By Danladi Akilu
The recent ban on scavengers popularly known as Baban Bolas in the FCT has once again brought to the fore the dictum that every malfeasance has an end date. For scavengers in the FCT, the end game has simply come to their unwholesome activities because the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has proscribed illegal refuse collection from residential and other areas, limiting the group to only the approved dump sites in both the city and the Area Councils.
Handing down the ban, Secretary, FCTA’s Social Development Secretariat (SDS), Alhaji Oladimeji Ali Hassan, in a meeting held in his office with the leadership of Abuja chapter of Association of Bola-Bola and Craftsmanship, said negative reports reaching the FCTA necessitated the meeting and the decision of government to restrict the activities of members of the association. He stated that members of the group were to be restricted to the approved dump sites located at Idu and Jabi as well as those in the Area Councils.
Much as there have been mixed feelings over this recent development, it is pertinent to point out here that scavenging the world over has grown past going from house to house to scatter people’s bins. It is done only at dump sites around the world and there is nothing wrong in the FCT deciding to also follow suit in this world best practice. So they are right in this instance and should be commended.
Abuja residents are witnesses to how the activities of these scavengers are posing a threat and making life difficult for the residents. Under the guise of scavenging from refuse bins in neighbourhoods across the city, the Baban Bolas have been involved in many criminal activities from petty stealing to armed robbery, vandalism of public utilities and other forms of crime and criminality.
Kudos must therefore be given to the FCTA for responding to the outcries of many FCT residents and imposing this ban because many valuables have been lost to scavengers in the territory, as well as vandalism of public utilities and robbery activities that carried the footprints of Baban Bola operatives.
The FCTA by this action has swiftly moved to ensure that every member of the society has the right to live and associate freely without fear, injury or any form of molestation. Where one’s activity is posing a threat to other resident’s life, property, freedom and peace, it has to be checked and regulated.
The FCTA also need to be commended over the way it went about this ban by first of allowing the association to inform their members of this decision as well as the series of public announcements through the mass media done by the administration before the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) will commence public enforcement and, perhaps, possible prosecution of defaulters.
Regarding the criticisms that this development has elicited, especially those arguing that scavengers help in removing refuse from people’s residences and so help keep the environment clean, I think it needs to be pointed out that there is a well-organized system of refuse collection in the FCT put in place by FCTA that ensures that refuse is taken from business and residential premises to dumpsites. Abuja is a planned city and so dumpsites cannot be created anyhow. The planned dumpsites at Idu and Jabi are more than enough for over 100,000 scavengers to conveniently carry out their activities daily, and the six Area Councils of FCT also have temporary dumpsites.
Those against this ban also need to understand that government is not trying to stop the business of scavengers but merely moving to bring sanity and orderliness to the business. It is also to the benefit of the scavengers themselves because going to the approved dumpsites will save the baban bolas time and reduce the laborious task of moving from place to place and sometimes getting knocked down by moving vehicles.
However, the government also need to do lot more to encourage this group of people as scavenging business has turned out to become lucrative business around the world. It now serves as a source of materials for recycling companies, creates employment, generates income and ensures a cleaner, safer environment. Government needs to put policies in place to allay the fears expressed by this group about the ripple effect the decision will have on their members such as lose of jobs and shortage of supply of scrap metals to iron smelting companies both at home and abroad. Government should also endeavour to always carry them along in any new development as regards the practice of their trade.
Danladi Akilu wrote this piece from Durumi II, Gudu District, Abuja