New Telegraph

Residents fear epidemic outbreak as refuse litters Akure, environs

Babato pe Okeo wo reports that human waste generated in homes now litter major streets of Akure, the Ondo State capital, raising fears of a possible epidemic outbreak

Palpable fear of a possible epidemic outbreak has now gripped the residents of the Ondo State capital, Akure following indiscriminate dumping of refuse along major streets of the town. The stench coming from the refuse dumped along major streets is nauseating for many residents of the state capital. The heaps of refuse now litter the popular Oba-Adesida road, Leo junction, Lafe Junction and Arakale roads despite the monthly environmental sanitation ordered by the state government. Heaps of refuse also dot areas like Ondo Road, Fanibi Junction, NEPA Roundabout, Oyemekun Road and Democracy Park among other major streets in the town. The interesting part of the refuse dumps in Democracy Park and Oba-Adesida was the presence of market men and women with their customers beside the refuse dumps. The traders and refuse now compete for space. This development has continued to give many residents sleepless nights as they fear the decomposing refuse could lead to an outbreak of diseases amongst them. Despite the efforts to remove some of the refuse, New Telegraph noticed that refuse is still piling up the major streets and residential areas of Akure, posing serious health risk despite an existing government agency in the city – the Ondo State Waste Management Authority (ODSWMA) which is saddled with the responsibility of waste management.

Dumping refuse in the night

Many residents living along the major roads said people usually come in the night or early in the morning to dump the waste, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to arrest the offenders. Also, it was learnt that the people opted into dumping the refuse when the officers saddled with the responsibilities of evacuating them from respective homes had not shown up for months. Consequently residents resulted in self-help by dumping it on the highways where the agency would see them for evacuation.

A market woman, Mrs Taiwo Fadairo expressed fears that the refuse dumps could cause a cholera outbreak if the officers saddled with the evacuation of the refuse did not live up to their responsibilities. “These people used to collect money from us for the removal of the waste, yet they have not come since the Christmas period. Now we are competing for space with refuse in the market.” However, a market woman in Oja Oba market in an interview said she is already used to the refuse and the stench it is generating; as nobody is listening to the complaint of the traders in the market.

A resident, Mr Desmond Akinwumi said the state government should terminate the contract of the company working on the removal of the refuse if it cannot live up to expectation. Akinwumi said Akure which was once reputed to be the second cleanest city in the country is the dirtiest now with the heaps of refuse that dot all major streets of the state capital. Many residents, especially those who have business to do along the business corridors of the state capital, have asked the government to come to their rescue before it gets out of hand.

Health fears

Also, medical experts have expressed worry over the danger the indiscriminate dumping of refuse posed to the health of the citizenry of the city which used to pride itself as one the cleanest in Nigeria. They urged the state government to engage more companies in clearing refuse in the state before it leads to another round of epidemic in a country still in the grip of coronavirus, Lassa fever and chickenpox.

NUJ asks for review of waste mgt agreement

Worry by the attitude of the Waste Management Agency, the State Chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) at its monthly congress asked the government to review waste management agreement for optimal performance, while priority should be given to clearing of waste littering roads in Akure and debris blocking drainages causing flooding in some areas in the metropolis and other parts of the state. Members of the pen profession lamented that waste collectors have not shown up in their homes for months, making it difficult to properly dispose of their waste.

Opposition kicks as refuse takes over Ondo

Also, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) expressed worry over the way the agency saddled with the responsibility has been lethargic in its responsibilities. The Publicity Secretary of the major opposition party, Mr Kennedy Peretei in a statement said Akure, which was unarguably the cleanest city in Southwest Nigeria before Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu became governor, is a very sorry sight to behold now. Peretei in his statement said: “Starting from the entrance to the Government House, Alagbaka, where Akeredolu and his family reside, it is difficult to believe that a governor lives there.

The immaculate white paint that welcomed visitors to the Government House is looking more like some ancient shrines. The entire frontage is overgrown with weeds. A friend last week sarcastically remarked that, one does not need to ponder about the kind of governor Ondo State has, if he merely sees the front of the Government House. “Everywhere in the city centre is littered with huge heaps of refuse. Medians of major roads are lined up with clusters of waste bins amidst decomposing contents. The Ondo State Waste Management Board in previous administrations had compactors that cleared refuse from homes, public buildings and markets. That is no more.

Through some shadowy arrangements, private companies have taken over the evacuation of refuse, a responsibility they have tragically failed to discharge. “The Akeredolu government has not been able to deliver on any area of social responsibility to the people of Ondo State. When the Free school shuttle buses disappeared from the roads, the explanation was that, government can no longer fund the service. When Mother and Child Hospital started to ask for astronomical charges for services that were previously free, the answer was that, government had no money.

When state owned tertiary institutions were plagued with intractable strikes and protests, the government’s reply was, ‘no money’. “One is then tempted to ask, what exactly does the Ondo State Government have money for? Because even the most basic workers’ salaries are not paid. Akure, a city that attracted tourists and visitors is now a ghost of its former self.

Most of the roads are no longer motorable due to potholes or uncompleted construction works that have taken more than four years. Driving through major roads at night used to be fun. Same roads are perpetually in the dark with overgrown grasses in the median. This was not the Akure that Akeredolu inherited in 2017. “There are so many areas in Akure that you can hardly find indigenous Akure people. No matter the offence of Akure residents, it will be advisable for Akeredolu to at least return the city to how he met it. Restore street lights, clean up the refuse that has littered everywhere, repaint the Government House and clear the overgrown grasses around the place.”

Government moves against sanitation offenders

The General Manager of the Ondo State Waste Management Authority (ODSWMA), Mrs Ayo Adeyemo has frowned at the indiscriminate way and manner in which some residents of the state capital are disposing their waste, saying such unhygienic practices can cause avoidable epidemics. According to her, the people are dumping their waste indiscriminately and in flagrant disobedience to sanitation laws. The General Manager disclosed this shortly after monitoring the July edition of the monthly environmental sanitation exercise in some parts of Akure.

She also revealed that some people were apprehended during the exercise over indiscriminate dumping of waste in unauthorized places. Her words: “Instead of them keeping their waste in bins and putting it at the front of their houses, they will just take the bins somewhere and dump it barely. This is the rainy season and we have to be very careful so as not to cause problems for ourselves. Some are even dumping their refuse in the drainages; they use drainages as an alternative to waste collection. This is wrong. All of us must key into this sanitation exercise because it is for our own good.

We must take the issue of our health and personal hygiene very important.” Adeyemo explained that Governor Akeredolu is doing a lot to attract investors to invest in the state; hence the people should continue to join hands with his government to make the state clean, hygienic and friendly to further encourage visitors. She also encouraged relevant evacuators to scale up their evacuation activities across the state capital to ensure all-round cleanliness.

The General Manager appealed to residents to desist from dumping of waste in undesignated places, warning that violators would be appropriately dealt with in accordance with the laws. She said ODSWMA would continue to step up its enforcement activities, adding that anybody caught would be punished to serve as a deterrent to others. According to her, the offenders usually move their refuse to unauthorised places including the road median and dump it there late in the night and very early in the morning to avoid being apprehended.

Adeyemo charged the affected residents to imbibe the culture of keeping their waste in waste bins for easy evacuation, and a healthy living. She observed that if everybody decides to do things right the society will be better for it. Her words: “Waste is not flowers or any other things we can use to decorate our environment. So, we must stop dumping it all around our environment. We should make our environment clean and friendly. Our environment is our next of kin and we must treat it well.”

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