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Published On: Tue, Mar 25th, 2014

Unemployment and Bala’s mechanical sweepers

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By Jamila Nuhu Musa

Despite questions still swirling round the Immigration tragedy involving the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, the Immigration boss, David Paradang and some consultants, government officials are still wielding their impunity indiscriminately because impunity is the most effective way to steal public funds for personal and political benefits even as the rule of law continues to be subverted. The culture of impunity allows the government to spend lavishly without thinking of the ordinary citizens who have no jobs and are hungry and angry.

Their anger in this case, is with those government officials who believe that some machines have better capacity than they have. The talk in town now is about the FCT Minister, Sen. Bala Mohammed and his mechanical sweeper vans worth N477m which have set tongues wagging in the Capital Territory.

In launching the environmental machines a few days ago, Bala said the sum of N477m was expended on eight mechanical sweepers, four litter pickers and two Roll-on, Roll-off trucks. He said the sanitation equipment are for the purpose of “quick-clean-up exercises and prompt restoration of neighbourhood outlooks especially when storms and winds leave refuse and litters on their trail while contracts for more waste management equipment have been awarded to address the challenges of obsolete equipment.

After some of our citizens died looking for employment at the immigration Service, Nigerians expected that those in power would learn lessons from the unfortunate incident and truly focus on how best to engage our teaming youths in the various sectors. Then, maybe, people would disregard such job offers that pose threats to their lives.

However, Sen Bala Mohammed has launched these environmental machines, “to enhance the operational capacity of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board”. Even though some women have been employed to sweep the streets, the question many are asking is why FCDA did not consider employing more hands instead of bringing in machines that may eventually throw those already employed back into the labour market. Trust Nigerians, with the advent of social media through which information is promptly disseminated, the issue of Bala’s mechanical equipment has gone viral. While analysing the situation, some Nigerians alleged that the machines were purchased to replace workers already employed by the FCT Administration to keep Abuja clean especially as the Minister was quoted as saying that the new ‘street sweepers’, and mechanical litter pickers would be deployed to areas of high refuse generation activities like bus stops, event centres and markets among others. In his opinion, the initiative would go a long way in making Abuja a world class city in line with the plans of the founding fathers of the Territory. Can someone give Bala a hint, since he does not seem to know, that many unemployed Nigerians would jump at the opportunity of doing the job for paltry sums as long as it puts food on their tables?

Arguably, keeping Abuja clean is a task that must be done by the FCT administration because the Territory should be a befitting Capital of Nigeria, but the plight of residents many, who came to the City with the hope of contributing their own quota to the development of the Territory should also be considered. Most residents will tell you that “they came to Abuja to see if they could make it”. That is their mindset from the beginning until they are faced with the plethora of problems entailed in living in a big City like Abuja. Problems of accommodation, unemployment, feeding, paying school fees and so on. This explains why many youth, men and women hassle daily to make their living in Abuja, bearable, and when they go back to their localities they pose as important people from the capital city.

Their folks in turn see them as such, people who have made it ‘big’ in Abuja. It does not matter that their ‘Abuja’ relatives have no money in their pockets to show for their bravado. Moreover, the village people have no way of knowing that some of their so called ‘Abuja’ relatives live in uncompleted buildings, do menial jobs when they can, roam the streets and hide from environmental task force of the FCT which takes bribe from those who sell their wares on street corners or unauthorised places.

There is nothing wrong in buying mechanical equipment for cleaning and picking litters off the streets, but the problems of the FCT and its residents are beyond mechanical matters, they are more psychological. As such the huge sum of money committed to the machines could have been judiciously used to rid the FCT of the stench from heaps of refuse which causes health hazards, problems of miscreants, uncompleted building menace, drugs, commercial sex and other criminalities and the people involved should be used to clean up the mess.

To this end, it is recommended that more hands should be employed to evacuate refuse; construction of carwash outfits instead of having young boys wash vehicles of the roadside, employing them to fish out drug users in the slums, car parks and other hideouts, giving young girls jobs as cleaners, cooks, care givers in schools, canteens, social welfare/departments so as to deal with the problem of commercial sex etc.

This is not to say that there aren’t other laudable initiatives of the Minister, however, these ideas can go a long way in truly ‘sanitasing’ in the FCT.

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