By Hugo Odiogor & Laide Akinboade

Vestiges of poverty, feeding from the waste dump

ABUJA-The Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, a few years ago is not a place to easily sight refuse dumps by the road side due to its nature as a preferred destination for meetings, world conferences, business and political events that attract people from within and outside Nigeria, but in the last few years things have changed.

But there are several of the dumpsites in the hinterlands; this reporter sited a refuse dump close to Ministry of Environment the last time she visited there. The Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), seem to be sleeping in doing their jobs.

Recently, the Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey said the Federal Government spent N215m on waste management, in Anambra State.

According to the Minister, “We have already done all our preliminary estimates in Anambra State and generally in South-East zone this was done in collaboration with you. And what is left is for us to commence implementation and funds allocation.”

If the Federal Government is spending so much in Anambra State, why ar they neglecting Abuja, these days in Abuja you see used pure water sachets, debris on the road.

The Minister who assured Nigerians some months back about the establishment of plastic recycling plants this year as a means of providing a clean and green environment.

But the plant is yet to fully take off, if this plant take off it would provide jobs for Nigerian Youths and also ensure a clean environment in Abuja.

However, with its aesthetic appeals, architectural design and serenity there are what can best be described as the ugly sides of the nation capital. One of such ugly sides of Abuja is the Gosa dump site which serves as the central refuse dump for all the household and industrial waste in the capital city. Tuck in a remote Gosa village, the dump site is undoubtedly the biggest in the city.

The 90 hectares of land dumpsite located within the Abuja Municipal Area Council in Abuja is relatively unknown to most residents of Abuja for several reasons, yet each and every resident make daily contribution to its huge and filthy status that has even been described as unbefitting of a Federal Capital Territory.

Located in a far away bush off Jabi road in Idu Industrial Layout about 30kilometers off the express road, the deplorable and bumpy road that leads to the site is first a head ache to a first time visitor.

Nevertheless, the long abandoned site is a village where a lot of activities away from the preying eyes of the public are taking place. Given the nature of waste that are dumped there daily by compact trucks that collect waste from the heart of the city, the site attracts businessmen looking for used plastics, cans, metals

of all type and other items that can be recycled for several purposes.

While bringing in their trucks to load items that can be recycled, they are always assisted by willing men whose work is purely to work daily on sorting out the waste into categories of plastics, metals, bottles and even rubbers. They are paid for the sorting out and for loading the trucks. That is their daily ritual on the site and of course means of livelihood.

Though this is not unconnected with the present unemployment problem facing the country in which millions of able bodied men and women are willing to take to all kinds of menial jobs to keep body and soul together.

This explains why the likes of Ahmad Sanni and Babale Abdukarim Adamu left their respective homes in Kano with wives and children to be sorting out those waste items as well as help to load them into trucks that they claimed used to take the items to a plastic factory in Kano for recycling to produce plastic products.

For the two of them in the pack of other men who have made the dump site despite the presence of various species of flies that roam the space freely, their efforts are rewarded monthly with a paltry sum of N6000 or less depending on how they are able to fill the trucks. But they do the job and collect their remuneration with some sort of satisfaction and self fulfillment; at least they are not nuisance to the country. They seem to have contention.

Sanni who told our reporter that he is married with six children who are in Kano with their mother revealed that the search for means of livelihood drove him fromKano to Abuja to be living in the midst of waste.

In a day, he said he makes between N500 and N600 depending on his strength.

On whether he and his colleagues were aware of the inherent dangers in living in such a filthy environment, he told our correspondent that he would have loved to be engaged in a more decent job than that but that there was no one at the moment. It is there; against all odds that they eke out living in the midst of domestic, industrial, hospital and chemical waste.

Pointing to a shanty where he claims he lives, Sanni said “look, this is where I dey live, make the FCT Minister help us, we dey try and we dey suffer here”. As far as they are concerned all they need in the waste village is electricity supply as there electric poles already erected to the place.

Asked about how often he visits his family in Kano , Sanni said he travels home every two weeks to see the family. Apparently, they take solace in living in the shanties with all kinds of offensive odour, crawling and walking animals like snakes and dogs that are also living their lives undisturbed.

When our reporters took a walk round the site, there were many items that have been neatly sorted out separately by the workers there while there were trucks also being loaded. What was gathered from them is that as much as five trucks visit the sites daily and never leave until they are fully loaded with required items which are of course never in short supply at the site.

Parts of the items being sorted out are used insecticide cans, bottles, old motor tires, and plastics of all kinds, metals and rubber materials and a host of others.

Attempts made to talk to one of those supervising the loading of items into the waiting trucks failed as he declined comments on the ground that he does not speak English language but Hausa. Rather, he directed our reporter to those loading to talk.

It would be recalled that the site was visited about two years ago by members of Senate Committee on Environment led by their Chairman , Senator Folashade Grace Bent in the company of Senator Ume Ufot Ekaette and the Director of Abuja Environmental Protection Board, Engr Abubakar Yabo when she, lamented the state of the dumpsite which she described as an eyesore to the nation’s capital.

Out of furry, Senator Bent said that the three Ministers that were then directly responsible for the site should appear before the Senate Committee to offer explanation on why the site has been in its present state.

The affected Ministers were FCT, Senator Adamu Aliero, Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Oshotimehin, and Minister of Environment, John Odey who are to appear before the committee the following day but it was gathered that the Ministers never appeared before any committee at the National Assembly.

“I’m very depressed. I’m extremely sad with what I’m seeing here with my colleagues, it’s an eyesore that does not befit any human being in any city no matter how uncivilised the city might be but this is what we are confronted with. I don’t understand it. I’m amazed and extremely disappointed that this kind of thing is in a federal seat of government. Honestly it is disheartening I must confess I’m not happy with it.” She said She insisted that it was unimaginable that a site like that was in Abuja noting that it was a worrisome development saying every kind of waste is being disposed here; hospital waste, industrial waste, chemical waste and the unfortunate thing for the residents of Abuja is the chemical waste it releases to the water table,

which is a very dangerous chemical which is capable of eliminating everybody if taken in” “You could see that scavengers have taken over the place, you could see their huts they have already improvised little homes for themselves and their families.

Now they claim they are taking the sorted waste to Kano we don’t know what they are going to do with them. They have been able to sort out plastics, can rubber and metals. These are the sort of things that could be recycled and used in other areas to promote our industrial development but we don’t know what these local people are going to do with it”. She added However, the AEPB Director disclosed that the FCT administration would need between N16billion to N18 billion to be able to put the dump site in good stead, adding that the Board approached the Senate Committee on Environment in order to assist in including the project in the 2010 budget.

Dr. Yabo disclosed that for the refuse in Capital City to be evacuated and treated successfully more than N16 billion was needed to provide logistics and construct the proposed land-dump projects.

Efforts to reach the Director of AEPB to comment on the present state of the site proved abortive as he was said to be out of the country. But the Public Relations Officer of AEPB, Musa Samuel told our reporter that the proposed waste management plant is still on course noting that the projects is being delayed however by due process it has to pass through.

He said that the road to the site is being put in good condition to ease movement of the waste trucks. But the site still remains what it is and business of sorting and loading of recycle-able materials thrives there daily.


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