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AEPB and the challenge of keeping Abuja clean

Others are the control of vector pests, rodents and reptiles; potable and waste water-effluent discharges, stray and wandering animals, public conveniences and cemeteries, among others.…

Others are the control of vector pests, rodents and reptiles; potable and waste water-effluent discharges, stray and wandering animals, public conveniences and cemeteries, among others.

But how far has the board gone in discharging this mandate? Mr Samuel Musa, the AEPB’s Public Relations Officer, says the board has done a lot to provide a clean and healthy environment.

According to him, the board is working toward increasing the benchmark for its cleaning contractors to enable them to function more effectively.

“We have also upgraded the mechanism for monitoring these contractors. Supervisors in our Waste Management Department have been mobilised to oversee the activities of the cleaning contractors.’’

He says that officers in the management cadre have been assigned to oversee the activities of all supervisors within the districts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Musa notes that the arrangement has greatly increased the efficiency of daily waste collection and disposal.

He says licensed contractors have been approved for estates within the FCT for effective refuse management in such areas.

In other areas, Musa says the board has also achieved a great level of success in curbing the activities of street hawkers and beggars. “Street hawking and begging have reduced tremendously, especially within the city centre. Our Task Force is on the prowl to arrest and prosecute offenders accordingly,’’ he says.

The spokesman explains that arrangements are on ground to provide stands for newspaper vendors to discourage them from hawking. “When this is done we do not expect to see anybody hawking newspapers on the streets,’’ he says.

In addition, Musa says the board’s mobile courts sit in all the districts of the FCT to enforce the payment of waste service bills. According to him, the board has intensified its efforts in the provision of waste bins at strategic locations within the capital city and also in its enlightenment campaign.

However, in spite of AEPB’s efforts as reeled out by Musa, there are many residents who believe the board has not worked as it should. Mrs Juliet Ofor, a resident, says the board’s attention is focused only on the city centre, with the territory’s satellite towns neglected.

According to her, the AEPB should realise that people coming into Abuja would have to pass through the satellite towns and would not appreciate or feel anything the board has done.

“The board should also make its impact felt in these satellite towns as `the first impression’ matters a lot,’’ she says.

Ofor equally notes that there is a need for the AEPB to do more work in the area of public enlightenment.

“It appears an average Nigerian is so used to littering; he prefers dropping his waste materials on the ground instead of using the waste bin.

“I believe, therefore, that without a good sensitization programme, wastes will keep adorning our streets in spite of the efforts of the board,’’ she adds.

However, some Abuja residents describe as “a step in the right direction’’ the Abuja City Waste Collection Programme, which the AEPB started on Jan. 1, 2009.

Mrs Rose Olatunji, a resident of Gudu, says: “This is the first time our refuse is being evacuated twice a week.

“They (the waste contractors) were here last week Friday and they visited us early this (Tuesday) morning again,’’ she says.

Another resident, Mr Michael Okoro, says the residents have been advised by the AEPB to keep their bins outside as early as 5 a.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.

In the Durumi area of Abuja, investigations show that the contractor in charge of the area undertakes house-to-house evacuation of refuse, and the residents say the contractor begins work early in the morning. “I hope they will keep up this spirit,’’ says one Grace Mfon, who lives in the area. The situation at Wuye district is not different as some residents confirm that the waste contractor has been evacuating waste promptly.

However, some residents want the AEPB to insist that wastes are sorted from the points of generation on the grounds that this will go a long way in easing the problem of waste management. But how can the ordinary citizen help out the AEPB in its task, especially with the growing challenges in that sector?

Mrs Omolola Olanipekun, the Head of the board’s Pollution Monitoring and Quality Control, says many people are ignorant of the hazards associated with emissions from electric power generators.

“Hardly can you find a place where generators are used without emissions, which is very dangerous to the health. But the problem is that people are ignorant of the hazards associated with it.

“This is why we need to take speedy action about it as a regulatory agency, and the city’s residents contribute their quota in this regard,’’ she says.

According to her, it is in line with the development that the board is considering MFE 303, a product believed to reduce emissions when attached to the fuel lines of generators.

“We realise that government’s action is not encouraging and the environment is being bastardised. That is why we are considering this alternative.

“We learnt that about 98 per cent emission was controlled from a 650 kVA generator when this device was used in developed countries.

“If we can have an environment that is free of such emissions, then we can boast of a sustainable environment and good health for our people,” she says.

Mr Olawale Ogunsakin, an environmental consultant, says that while environmental pollution is considered a major problem across the world at present, Nigerians still do not really understand and appreciate what the problem is.

“This is because we are generally not conscious of our environment and its demanding challenges,” he says.