Epidemic looms in Abia as refuse dumps take over Umuahia amidst public outcry
Posted by Steve Oko | 10 April 2017 | 2,988 times
The sanitary condition of Umuahia, the Abia State capital, has become worrisome following the mounting refuse dumps around the metropolis. The Abia State Environmental Sanitation Agency (ASEPA) appears overwhelmed.
It is indeed not a good sight, especially for visitors, as the ‘rioting’ refuse dumps give a bad impression of ‘God’s own state’.
The most prominent include the refuse dumps on Umuwaya Road, about 500 metres before the famous Abia Mall (Shoprite plaza), Niger Road by St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, and the one on the Olokoro/Old Timber Road.
The situation is very nauseating and poses grave health hazards to residents and passers-by while movement around the sites has become very cumbersome following occasional traffic gridlock. The odious stench emanating from the dumps could lead to outbreak of epidemics especially now rodents and other creatures have made the dumps their home.
The constant sooty smokes emanating from the dumps as people set them on fire apparently to decongest them, also pose serious health risk to residents.
Worried by the situation, Methodist Church women, World Bank Circuit Umuahia Diocese, recently volunteered to help clean up the mess around Isigate area of the metropolis.
President, Mrs. Rejoice Okocha, in a brief interview, said they embarked on the project as part of their contribution to keep the city clean.
Her words: “Isigate is the heart of Umuahia, and the sight here is not a good one; that is why we decided to help keep it clean. It is an eyesore when you enter a city and the first thing you see is a dirty environment.
“In other states what you see is a clean environment. So, we decided to help clean up this area as part of activities marking our Mothering Sunday.”
Meanwhile, residents have continued to decry the current sanitary condition of Umuahia, describing it as the worst since the creation of Abia State.
They heap the blame at the doorsteps of ASEPA, which obviously appears overwhelmed and helpless over the situation. The agency hardly carts away refuse from the metropolis these days; instead, some persons set the refuse bins on fire thus exposing residents to more health risks associated with fumes.
A concerned resident who did not want his name mentioned said: “We are talking of meningitis everywhere and the whole state capital is being taken over by refuse. If the ASEPA GM can no longer handle it he should tell Abians what his handicaps are. Is it that government is no longer funding ASEPA or what?
“Why should Umuahia previously reputed for neatness suddenly become a dirty city? This is not good for the image of state capital. They are exposing residents to danger. It is appalling that people after maintaining personal hygiene in their homes will be exposed to disease when they come out.
“Government should do something. If they can no longer empower ASEPA to cart away refuse they should devolve power so that local governments can take over the responsibility.
“You can imagine the type of air worshipers at St. Stephens’ Anglican Church Umuahia will be inhaling with that mountain of refuse at their gate. It is too bad!
“The bulk stops at the governor’s table. He should rise up to the occasion and clean up Umuahia before it is taken over by refuse. About six compactor trucks are packed at Government House since last year. They should be deployed to use to help ease off the situation.”
Worried by the ugly development, the Abia State House of Assembly has summoned the ASEPA boss, Mr. Iyke Apugo, to appear before it for explanations.
But when contacted, the ASEPA GM, Apugo, said that his agency was making spirited efforts to address the situation, adding that he has been in touch with the Governor who assured him of full support.
But another source close to ASEPA confided that the agency “is being starved of funds”, hence its inability to live up to its responsibilities.
“Funds are no longer coming as usual. Right now ASEPA is owed two months. There are no receptacles, no vehicles,” the source grumbled.
But some revenue collection agents claiming to be working for ASEPA have been forcefully collecting N1,500 from traders in Umuahia for 20 pieces of cellophane waste disposal bag.
Despite denials from ASEPA of sending such agents, residents still wonder how they have continued to operate without restraint more so when the bags have government and ASEPA logos conspicuously displayed on them.
There have also been some political interpretations in some quarters on the action of some philanthropists who usually claim to be friends of the government occasionally sponsoring the carting away of refuses in the state capital.
The question agitating many minds is, “Why should individuals have the financial capacity to undertake tasks state agency find too hard to handle?”
Analysts suspect that such gestures have political undertone or could they be a strategy to undermine the efforts of ASEPA and project it as a dull agency?
Expectations had been high that Umuahia would be the cleanest state capital under the watch of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu, who until his emergence as the Governor was the Deputy ASEPA GM in charge of Aba.