Barely two weeks after Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike sacked refuse contractors saddled with the responsibility of evacuating refuse in both Port Harcourt City and Obio Akpor Local Government Area of the state, the beautiful landscape of Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor has been taken over by heaps of refuse dotting the median of the road and every available space. Daily Trust Saturday takes a look at the situation.
From the ever-busy Port Harcourt-Aba Road, to old Port Harcourt township, D-Line, Ikokwu, Ikwerre Road, Rumola, Waterlines, Artillery, Trans Amadi, Diobu, Forces Avenue, Rumuokoro, Rumuokwuta, Location bus stop, Mile 3 and Mile 4, Mgboba, NTA Road, Ada George Road, Rumuelumeini parts of Port Harcourt, heaps of refuse with very offensive odour have replaced the once beautiful landscapes and sceneries, leaving residents at the mercy of a possible epidemic outbreak.
Governor Nyesom Wike had on 28th of April 2022, announced the termination of its contract with all private waste contractors.
The waste management contractors were coordinated by the State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) under the headship of Felix Obuah, the immediate past chairman of the Rivers State chapter of PDP.
The decision to terminate their contract with the Rivers State Management Agency (RIWAMA), according to a press statement issued by Governor Nyesom Wike’s Special Assistant on Media, Kevin Ebiri, stems from their inability to fulfill the contractual obligation to ensure cleaner and healthier environment for Rivers citizens.
The state government spent over N500m every month in paying contractors for the evacuation of refuse in both Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor local government areas.
After the termination of the appointment, the Rivers State government directed the chairmen of Port Harcourt City and Obio-Akpor to immediately take charge of the evacuation of waste in their respective jurisdictions, pending the announcement of new waste contractors by the governor.
The statement added that in line with its commitment to ensure a more hygienic environment, “the Rivers State Government has hereby assured residents and indigenes of the state of its resolve to tackle the waste problems in the state in a comprehensive manner.”
Before the termination of the contract, the streets of Port Harcourt were littered with heaps of refuse which were dumped indiscriminately in all nooks and crannies.
The chairman of Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA), Felix Obuah, had earlier in a press statement signed by his Media Aide, Jerry Needam, explained that its dumpsites broke down following a sudden downpour which was said to have affected some of the agency’s equipment.
The agency had assured that efforts are being made to put the affected dumpsites back to use, so as to commence full utilization of the affected equipment.
The Agency had appealed to residents in Port Harcourt and environs to bear with the agency as everything humanly possible is being done to ensure that the dumpsites are put back to use without delay and the wastes evacuated.
The agency further called on residents in the affected areas to observe sanitary decorum and not to take undue advantage of the situation to dump their refuse indiscriminately. But less than 48 hours the statement was issued, Governor Wike sacked all the refuse contractors.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike had in the past kept the chairman of RIWAMA on his toes over the poor sanitary condition of Port Harcourt and its environs. The governor had frowned at the indiscriminate ways of dumping refuse in major streets of Port Harcourt despite hundreds of millions of naira paid monthly to refuse contractors.
Our reporter learnt that the poor services rendered by the refuse contractors was as a result of their incompetence in waste management. The refuse evacuation contract, it was alleged, was given out on political patronage.
Port Harcourt known as ‘Garden City’ drew its sobriquet from its beautiful, greenery landscape and serene environment.
Port Harcourt is one of the well-planned cities by the colonial masters who used the city as an administrative headquarters. The beauty and serene environment are some of the things that attract visitors and tourists alike.
The environmental hazard the heaps of refuse that dot major streets of Port Harcourt constitutes to residents have become worrisome, just as the it has continued to generate negative comments among residents.
Meanwhile, the two local government areas of Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor do not have the capacity and financial muscle to take refuse out of the streets.
Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, a chieftain of the opposition APC in Rivers State has called on Governor Wike to concentrate on evacuating what he described as the humongous waste that now adorn major highways and streets in Port Harcourt saying that the once Garden City and pride of Nigeria has turned to ‘Garbage City’.
Eze feared that residents of Port Harcourt may be endangered given the horrible environmental situation in the city which he said calls for serious health emergency.
Decrying the repugnant scenes around Port Harcourt and environs, Eze said the mountainous heap of dirt and pollutants have fouled the air and defaced the once clean and serene city.
“The city once prided for her serenity and greenery has been reduced to a ground for waste disposal,” Eze lamented.
An environmental expert, Michael Williams, says the poor state of sanitation in the state can expose residents to an epidemic outbreak.
“The present state of sanitation in Port Harcourt right now is very bad. The way refuse is littered in every nook and cranny of the state can cause an epidemic outbreak. It’s an eyesore that Port Harcourt that pride itself as the Garden City is wearing this dirty look. The refuse dumped indiscriminately emits very offensive odour. The chairmen of Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor local government areas, whom the governor directed to take over the evacuation of the refuse, do not have the capacity to do that. Waste management involves lots of money and resources,” he said.
The president of South South Youths Initiative, Saviour Imeabe, said the dirty state of Port Harcourt has proven that the state has turned into a garbage city under Wike’s administration, describing it as regrettable and condemnable.
“This is a government that promised the people good healthcare, but today the same people are allowed to live in dirt. What this means is that very soon, we may start getting reports of people coming down with different kinds of ailments and diseases. How can a particular government do well on administration when those involved in piloting its affairs are only interested in politics rather than governance?
“The governor who should concentrate on delivering good leadership to the state is seen moving from state to state seeking delegates to satisfy his presidential ambition while his state is abandoned in rot and dirt.
“The Sole Administrator appointed to manage refuge in the state is also pushing for governorship ambition. Although, we hear rumours that he has been sacked from office. But, are all of these supposed to be coming up now that the oil rich state is meant to be getting quality leadership? We also hear that all the contractors engaged by the sacked Sole Administrator have been disengaged, this is disheartening.”
The Executive Director of the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC), a nongovernmental organization in Rivers State, Fyneface Dumnamene, also expressed worry over the filthy state of Port Harcourt.
Fyneface said the massive wastes and environmental pollution on major roads and streets in the city if not evacuated and the city fumigated immediately, coupled with the soot that enveloped Port Harcourt and its environs, there is the possibility of outbreak of diseases with devastating impacts on the vulnerable people like women and children.
He said “We wonder why Governor Wike does not give attention to environmental issues in Rivers State. It is now over two years since he sacked the Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Igbiks Tamuno, the Health Commissioner was also sacked without replacement. The governor last week sacked the Waste Disposal Contractors that were employed by Felix Obuah of RIWAMA.”
The centre called on the state government to immediately engage new contractors to evacuate the wastes and fumigate the city to avoid epidemic outbreak while also calling on residents to bag their wastes. They also implored oil companies including the NDDC to support efforts to keep Rivers State clean, especially now that the waste generated in the city has overwhelmed both the state government and RIWAMA.