By Wole Mosadomi, Minna
One of the first major steps taken by the administration of Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu when he took over the mantle of leadership of Niger State in 2007 was the clearing of heaps of refuse that have taken over most of the major streets of the towns and cities.
As a follow up, the Chief-Servant, as the Governor is fondly called, launched what was tagged, “Operation Green and Clean- A Must”, at the main entrance of the then Central Market which is also located at the centre of Minna, the state capital(Mobil roundabout).
In may 2010, the Governor reminded people of the state of their responsibilities not only to clean their surroundings but also by planting trees and flowers to beautify their environments. All the commissioners, heads of parastatals and politicians were also assigned duty posts for routine inspections on the day of the launching as further steps to keep Minna clean.
Also, the last Saturday of every month was re-introduced as the environmental sanitation day as another step to involve residents of Minna in keeping the state capital clean. But all these moves have failed as Minna and indeed major cities in the state, are still battling to keep the state capital very clean.
Though the state Environmental Protection Agency, NISEPA, has not relented in its responsibility of keeping the major streets very clean by engaging manual sweepers, the people of the town are yet to depart from their old dirty habit of dumping refuse on the main roads even as the sweepers continue to sweep.
Reacting to this development during an interview, the General Manger of NISEPA, Dr. Yakubu Mohammed Bello, declared that he is not satisfied with the general sanitation in the state but added that steps have already been taken to deal with the situation.
“I am not satisfied with the attitude of the people towards sanitation. In fact, my idea of sanitation is not just sweeping or evacuating the waste. Sanitation to me starts with an individual observing personal hygiene which includes keeping yourself, your bedroom, toilet, sitting room and surroundings very clean on a daily basis,” the GM explained.
Dr. Bello, however, disclosed that the Agency has raised an enforcement department-Environmental Health Department- with a mobile court which is empowered to go out daily to carry out the enforcement of sanitation laws and also arrest and prosecute defaulters.
According to him: “Things are changing. It is going to be gradual. As I speak with you, we have a proposal before the Chief-Servant on tanker sweepers. If it is approved, it will make it easier for these imported tankers to clean the major roads and thereby allowing the manual sweepers to be deployed to the inner streets for sweeping”.
DRAINAGE:-Minna has one of the best drainage channels constructed by Julius Berger during the Babangida regime and it runs across major streets of the town, thereby making the free flow of stagnated water and flood during heavy downpour.
It is, however, unfortunate that the drainage channels have been turned into refuse dumping sites. It is an eye sore, especially during the dry season as they are always almost filled to the brim with refuse waiting for the raining season to be washed away.
This end up blocking the free flow of water and thereby causing flooding and also as a threat to the health of those living close to such drainage areas even though they are also culprits in the indiscriminate dumping of dirts there. Worse still is that houses are built either very close to the drainage channels. Surprisingly more of such structures have been erected to join those there which have already been marked for demolition.
The General Manger, said the Agency is aware of the development as he decried the attitude of people towards the misuse of the drainage channels.
“We are sensitizing the people on the dangers inherent in blocking the water ways. We also have a memo to clean the drainage before the commencement of the rains, and in fact, it is going to be almost a daily routine if approved. The attitude of the people on this issue will still come to play because they abuse the drainage channels, especially during rainfall as they dump heaps of refuse in them which is very dangerous,” he explained.
The Agency received about N17million monthly to keep Minna, the state capital, clean. N10 million is from the Chanchaga Local Government Council which has its headquarters in the state capital, while the state government also doles out almost N7 million monthly for the same purpose. Though not sufficient to keep the work going, the General Manager said every household will also be involved towards contributing to the cleanliness of the town.
In order to keep everybody on his/her toes, a committee will soon be inaugurated to identify and handsomely reward the cleanest Ministry and parastatals in the state. This is in an effort to get individuals, corporate organisations and others involved in keeping the state clean.
Dr. Bello assured that the next few months will transform Minna into one of the cleanest places to visit and restore its former glory as one of the cleanest state capitals in the country.
Other major cities like Suleja, Kontagora, Bida, among others, will also be transformed as work has also commenced on the gradual evacuation of heaps of refuse, especially along the highways. But it is not Uhuru yet as Minna has been listed by the meteorological agency as one of the cities that will experience not only heavy down pour this year but may also experience serious flooding.