Heaps of refuse have taken over the capital city of Ondo State, Akure, with little or no effort to evacuate them. Hakeem Gbadamosi writes on the situation which poses a major health risk to residents.
Akure, the capital city of the ‘sunshine’ state, Ondo, was once adjudged one of the cleanest cities in Nigeria. That seems to be history as heaps of waste have taken over the streets, undermining the state government’s efforts to keep the state capital clean.
Nigerian Tribune visited the major areas of Akure, which include, Oja Oba, Arakale, Oba Adesida Road, Oyemekun Road, Araromi/Stadium Junction, Lafe, Osupa Road, NEPA, Isikan, Leo Junction, among other places, and observed piles of refuse occupying the road. The refuse that had been left unattended gave off a disconcerting odour.
Food vendors were seen moving around in the streets, selling food to customers even at a close distance from these heaps of refuse.
It will be recalled that as part of its effort to achieve a cleaner environment, the Ondo State government in February 2018 entered into a collaboration with a private waste management company, ZL Global, as part of its effort to rid the state of waste and improve the living conditions and well-being of the people.
The state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, said the initiative conforms with his administration’s commitment to keeping the state clean, green and healthy. He promised to give the company all the necessary support.
Residents have expressed concern over the decomposing refuse that could result in an epidemic in the state. Expressing displeasure and anger over the heaps of refuse, residents in the capital city noted that the situation was not peculiar to the markets and parks alone, but said those responsible for the clearing of refuse within residential areas have also abandoned their duties.
Nigerian Tribune’s visit to some areas in the city confirmed the people’s frustration over the indiscriminate dumping of refuse around the state capital, especially at major roadsides, markets and parks. Some of the residents who spoke with our Nigerian Tribune said that the refuse could be left unattended for between two weeks to a month or more.
A food seller, Lydia Adebayo, who sells food at Stadium Junction, said she has decided to look for a better place to sell her food because the junction had been turned to a dumping site, while the waste-pickers hardly come on time to pick up the waste.
She said “The display of refuse at the entrance of the street had driven many of my customers away, they complained that the food cannot be shielded away from germ-infested surroundings”
At Oja Oba market, Chinedu Patrick, who sells clothes, said “most marketers at the roadside are now competing for space with the refuse, saying the refuse keeps increasing on a daily basis with no one to clear it.” According to him, the waste-pickers used to come on a daily basis before but said they might not come for weeks now while the refuse keeps piling up.
A roadside vulcanizer at National Bank Junction, James Ishola, explained that the neglect of the refuse has become a major challenge in Akure. He said the refuse keeps piling up. “People dump their refuse here overnight. It was not like this in the past because every morning, the officials of Ondo State Waste Management Authority used to come here. But it has become a thing of the past”
One of the market leaders in NEPA area of Akure who identified herself as Iretiola Oluwatuyi, said the market has complained to government officials over the attitude of the officials responsible for the clearing of the refuse but has yielded no positive result.
She said, “We usually drive people away from dumping refuse here in front of our stalls, but before we arrive in the morning, the whole place is littered with refuse. The awful and offensive odour is so bad and we are forced to close the doors of our stalls most of the time because it is not safe for their health.
“We need to charge those in the Ministry of Environment to sit up, and show real efforts in the issue of waste management. Environmental degradation in our capital city is too glaring and becoming embarrassing to us as citizens and residents of the sunshine state.”
The situation is not different in Shagari Estate, as residents have complained that the officials of the Ondo State Waste Management Authority or the private company engaged by the state government have stopped coming to the estate for months.
One of the residents, Mrs Atoke Ayobamiwale, said, “I moved into this area in August last year and I saw the card used by the last tenant for the clearing of the refuse. But I’ve never set my eyes on the refuse pickers or their officials for the collection of the monthly bill.”
Nigerian Tribune spoke with an official of the private waste management company in the state, ZL Global, who spoke on condition of anonymity and said, “We had to withdraw our services because of the situation across the country over the new naira notes and the fuel scarcity. There was agitation and people are angry and we don’t want to incur the wrath of the people because of the bottled-up anger in the land.
“The allegation that the refuse was not evacuated is not only false but unfounded. We move around on a daily basis to evacuate this refuse. Though the residents have not been complying with our directives to stop dumping refuse by the roadside we still come around to pick up this refuse.”
He, however, said the company was not responsible for the picking up of refuse in the residential areas and could not explain what was responsible for the absence of the officials in charge.
A medical practitioner, Dr Elizabeth Apalowo, warned against indiscriminate dumping of refuse and its impact on public health, saying breeding dumpsites within markets and parks can cause serious public health problems.
According to her, indiscriminate dumping of refuse around residences, markets, motor parks, roadsides, and other public places poses not only a public health risk of epidemics like cholera but also diminishes the economic and environmental value of the state.
She said “the heaps of refuse around the city are a breeding site for many organisms, such as bacteria. People living close to this refuse can contact and suffer from a lot of illnesses such as malaria, cholera, and diarrhoea.”
She, however, called on the state government to engage more companies in clearing of refuse in the state before it leads to another round of epidemic in a country battling with the effects of coronavirus.
The State Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Sunday Akinwalere, while reacting, said the state government has set up a committee to look into the waste management system in the state and said the committee will submit its report before the end of the month, assuring that it would be a complete re-engineering of the system.
He attributed the delays in picking up refuse to the scarcity and high price of petrol and diesel for powering the vehicles, but said it will soon be a thing of the past. He said despite the challenges, the refuse is being evacuated on a daily basis, saying there has been prompt evacuation within the Akure metropolis.
Akinwalere said, “For now, we have to agree that there are issues on ground. Mr Governor has taken the bull by the horn by setting up a committee to look into the waste management system of Ondo State. This committee will be rounding up its activities this month.
“You will agree with me that the price of petrol and diesel especially has gone up. While we had that plan for the year, diesel was N200 per litre but just before the end of the first quarter of the year, the price has skyrocketed to about N800 or N900.”
Speaking on the absence of the private waste management company in picking the refuse, the Environment Commissioner said, “It’s true we have contractors helping us around to handle waste management, that’s the ZL Global. The company is doing its best but for now. The ignoble policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria added to the problem we are facing now.”
He added that “It is not only the contractor that is handling the waste. We have other PSPs. Ours is to take care of public waste and we are doing something about it. In totality, it’s a complete re-engineering of the system as a whole.”
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