases of cholera outbreak in this area. Unfortunately nobody has traced the cause to this public shame in the city centre.”
She said living in such environment could expose residents to chemicals that can reduce the immune system leading to an increased risk of infections. “Children living near waste disposal sites also have increased risk of asthma,” Obiagele said.
Dr Obiagele advised that it may be worthwhile to avoid living near waste dump sites, if there is a choice. ‘’If you don’t, try to stay more than two miles away, as the health effects of living close to dump sites is very high,” she advised.
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