BY CHIDI NKWOPARA.
During the Second Republic, when visionary Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe was Governor of Imo State, he set up a beautiful refuse disposal strategy. Until he was sacked by political adventurists in military garb, Imo remained a reference point on how to keep the environment clean.
Subsequent civilian administrations, except the Ikedi Ohakim government, merely scratched the huge problem at the periphery. Ohakim tagged his serious pursuit of environmental cleanliness, “Clean and Green Initiative”. He pursued this programme as if his entire life depended on it. Again, through an Act of Parliament, Ohakim established the Environmental Transformation Commission, ENTRACO. Chief Willy Amadi headed and did a good job on the assignment.
All cities in the state became very clean and Ohakim’s administration received several accolades for this singular feat. People openly told whoever cared that if Ohakim had faults in other areas of governance, nobody could fault him in environmental cleanliness.
This achievement has become history since the downturn of events in the 2011 gubernatorial election in the state, which hoisted Chief Rochas Okorocha. The personnel, including the female street sweepers hired by the Ohakim administration, were fired! A new crop of incompetent people were charged to take care of the environment. The monthly clean-up exercise was inexplicably stopped by Okorocha. So, for nearly four years, government has not ordered any clean-up of the environment.
What has been happening is that each time the environment gets messy, Owerri youths order their tenants to close shop and clean the environment. In a bid to show their anger about the poor sanitary condition of the municipality, they drop the rubbish on the roads. This blocks free flow of vehicular traffic. In all cases, the refuse would remain there for days and weeks before it was evacuated.
Today, Owerri, Imo State capital and some of the adjoining communities now stink, following the inability or refusal of the government’s waste management agency to clean the environment.
Saturday Vanguard who went round the city yesterday, observed that as at the time of filing this report, heaps of refuse had taken over Mbaise Road, Douglas Road, Chukwuma Nwaoha Road, Aladinma Housing Estate, the municipal markets and many other streets within the municipality.
The story was also the same in World Bank Housing Estate, Akwakuma, Amakohia, Egbu, Naze, Nekede and some other adjoining communities.
It was also observed that faced with this ugly scenario some ENTRACO workers resorted to burning the mountains of refuse instead of carting the smelly heaps away. The resultant pollution chokes residents
Some motor spare parts dealers along Mbaise Road, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard on the issue, lamented that they have been forced to live with the decomposing refuse for more two weeks.
“Officials of ENTRACO have refused to do anything about the refuse for over two weeks. The stench oozing out from the refuse has impaired our health but nobody seems to care”, one of the traders who simply identified himself as Emeka said.
When Saturday Vanguard visited Afor Egbu Market area, it was noticed that aggrieved villagers had resorted to self help in their bid to save themselves from possible epidemic. Their effort has not achieved the desired aim as people still dump their wastes at the site.
“We decided to buy some corrugated iron sheets to cover the dump site. This will prevent people from dumping refuse in the place, especially now that ENTRACO has refused to clear the refuse”, Mr. Njoku said.
He recalled that, “each time it rained, flood usually moved the wastes into people’s living rooms”.
A columnist in one of the local tabloid, Immaculate Amadi, described the situation in Owerri as “Dining and wining on refuse”.
He said: “A trip round Owerri metropolis would assault one’s eyesight with heaps of refuse dotted everywhere as if refuse is an item of beauty. The government of the day should not give the impression that the dirty profile of the state is the nature of the pilots of this administration. No amount of money spent genuinely on clearing the capital city is a waste when compared to its attendant benefits. Policies of the previous administration should not be sacrificed on the altar of political hatred”.
Reacting to the growing filthy situation of the major cities in the state, a medical practitioner, Dr. Goderick Anosike, warned that it was capable of igniting epidemic of unimaginable proportion.
“A dirty environment can breed all manner of sicknesses. Those who said that cleanliness is next to Godliness were not mistaken. Those who maintain that health is wealth are equally correct. A clean environment will save the citizenry from a lot of medical distress”, Anosike said.
The fiery medical practitioner further warned that “except the government and people of Imo State take the issue of environmental cleanliness seriously, we would be courting epidemic in grand style”.
Efforts made to reach the General Manager of ENTRACO failed as he was severally said to be out of the office “on official assignments”.