By Stanley Onyekwere
There is no gainsaying that the current re-organization of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and appointment of Mr. Baba Shehu Lawan by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, has raised a lot of hope for effective service delivery, in the area of sanitation in the Capital City.
The re-organization, which has affected the former acting Director, Mrs. Aisha Adebayo; three Deputy Directors and one Assistant Director who were redeployed out of the Board, which over time, has been facing some challenges especially the apathy of most FCT residents towards efforts to protect the environment, which hamper its efforts to discharge these responsibilities.
AEPB, which is the government agency saddled with the responsibility of protecting the environment of the Territory, was created in 1987 and its main objective, according to the board’s mission statement, is to make surethere is a clean, hygienic and sustainable environment for the wellbeing of the residents. Section 37 of the AEPB Act specifically empowers officials of the board to gain access to any premises between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. for the purpose of detecting and abating nuisance to public health.
Equally, the agency was established to ensure a healthy environment for the residents of the FCT, while conserving the environment and its natural resources, including prohibiting street hawking, in the quest to carry this mandate has allegedly accumulated for itself a notorious history of engaging in ‘illegality ranging from extortion, brutality, intimidation, assault and battery against perceived harmless offenders.
Also, it was also set up machinery to reduce the impact of physical development on the territory’s ecosystem, while raising public awareness and promoting the people’s understanding of the essential linkages between the environment and development.
Meanwhile, as part of the re-organization, the FCT minister, also directed the new management team of the AEPB to immediately organize a Town Hall Meeting with the stakeholders to address all the grey areas.
To ensure effective waste collection in estates within the capital city, the Minister instructed the new management to liaise with the Estates Managers and residents to find ways of collaborating with such estates to collect wastes in order to take off such burden from the shoulders of the Abuja Environmental Board.
He stressed that plans were underway to urgently source for 3,000 plastic environmental waste bins to enhance solid waste management in the Federal Capital City,the FCT Administration has commenced night operation by the city cleaning contractors, which has significantly enhanced city sanitation.
Mohammed further disclosed the establishment of additional dumpsites at Dutse Makaranta and Bwari to ease pressure on the existing Dumpsites thereby reducing the turnaround time of waste collection vehicles.
“We have taken effective possession of the Gudu Waste Transfer Station site and the site has since been handed over to the contractors.
“The FCT Administration has kicked started implementation of policy of self-service of Housing Estates by Owners/Residents Association with a successful stakeholders meeting,” he explained.
Interestingly, at the town hall meeting with estate managers on self-cleaning system in the FCT held two weeks ago, at the conference of the Federal Capital Developmental Authority (FCDA), it was observed that the previous system was not sustainable.
According to the coordinator of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Engr. Reuben Okoya, who spoke at the meeting, the FCTA spends N160 million per month on waste evacuation alone.
“The city pays over N160m per month and N320m in two months to about 20 contractors to clean the city round the clock but it is not sustainable.
“These contractors may not be doing the best job. We want to find a different way of doing it, what obtains globally, what is best for everybody,” he stressed.
Explaining the rationale behind the stakeholders meeting, the new acting director of the Board, Mr. Baba Lawan, said that itwas aimed at sensitising residents on the need to have a structure for self-waste management.
“There are 86 estates on our list and out of these 86 only 10 has a structure on ground, the others have no structure.
“We are the ones cleaning these estates and it has been quite a tasking job. We want them to organise themselves and levy their residents so they can contract licensed contractors for onward disposal.”
The AEPB boss said that the estates have been given two months to set up a proper structure for waste collection and evacuation.
The FCT minister’s special assistant on projects and monitoring and ICT, Engr. Erik Anyamene, called for collaboration between the government and the private sector, saying that city sanitation is the business of everyone.
According to him, “there should be a mid-point between the government and the private sector on how to keep the city clean because the role of keeping the city clean is everybody’s business. It’s not the governments’ problem alone; we’re all stakeholders in the process.
“So, I urge the residents, developers, managers, the government and everybody to put their hands on deck to clean up the city.”
One of the stakeholders, chairman, Minfa 1 Garden Estate, Lokogoma, Abdulkareem Yusuf, commended the initiative. He, however, called for a transition period, whereby residents would be allowed to go through the gradual process of independently managing their own waste.
He also called for regulation by the regulatory body to ensure effective and effective waste disposal by the cleaning contractors.
On his part, the estate manager, Suncity, Freeman Leslie, said that the initiative was the solution to waste management in the city, saying that residents knows the amount of waste they generate and how often it should be evacuated.
Prior to the stakeholders meeting, the new acting director of the Board while on a familiarization and inspection tour of some of the Board’s waste management facilities in the FCT, had reiterated his resolve to improve on the standard of city sanitation especially in the areas of solid waste evacuation and control of street trading within 3months, promising to sustain the achievements of his predecessors.
According to the Head, Information and Outreach Programme, AEPB, Mr. Joe Ukairo, some of the facilities visited include: Ajata Waste Dump Site, Gouza Dump Site, Wupa Waste Water Treatment Plant, and Solid Waste Transfer Station site at Gudu, respectively.
At Ajata dump site, the new acting director, revealed that two new dump sites have been identified, and will be put to use immediately.
This, he said is needful to speedily clear the backlog of waste within residential and business premises within the city centre occasioned by poor turnaround time of waste collection team due to traffic congestion along Ajata dumpsite in the Nyanya axis. He advised residents against disposing off their waste indiscriminately, instead they should use garbage bags to store additional waste and wait for the assigned waste collection contractor for proper evacuation, calling on the residents to desist from street hawking and other activities that alter the ecosystem negatively.
Also, in what seems as a slight swing of tactics in its battle to rid Abuja of hawking and other forms of street trading, AEPB is set to move against traders in the markets, for allegedly encouraging the menace.
Accordingly, the Board would not spare any trader in the markets bent on exploiting unemployed youth, by supplying them with goods to sell on the streets, warning them to restrict their businesses to their shops in the markets, as the Board under him has zero tolerance for street trading and hawking in the Territory.
“We don’t want to see them (hawkers) on the street; this is a clarion call to the traders and their associations in the markets, as they should desist from giving goods to the hawkers to market and sell for them. They not only constitute nuisance to the motorists but deface the beauty of the city,” he stressed.
He said the Board has identified 17 beats and five flash points, adding that it has already received an approval of 128 personnel from the FCT police command to support its enforcement drive in the city.
Furthermore, he advised residents in residential and business premises to ensure they acquired approved waste bins for proper waste collection and evacuation from their premises, warning that failure to comply with this directive will attract the full wrath of the law to serve as deterrence to other business and private premises in the Territory.
It is therefore important to note that as the FCTA has taken unleashed robust measures to reposition AEPB; so as to discharge its function of keeping the city clean, in line with Abuja Master plan, theend of the reoccurring outburst of dirt in the Territory may be closer than ever imagined before.
Also, the common occurrence of residents openly violating established rules and regulations purely for commercial reasons would be a thing of the past when the AEPB ensures that those lawbreakers are punished accordingly.