By Dennis Agbo
ENUGU- The Enugu Maximum Security Prison, built in 1915 for 638 inmates, now houses 1,800 inmates.
The overcrowding has however, overstretched facilities in the prisons most of which had not been improved upon or maintained since their establishment over 102 years ago, thus compounding the problems for the inmates and warders. However, the poor maintenance of old facilities is threatening the entire residents of Enugu metropolis as overflowing faeces emanating from broken sewage pipes are posing serious health hazards to the residents.
Stench odour oozing out from some of the faeces has spread to the whole Ogbete Central Market as well as the private and public motor parks causing traders in food items like vegetables, pepper and other ingredients to abandon their sheds as buyers are no longer patronising them due to health hazards.
Apart from the traders who were mostly women, bank workers and their customers as well as warders and security personnel guarding the prisons and residents of the adjoining Central Police Station, Enugu and Enugu North local government workers are also said to be literally in hell, due to the stench emanating from the overflowing faeces.
When South East Voice visited the area it was observed that the appalling situation was as a result of the sewage which overflew from the prison yard through the open gutters at Okpara Avenue to the market through Akwata.
At the prison yard, the sewage there was also overflowing, through the open gutters into the Ogbete market where traders especially those dealing on food items at railway lines and the main market sold their wares.
The stench odour oozed through the entire environment and some affected traders have closed shops as they can no longer contain the health hazards associated with the mess.
Some of the traders who spoke to South East Voice said they were around because they had no other place to go.
One of the food stuff traders who identified herself as Maria, said “we have complained so many times to the market union. They said they are talking with the prison authorities and the government that we should exercise patience. What do we do?”
Another yam seller said some of the locked up shops in the area were owned by those who could not cope and vacated their shops.
An official of the market union in charge of sanitation of Ogbete Market, who pleaded anonymity, described the situation as terrible.
He however, said they had been working to get both the prison and state government to do something about the ugly situation and urged the traders to bear with the market leadership as it strived to resolve the matter.
Senior prison officials declined comment on the issue, directing the South East Voice to their headquarters at Abuja, but investigations revealed that the problem had lingered for a long period of time despite the Enugu State government’s intervention to find solution to the problems.
It was learnt that the Enugu state government officials had visited the prison and set up a-seven man joint committee to resolve the embarrassing situation.
Members of the committee, it was learnt, included the state Comptroller of Prisons, the state commissioners for Environment, Chief Fidel Ayogu and Capital Territory, Chief Chidi Aroh among other members.
The two commissioners however failed to respond to enquiries on the matter.
It was learnt that the committee has not been very active due to the fact that the parties involved are state and federal government institutions which are supposed to cooperate with each other to resolve the impasse.
But, while the problems remain, the health hazard posed by the situation remains the greatest threat to both the traders, the prison yard inmates as well as other residents of Enugu metropolis.