Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

07 Jan Written by 

Forget the Glitz, Abuja is Dirty

Who is responsible for cleaning our capital city?

Abuja is dirty.  Everything imaginable can be found littering the streets. Small public bins are overflowing and the increasing number of makeshift, refuse heaps are growing higher and smellier by the day. Thousands of black nylon bags and transparent water sachets have taken root in the soil, have implanted themselves on trees and security barbed wires, and those that have not blended into the environment are flying into the windscreens of moving cars, into faces, and into buildings. Not the kind of dirt that half-hearted attempts by the women and men in orange can deal with, but the type which needs a sustainable waste management strategy, some imagination, and a strong will.

Yet Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) reportedly spends N1.3 billion per annum on cleaning Abuja metropolis alone. The responsibility for cleaning the rest of the FCT i.e., Nyanya, Lugbe, Gwagwalada, Kuje etc., lies with the area councils in collaboration with the Satellite Towns Development Agency and they have a separate budget.

There are several reasons why Abuja looks unloved and uncared for. The first is that the framework and process for how the city is cleaned and how waste is managed is not public knowledge. How do you clean a city without the assistance and support of the inhabitants? In London for instance, residents know what days of the week waste is picked up. This means the night before collection day, people put out their trash outside their doors, and bin bags outside on a day not reserved for collections attracts a fine and the city earns a little extra revenue.

In some jurisdictions, where residents park on the street, the routine is so synchronized that people know for example that Thursday is for cleaning the right side of the street (so everyone parks on the left or gets a fine). If Abuja residents know the street-cleaning schedule, we can avoid the overflowing bins that blight our streets and attract dogs and scavengers. In addition, residents acting as partners to the authorities can report the cleaners when they fail to show up with their brooms and Bagco sacks.

The second is that the cleaners lack the right equipment for cleaning. One has to be sympathetic to the effort they put into the shoddy job they do or the way they focus only on the main avenues ignoring the side streets which their supervisors probably don’t care about either. Instead of the backbreaking work of sweeping with our local brooms, the cleaners should be kitted out properly with gloves, rakes, long brooms, brushes etc. In another world, Cosmopolitan Cleaners (one of the cleaners in the city) would have a patent by now for inventing a long-handled broom which incorporates our traditional one.

The third problem is a mix of poor standards and little knowledge. If the AEPB team cared about their role as the keepers of our environment, it would not be easy for them to ignore the wasteland that Abuja has become. They would find it hard to budget over a billion on the purchase of 60,000 plastic waste bins at the same cost of N18, 000 each which they sell to the residents ( Surely, they should be sourcing at much cheaper in order to sell at a small profit and eventually reduce the price tag for residents.

And finally, lack of accountability is a problem. How many contractors clean the city? What are the tender and audit processes to determine who is best qualified to do the job and to verify that the job is executed satisfactorily? What is certain is that some of the AEPB task force know very well who some of the most guilty generators of road trash are. They are the ubiquitous sellers of tea and bread, fruit, suya, and carts that dot every residential and commercial area around the city. And instead of ensuring these traders take responsibility for cleaning their surroundings, AEPB officers allegedly prefer to extort money from them safe in the knowledge that as illegal operators, there is no trail and no complaint.

Abuja is a naturally beautiful place—with green-covered hills and rocks of various formations, including our reclining elephant that guards the army quarters on the bypass between Maitama and Asokoro. Even if residents don’t care for the environment or aesthetics, we should care that our collective wealth is being wasted for little benefit and we should care because it is a shame that the home of our Federal Government is turning into such a trash dump. If we cannot get the small things right, how will we ever accomplish the big things?

Below are some pictures.