Reality Check: Owerri Buckling Under Its Own Filth, Far From Being Nigeria's Cleanest City Anymore
By Iwedi Ojinmah 1 month ago
In June Deputy Governor of Imo State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Gerald Irona, assured people of the state that the government under the leadership of Governor Emeka Ihedioha would return Owerri to its former status as the cleanest city in Nigeria,
Fast forward to present tense November and one can see that clearly is not the case as a combination of things have derailed that project. Carelessness and just being plain lazy has made people just throw garbage anywhere without even thinking about the consequence. The result is that heaps of garbage are now littering major streets and roads.
Douglas Road as a quasi-refuse dump
An environmentalist, Godson Anukam, who condemned the attitude of most traders in major markets in Owerri, but also Orlu and Okigwe in terms of waste disposal, noted that the people usually stuff the gutters with solid waste generated from the shops daily.
But there is also another reason for this sad trend. Namely lack of adequate funding
The General Manager, Imo State Environmental Transformation Commission (ENTRACO), Alex Emeziem (above), in a recent interview revealed that “the very first money we received for the monthly sanitation exercise was N13 million. The highest we have received was N20 million.
With this amount, the agency, he said, is expected to take care of its three zonal offices in Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe, take care of the police, civil defence; mobile court, hire vehicles and equipment during clean-up exercises and programmes.
It was gathered that the budget now is a far cry of what the agency was receiving during the administration of former Governor Ikedi Ohakim (below) who, ironically was appointed as the Chairman of the agency by the current administration of Ihedioha and leads the current cleanliness crusade.
Emeziem continued saying: “We have a lot of financial challenges. The cost of evacuating garbage is huge; waste is something you don’t keep for 24 hours. If you don’t cart away garbage today, tomorrow, it is doubled because everybody is generating waste, including newborn babies,” he said.
“Moreover, he observed that Owerri, the capital city, “is getting overpopulated; it is getting congested. So, without an effective system of waste evacuation in place, the situation may be worse. That’s why we have decided that people must pay their sanitation fees. We did not make the law; it has been in place since 1978. But we don’t want to go asking people to pay now because we want to ensure the service is effective,” he said.
Finally, he addressed the issue of sabotage sharing:
"Some people who were managing it before during the time of the immediate past administration allegedly felt they should sabotage us so that ENTRACO would be seen as incapable and would be recalled to take back the job. The saboteurs allegedly went to dump garbage at the Government House Roundabout and some other places just to embarrass the government. But we are on top of the game.”
He said beginning from this month; the agency will constitute taskforces that would go from street to street to evacuate garbage.
“We advise residents not to dump their wastes on the streets. They should rather leave them on their premises. We give them two days a week just as it is done in the civilised world. If we are going to your street on Tuesday and Friday, we tell you the time the truck will come. All you need to do is to neatly pack your garbage in the sanitation bags which attracts a fee of N50 for evacuation.
“All you need to do is to bring out your waste to your gate. As the trucks pass-by, they will pick them up. If we see people carrying garbage on the road after November 1, the task force will arrest and charge them for illegal dumping. That is the way forward for waste management in the state.
“We are going to have another task force on abatement. Once your gutter is desilted and you are caught throwing waste into it, you will be slammed with stiff fines,” he said.
As the operation is yet to commence, further investigation reveals that the agency’s waste disposal bins which are over 1,000 in number and bought at the cost of N65,000 each and mostly placed at various bus stops in the city, are small in size to contain the garbage to be dumped in them daily as the wastes, most times, spill to the roads.
The agency’s boss explained that the bins were bought when the agency thought it was a good deal until sabotage crept in.
The Awareness will continue to monitor all developments on the ground aand hopefully will soon be able to report that things are on the upswing and that Owerri will soon return to be one of the cleanest, if not the cleanest city in the Federation.