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Friday, 9 September 2011

WHY ABUJA NOW STINKS By Emmanuel Onwubiko

There is only one quality that makes any city or township clean – quality political leadership. Quality and good political leadership ensures effective monitoring and supervision of civil and public servants paid to serve the members of the public.

Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory has had its own fair share of bad leaders in the last decade with exception of only but one administration in the recent times and this poor leadership simply explains why the whole city stinks because of varying degrees of environmental pollution and the growing mountain of refuse dumps that in the last one year have sprang up in virtually all satellite communities like Gwagwalada, Karimo, Gwagwa, Zuba, Kubwa and even to some extent Wuse two. In Kubwa for instance, the overwhelming presence of illegal aliens from Niger Republic and Chad who ply commercial motorcycles with the concomitant effect of the reckless air pollution have further deteriorated the environmental situation.

A good and quality minister for Abuja who is desirous of building healthy, clean and green city must take some measures to ensure that residents comply with laid down rules and regulations for the benefit of the entire people. The minister of the Federal Capital Territory is not essentially meant to only award ownership of plots of land to prospective applicants but ought to show or exhibit some leadership attributes and charisma to monitor and ensure effective and efficient operations of all the agencies under the administrative hierarchy of the federal capital Territory. A good minister for Abuja will create the necessary awareness on the dangers and consequences to public health of such despicable attitudes and behaviors like urination or defecation in public places in the full glare of passers-by.

In the last one year, the agency in charge of cleaning up the environment in Abuja is only known for catching street hawkers, confiscating and looting their wares and also dishing out regular stories of the number of Children hawkers that have been flogged publicly by the Environmental task force mobile courts.

Is the Abuja Environmental authority set up so that the officials can enrich themselves and become unusually fat and obese by consuming edibles stolen from street hawkers?

Is the Federal Capital Territory administration not suppose to set up clean and affordable selling outlets in the city center to accommodate these street hawkers who rather than become criminals have chosen to become economically self reliant?

Is it the duty of the Abuja Environmental Authority to impose punitive and primitive measures like publicly flogging children even without setting up a study team to find out why more and more children are becoming street hawkers and many others dot the street begging for alms during school hours?

Are the various agencies under the Federal Capital Territory administration not synergizing their operations to ensure that Abuja residents are adequately informed of why bad environmental attitudes like defecating or urinating in public must be halted in order to prevent future health consequences to members of the public? Why has there been no deliberate effort on the part of the current set of ministers to take practical measures to stop Abuja from becoming the smelling capital of Africa in spite of the obscenely huge budgetary releases to the ministry by the Federal Government?

 Why do we see too many Abuja residents and visitors stand shamelessly and urinate or even defecate publicly in the city and satellite areas? Are there no laws against these bad attitudes that pose adverse public health problems if not tackled and confronted frontally?

The United States City of California has what it calls code of ordinances on health and sanitation. Specifically chapter Six point seventeen of that statute completely outlaws the urination or defecation in public.

The code of ordinances in that chapter cited above provides that; “No person shall urinate or defecate in or on any street, sidewalk, alley, plaza, park, bench, public building or public maintained facility, or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view. This section shall not apply to urination or defecation which is done in any restroom or other facility designed for the sanitary disposal of human waste. Any person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor”.
One brilliant Afghan writer Nazanin Shafahi in a piece titled: “Effects of Waste and dirtiness on our health and wellbeing”, was as concerned as I am too when she observed that “health and well-being is undoubtedly a chief concern of every human being”.
For Dr. Sattar, if the garbage produced by families is not properly discarded, it can cause the outbreak of serious illnesses. Meanwhile, if it is left in open air it can contaminate the environment, spreads with the flow of wind, enters into body through breathing and can cause dangerous diseases. It also mixes with the open food and beverages sold on roads and causes typhoid, nausea and vomiting.
There are little things we do in Abuja like spitting on the road sides, throwing out garbage from our fast moving cars and other environmentally unfriendly attitudes that we must check and eliminate either through voluntary action or by way of legislation if we want Abuja to become the dream city that we all seek.
The news media were awash with stories that the Lagos waste management Authority hired over one thousand volunteers to clean up campaign posters that have defaced most beautiful sites of the city. But in Abuja, these campaign posters and bill boards are ubiquitous and the relevant authority is not even thinking about innovative ways of restoring the environmental beauty that these campaign posters have defaced.
The Lagos state governor is known for his good and quality leadership skills but in Abuja, the political leadership in the thinking of some political analysts is so very colorless and totally lacking in charisma that an analyst is unable to categorize it.
Channels of discussions between the Abuja political authority and the people is so restricted that it is almost impossible for the two ministers to get useful feed backs on how Abuja has become so filthy and sooner if remedial actions are not adopted, foreign tourists will look elsewhere because no human being is happy when the environment stinks. Abuja residents must appreciate the goodness in the saying that cleanliness is next to Godliness and stop urinating or defecating publicly. Those who stand in public places to puff their cigarettes and weeds must be sternly sanctioned because they too pose serious health challenge to members of the public.

*          Emmanuel Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria.              


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