After March 26 monthly sanitation, the streets of Kano have again witnessed what many had thought was a thing of the past. They were littered with dirt at a proportion quite alarming. This last happened in December, a few months into the take-off of the private firm now saddled with waste management in the city.
With Kano City the city generating several thousands of metric tonnes of waste on daily basis, the state government had entered into a Private Public Partnership with Capegate Investment Limited to handle its wastes. The firm had replaced the now-defunct government agency—Refuse Management and Sanitation Board (REMASAB).
But since the firm took over some 10 months ago, several hiccups have limited its plan of making Kano the cleanest city in the country as these hiccups have ensured the city occasionally moved to the top of the log of dirtiest cities in the country.
The recent development, similar to the last one, led to major gridlocks in the city while further increasing the risks of airborne and waterborne diseases in the city as waste took over most parts of the major streets.
Residents, business owners bemoan worsening situation
Many residents and business owners have continued to lament over the amount of waste dumped on main roads and some parts of their business premises. They lamented how the bad practice has affected their market, by preventing customers from accessing their shops.
A date seller at Galadima market, Shuaibu Habibu, said many of his customers could not find parking space to patronize him and that the bad odour from the waste is putting him at risk of contracting diseases.
Alhaji Mukhtar Usman, who owns a shop at Sabongari market, said they have been receiving complaints from their customers that the waste is affecting their movement within the market area, calling on the government to intervene and rescue the situation.
This setback had caused several residents to begin to question the rationale behind the handing over of the waste management of the city to a private firm.
“I don’t think this company can handle waste management in Kano. If government is serious about the well-being of its citizens, it should do all it can to manage the refuse well. The company is just doing some little work, not all,” Usman said.
But the state government insisted its confidence in the firm to revolutionise waste management in the city remains unruffled.
The state Commissioner of Environment, Dr. Kabir Getso, told Daily Trust Saturday that although the firm has had setbacks twice since it started, the government is still behind them because they constantly address the setbacks.
“I’m sure you can see Kano is becoming clean, all those places where there were huge waste piles are being evacuated. So, they are making a lot of efforts to ensure that Kano is very clean,” he said.
Major issues at the heart of setbacks
The Group Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Capegate, Bello Abba Yakasai, told Daily Trust that the firm remains committed to its goal of making Kano State not only one of the cleanest in the country but also to generate revenue from waste for the state.
He explained that the recent setback was as a result of three major factors. The first according to him is the recent hike in the price of diesel, which now sells for over N700 per litre from N200-300 per litre it was sold when the firm took over.
“There is no subsidy on that for us who are working for the welfare of the people. We have to buy from the open market. So, our ability is currently being reduced. We were unable to provide the services as they should be and I think it is not just Capegate, almost all organizations that are affected by this hike in prices. And up till now, the prices have not gone back to normal,” he said.
Kano, according to him, has 52 major dumpsites apart from the refuses dumped on the streets and it takes at least one payloader and 15 tippers to clear one dumpsite in a day and this equipment use a combined diesel of 820 litres to operate in a day, which at current price goes for over N500,000.
He also admitted that because of Kano’s population, the city generates waste at a very high level, saying each of the dumpsites gets filled up just two days after clearing it.
As such, while the firm is still grappling with clearing the dump sites with its now reduced workforce (because of the high cost of the diesel), it also has to make provision for the clearing of refuse that is dumped on the streets by the residents.
The problem, according to him, is compounded by the non-payment of refuse collection levies by the residents, who have become accustomed to the government clearing their waste without having to part with their money.
“For 10 months now, Capegate has been working to collect all these dumps that are kept by the roadsides. Who is paying? People are not paying,” he said.
And the reason given by the people for not paying succinctly illustrates the third and most significant reason why the firm cannot function at its optimum yet – there is no legal document to support its operation.
The firm’s COO admitted that whenever they ask people to pay, “they say show us your legal paper which authorizes you to collect from us and we do not have any paper that we can use to prosecute people for noncompliance or non-payment yet. So, we are still waiting for the legal documentation to be concluded so that we can implement that.
“Without the legal documentation, we cannot force people to pay, if we cannot force people to pay, then we do not have enough money to work.
“In essence, it is a big problem that people do not see the necessity to pay for the collection. Once they have given one Almajiri N10 to take it (waste) out for them, he goes and dumps it somewhere in the neighbourhood and yet they come to complain when it is full.”
But, it is not like the people are entirely not paying levies for the collection of their waste, as findings by Daily Trust Saturday revealed that markets like the Abubakar Rimi Market (popularly known as Yankura or Sabongari market) and Kantin Kwari Market have a standing order for all shop owners and traders in the market to pay certain fees for the collection of their waste with the aim of keeping the market and its environment clean.
At Kantin Kwari market, Shamsu Dan Aljannah said they are constantly confused about who to pay their refuse management fee to as different people come to them in that regard.
“Capegate comes, and we also pay to local government and other tax-related bodies. We are confused about the right person to pay to,” he said.
Capegate, however, said the residents must be patient because “it is a transitional time.”
“You don’t expect transition on a traditional item that has been there for over 30 years to be smooth in 10 months,” the firm’s COO said.
He added that “right now, what Kano needs is not going from house to house. What Kano needs now is for these 52 dumps (sites) that are generated by the people to be kept clean and then gradually we will introduce house to house collection until these dumps are eliminated.
“We have 52 dumps sites within the city; some of these dumpsites take 20-30 trips in a day to be cleared. Every dumpsite gets filled up in three days if you don’t go there. Go and see where we have evacuated today, go back after 2 days and you will see. First, let’s ensure that there is stability on the dumpsites and this is everybody’s dump because the rubbish comes from everybody’s house. What we are doing now in Sabongari is that we are cleaning up the mess of 30 years. We are cleaning up what was the dirtiest part of Kano. We are doing what will increase the health of everybody in Kano. If there are fewer mosquitoes, fewer flies in Kano, less polluted water and air, we will have fewer families engaging in medical expenses.”
“Like I said, the legislation is not yet out, we haven’t received our license yet, the mobilization by the government is just partially done; the implementation and enforcement are also not yet done. So, we are operating like in a quasi-charity mode. The state government is funding what we are doing but all along, until the last three months before the state government started funding, Capegate has been doing it from its own pocket,” he said.
He also observed that the collection of refuse is about the reorientation of the people’s attitudes, saying people need to understand that dumping waste in their neighbourhood is more dangerous than keeping the waste in their homes if they will not pay for the waste in the neighbourhood to be removed.
“When you decompose it outside in your neighbourhood, the moment you dump it there it comes alive, it gets a life of its own, now you have a lot of microbial activities which emits all sorts of gases which we inhale and which gets us sick. You get an incubation centre inside which generates mosquitoes and flies which are all vectors that gets us sick, you get water that comes out of the microbiological processes that leach down to our soil and pollute our waterways,” he explained.
Responding to the myriad of challenges confronting the waste management sector in the city, the state’s commissioner for environment, Dr Kabir Getso, told Daily Trust that the state government is doing its part to ensure all issues are resolved.
He said before, the government used to shoulder the responsibility for everything but now with this partnership, it is designed in such a way that people will be paying for the waste that they are generating.
The ministry, according to him, has concluded the drafting of four bills specifically targeting waste management in the state and they are currently being vetted by the state’s ministry of justice after which they will be presented to the state governor, who will, in turn, submit it as an executive bill to the state assembly.
The commissioner, however, hinted that the firm has devised means of getting people to pay beyond waiting for the legislation.
“There is a need for legislation but this is not the only thing you need. You need aggressive marketing in terms of reaching out to the public. Ordinarily, people will not want to part with their money so you need to reach out; you need to make a lot of effort, aggressive contact to ensure that you succeed,” he said in what appears as an advice for the firm.
He added, “There are some parts of the state (like my area), where we pay monthly for waste collection fee and we have been doing this for more than 10 years and I am sure there are more areas doing the same, but probably there are majority of areas where they are not used to it, so they will see it as new.”
On the part of the government, he said they have also been supporting the firm with the sensitisation of the people. The state government and the company, according to him, have been sponsoring some jingles and some radio and television programs to sensitize the people.
“We have Environmental House Officers who are in constant touch with the public; we have Sanitation Vanguards that are in touch with the public. They go on house-to-house inspection, they do community dialogues. We organize events where community members are brought together, we do dialogues and have discussions and we use these kinds of opportunities to educate and enlighten the public,” he said.
On whether the government is making any effort to assist the firm in the current situation it finds itself, especially as regards the hike in the cost of diesel, the commissioner said being a PPP arrangement, “there is supposed to be what we call project development support in which the Kano State government is supposed to provide a sort of counter-part funding and so, Kano State government has been supporting them with some funds with which they are supposed to develop the project. Kano State government is really doing quite a lot to support them to ensure that they take off well.”
Beyond the counter-part funding, Getso added that “if you see the way the PPP is structured, we scraped a complete agency in order to create enabling environment for this PPP to work and all the waste management equipment that we have comprising of tipper trucks, payloaders, bucket lifters, the tricycles are in their custody. We have about 50 tricycles, we have workshops, we have filling stations, we have offices, we even have a plastic recycling plant. They have all been integrated into this PPP arrangement. We gave them all these equipment to do the work. So, you can see the level of support.”
Meanwhile, in a statement by the PRO of the Ministry, Sunusi Abdullahi Kofarnaisa, the state government said following an emergency meeting chaired by the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, the governor has directed that all the waste in the metropolis be evacuated immediately.
The statement further stated that the governor has “instructed the ministry of environment to conduct the “Keep Kano Clean Week 2022” exercise as soon as possible due to huge garbage in the city and the approaching rainy season.”