By Peter Okutu, Abakaliki
RESIDENTS of Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, presently have every cause to be alarmed. This is because many parts of the metropolis have been taken over by refuse, prompting many to express fear that the situation may soon lead to an epidemic outbreak if urgent steps are not taken by the State Ministry of Environment to address it. Indeed heaps of refuse have become common sights along majors roads, streets and at bus stops within the state capital. This has been attributed to the indiscriminate dumping of waste by some residents without regard to environmental regulations.
Some places where refuse are commonly seen within Abakaliki metropolis include Ogbaga Road around new Kpirikpiri Market, St. Patrick Road Kpirikpiri, Goddy Ogbaga Avenue, Convent Road, opposite Enugu Electricity Distribution Company close to Awolowo Street, inside internal roads within the state capital, among others.
Disgusted by the development, some irate citizens have turned on the Governor Martin Elechi-led administration, criticising it, especially for sacking the pioneer Commissioner of Environment, Dr. Paul Okorie who, they claimed, worked tirelessly to ensure a sustained and healthy environment for the state.
They are putting the blame squarely on the doorstep of the present leadership of the state Ministry of Environment, arguing that the contrary was the case when Dr Okorie held sway and had an effective waste disposal management system in place.
Vanguard Metro, VM, learnt that he was removed from office by some powers that be, in order to reduce his popularity in case he chooses to run for an elective position in 2015. The argument of those who share this sentiment is that the intrigue behind his removal was for the interest of a few political class who did not consider the interest of the general populace in the state as no other Commissioner so appointed into the State Ministry of Environment has been able to better the records set by Dr. Okorie in the area of waste management and disposal.
To make the present situation even more alarming is the common resort to burning of wastes in most residential area, a hazardous health practice said to be perpetrated by those suspected to be staff of the State Ministry of Environment. Indeed, many health practitioners in the State have condemned the practice in its entirety, especially given the accompanying suffocating stench and smoke.
A resident, Mr. John Eluu, who spoke to VM, expressed dismay over the development as he stated thus: “My brother, the situation is disheartening. We find refuse almost everywhere within the State capital. To be frank, the State Ministry of Environment do not have any waste disposal management skill to tackle this problem. What is happening now is unprecedented. Government needs to act fast so that our environment will look healthy again”.
Another resident, Mrs. Gloria Aniamaka, wants the indiscriminate burning of waste within the State capital to stop as it easily exposes people to diseases.
Speaking with VM, the State Commissioner for Environment, David Egbu, stated that modalities have been put in place to ensure that the state capital was free of refuse and any other environmental hazards. He debunked the insinuation that the Ministry was redundant.
According to him, the Ministry of Environment will not fold its arm and allow indiscriminate dumping of refuse within the State capital, Abakaliki. “We are not relenting over the situation. The state Ministry has mobilized the necessary machinery to ensure that the state capital remained clean and habitable for all,” he assured.