Satellite towns in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), are described in the territory’s master plan as “the remaining portion of the FCT…’’.
This tacitly implies that the settlements are not regarded as being in the mainstream of Abuja but as the environs of the metropolis.
The master plan, however, indicates that the city and its environs should be planned and developed simultaneously.
To this end, the Satellite Towns Development Agency (STDA) was established and saddled with the responsibilities of opening up the satellite towns for development by providing infrastructural facilities for their teeming inhabitants, thereby improving their living standards.
Also, STDA is mandated to provide an enabling environment for the development of the satellite towns via the provision of basic amenities so as to further reduce the pressure on Abuja city-centre, while facilitating the growth and upgrade of the satellite towns.
The satellite towns in the FCT include Bwari, Kubwa, Karshi, Kuje, Karu, Lugbe, Chika, Kuchigworo and Nyanya, among others.
However, an integral aspect of the functions of the STDA is to ensure the sanitation of the satellite towns in a manner that is akin to the role of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) in ensuring the cleanliness of the Abuja city-centre.
The STDA is, therefore, mandated to facilitate and oversee efforts to ensure a clean environment in the satellite towns, in line with the vision and mission of the FCT Administration (FCTA).
Consequently, the agency is expected to make efforts to strike a balance between human needs in the satellite towns and the carrying capacity of the environment through structured environmental sanitation processes.
According to the Director of Abuja Environment Protection (AEPB), Mrs Aishat Adebayo, said that the board started collaborating with STDA in the area of environmental sanitation since 2013.
She, however, pledged an improvement in the collaboration to enable the satellite towns to meet the standard of Abuja city-centre in terms of cleanliness.
“Our collaboration with STDA and all the Area Councils in sustainable waste collection commenced in August 2013 and the cooperation has been yielding commendable results; and we intend to sustain this,’’ Adebayo said.
However, some residents of the satellite towns have been complaining that they have not felt the impact of the STDA as regards environmental sanitation.
Some of them grumbled that the STDA recently issued out sanitation bills to them without discharging any waste management function, while others claimed that they were not even aware of the agency’s existence.
Mr Harrison Igbe, a resident of the PW neighbourhood of Kubwa, stressed that he had been fully responsible for refuse disposal in his house since he started living in the area in 2008.
He, therefore, said that he found it extremely difficult to justify, under any guise whatsoever, the sanitation bills which the STDA recently issued to him.
“I have lived in this house since 2008 and no government agency has ever come here to collect refuse. Now, I was given a bill of N2,000; I don’t even understand the details of the bill.
“Is this the best way to introduce STDA to us in Kubwa? Why should the agency distribute backdated sanitation bills? From all indications, the bill is not justifiable and I will not stress myself to pay the fees,’’ he said.
Nevertheless, Mr Salisu Lawal, a resident of Phase 4 in Kubwa, advised the STDA to make itself more visible and relevant by routinely clearing the mounds of refuse that dotted the landscape of several areas in Kubwa.
“If a government agency is taking charge of sanitation of our environment, it will be obvious; but we don’t see officials of any agency.
“In my compound, we patronise Mebola (local refuse collectors) on a regular basis and it is, therefore, wrong to ask us to pay for services that were not rendered,’’ he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, My Stanley Okere, a resident of Kuje, stressed that the presence of the STDA was not felt in his neighbourhood in terms of sanitation.
“We have been responsible for our refuse disposal but the STDA recently brought a huge, backdated sanitation bill to my compound; we don’t even know the criteria which the agency used in arriving at the amount in the bill,’’ he said.
Okere stressed that the STDA ought to carry out a lot of public enlightenment campaigns in the satellite towns to inform the residents about its functions and their obligations, particularly in the evolving waste management arrangement.
In spite of the numerous complaints by the residents of satellite towns, the STDA claimed that it has been effective in its waste management efforts in the satellite towns.
the Director of STDA, Mr Tukur Bakori, , who gave the assurance, however, warned residents to promptly pay their sanitation bills, so as to avoid sanctions by the agency.
He argued that some people were only complaining about the agency’s non-performance in waste management as part of a plot to evade meeting their obligations.
“If we have not been managing waste in the satellite towns well, the places would have become uninhabitable by now. But we observe that residents of the satellite towns are reluctant to pay their sanitation bills.
“The only bills Nigerians prefer to pay are the pre-paid electricity bills and telephone charge but we have already finalised plans to prosecute defaulters through our mobile courts,’’ he said.
Bakori, however, solicited the support of the residents of satellite towns for the STDA to enable the agency to give excellent service delivery.
He argued that licensed waste management companies that were engaged to clear refuse in the satellite towns could only sustain their activities if the residents paid their bills regularly.
Besides, Bakori disclosed that the STDA was planning to clear the drains in the satellite towns in order to forestall flooding which could result in the destruction of people’s lives and property.
He said that work on the drainage systems would begin before the onset of heavy rains.
“The STDA did a lot in clearing the drains in satellite towns in 2013 and that was why there were no floods.
“As soon as we get funds, we will commence clearing the drains this year and this will be done in collaboration with the area councils,’’ he added.
Bakori, however, urged the residents of the satellite towns to support the area councils’ efforts to promote healthy environment and good sanitation in the neighbourhoods.
“Residents should avoid indiscriminate refuse disposal by bagging their waste properly and paying their sanitation bills regularly; they should also not cut the roads carelessly.
“Government property belongs to all of us; we should all take responsibility and manage it well,’’ he added
All the same, the Supervisor, Environment and Sanitation, Bwari Area Council, Mrs Fidelia Ohanashonam, said that the area council, in partnership with the STDA, had been removing refuse in the area.
She stressed that the partnership had been very effective in efforts to rid the area council of huge wastes.
She, however, said that the STDA’s involvement in waste collection and disposal was an intervention programme that was designed to enable the council to stabilise before taking full charge of waste management processes in the area.
Ohanashonam made the remark during a recent refuse mop-up by the STDA and Bwari Area Council, which saw the evacuation of garbage from refuse collection points in Kubwa, Dutse and Bwari to a major dumpsite in Bwari.
“The STDA is partnering with us in the areas of waste collection, erosion control and other environmental activities.
“This collaboration has been very effective because if you go round Kubwa, Dutse and Bwari; you will see that the waste have been cleared and transferred to dumpsites,’’ she said.
Moreover, Ohanashonam said that the Subsidy Re-investment Programme (SURE-P) was also part of the collaboration, as the agency hired some women whose duty was to sweep the streets and clear the drains in the satellite towns every day.
Nevertheless, the Head of the Department of Environment, Mr Ahmed Labaran, Bwari Area Council, agreed that concerted efforts should be made to sensitise the residents to salient environmental and sanitation issues.
He said that plans were underway in the area council to step up the sensitisation of the residents to sanitation issues.
All in all, Ms Felicia Meeme, the Head of Public Relations in the STDA, urged the residents of satellite towns to promptly pay their sanitation bills.
She said that the prompt payment of the bills would enable the agency to discharge its duty of maintaining excellent sanitation in the satellite towns
Meeme said that sanitation of the satellite towns was contracted out to some private companies whose charges could only be paid when residents paid their sanitation fees.
She said that the monthly sanitation charges ranged from a minimum of N200 for the smallest housing unit to N500 for the biggest housing unit.
She, however, said that the huge bill, the major bone of contention, was due to arrears of sanitation fees induced by several months of accumulated bills.