By Vincent Ujumadu
NO fewer than 50 persons were prosecuted at the weekend, for contravening sanitation laws in various parts of Anambra state. Of the number, 20 were prosecuted in Nnewi, 18 in Awka and 10 in Onitsha.
With the assistance of members of the Anambra State Traffic Agency (ASTA), the offenders were arraigned before the Anambra State Environmental Protection Agency (ANSEPA) magistrate courts sitting in the three cities while the sanitation exercise lasted.
Those who were found guilty paid fines ranging from N500 â€“ N5000, while those who were unable to pay immediately were detained until they made contacts with their relations, who came and paid for them. Most of the people who appeared in court however, said that they were not aware that the sanitation exercise fell on the last Saturday of the month, while others said they were merely passing through Anambra from other states and were therefore unaware of the existence of the law.
A state counsel and legal adviser in the office of the Ministry of Special Duties and Transport, which supervises the sanitation exercise, Mrs. Ngozi Iwono said in an interview that her ministry had applied for more magistrates that would sit in other areas in view of the large number of sanitation offenders.
According to her, another reason for applying for more magistrates is to reduce the distance from the point of arrest and the courts to enable the presiding magistrates handle as many cases as possible during the period.
Vanguard observed that even when the courts were properly constituted, it took several hours for the offenders to be arraigned because of the distance.
On the sanitation proper, it was also observed that while the inhabitants of the commercial town of Onitsha observed it strictly, those in Awka and other local government areas went about their normal businesses, making officials of the Ministry of Special Duties to chase them around.
Some communities however, blocked the entrance to their areas and forced residents to participate in the exercise, while those who failed to participate were fined.
Commissioner for Special Duties and Transport, Mr. Emeka Ojukwu Jnr, had said in an interview that with the awareness created so far on the monthly exercise, those who contravene the law will be prosecuted.