The stinking slums of Makurdi
The filth in some slums in Makurdi, Benue State capital, has been raising concern with many describing it as an eyesore and a dent on the image of the city. Among the areas that are mostly affected by the filth are Wadata, North Bank and Wurukum. An assemblage of gaudy, rickety shackles called houses and dirt coated surroundings await anyone visiting these places. The tiny path walkways are laced with sand soaked dispensed cellophane bags emptied of their contents.
The abattoir behind the Wurukum slum just down the new North Bank Bridge indeed also contributes to the acrid stench that choke people.
On the left side of the bridge, the spot serving as the collection point of wastes of slaughtered cows and other livestock is just by the road northward of the city location, which flows into the River Benue.
Worst still, the mound of refuse dotting the landscape of the Wadata axis of the town located in the densely populated Hausa quarters is believed to have been battled for years to be cleared by the sanitation authorities.
At certain locations of the city, between the old railway bridge and the North Bank, a deluge of waste begging for clearance has submerged some refuse dump sites and incinerators-looking containers constructed by the old Benue State government.
The roads leading into these areas are filthy and at some points packed with sand. In addition, potholes and blocked drainage compound the roadside filth, which instantly removes from the town’s look the admiration that should attend a state capital city of Makurdi’s standing.
Human waste litter the waterfront in all the three slums where open daefecation is a common sight. In fact, the channels across which the bridge spans is a collection of all sorts of wastes disposed indiscriminately.
Motorists and pedestrians will do themselves a lot of good to cover their nose while passing through the areas with a piece of handkerchief to subdue the smell that emits from the wastes.
The filth phenomenon, however, invades virtually every street in the city areas where most of the the low-income earners live. The stench oozing out from the slums in Wadata, Wurkum and North Bank areas of the city, no doubt, runs counter to the living conditions of the people. The refuse collection points in these locations now constitute health hazards because wastes are not collected.
The filth is such that threatens some buildings in the vicinity, where even the walls of the buildings are soaked not with rainfall but water from the drainage. Some of the houses in these places directly face pit toilets.
Little wonder, the recent outbreak of cholera in the state was first noticed in such areas, killing many people and forced the Ministry of Health to declare a whole week of emergency on sanitation in the three affected slums.
The state Director of Health, Dr. Joseph Kumba, who expressed his disgust at the poor sanitary condition in those areas, disclosed during a one-day sensitisation workshop for health care givers at the Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi, that the cholera epidemic was common in those neighborhoods because of their dirty surrounding.
However, a sanitation official told our correspondent on the condition of anonymity that the attitude of the inhabitants of the area coupled with the laxity on the part of government agencies responsible for the management of filth in the state capital should be held responsible for the sordid state of the slums.
While the source contended that most residents lack basic hygiene etiquette, he said that certain coercive measures have to be employed to enforce compliance with environmental cleanliness.
He said: “That is why the places are called slum. You don’t expect cleanliness or well kept lawns in a slum. It is meant for the poor people and there is nothing anybody can do about it. After all, dirtiness, as they say, does not kill an African. We can coexist peacefully.”
Another inhabitant, Aliyu Abdullahi who has lived in the area for 24 years, opined that his family could not afford to pay soaring rents in other parts of the city so they decided to build their own house close to the Wadata riverfront with the money available to them.
Abdullahi said: “If you live here, there is no problem. People are running from other areas of the town to come here. There is no stealing here aside the erosion problem we usually face. We are happily living here.”
On its part, the Benue State Environmental and Sanitation Authority (BENSESA) said it has been working within the confines of law to ensure that people maintain clean and healthy environment, adding it has prosecuted over 100 households without toilets at the Wurukum and Wadata areas of Makurdi in the past one year.
General Manager of BENSESA, Ejiga Akpa, told our correspondent in Makurdi that the cases are still pending in court while the authority in the last six months has closed two houses for not having toilets in the same area.
“We have over 100 cases in court of households who don’t have toilets at Wurukum and Wadata in Makurdi, we have shut down two houses and we are going to be seriously on it,” he said.
Akpa, who said he led a fiveday special sanitation exercise in Wadata, Wurukum and North Bank in conjunction with UNICEF and other relevant bodies to distill drainages and clean the entire place, warned the inhabitants to improve on their personal hygiene.
He warned that the five days massive cleanup was necessitated by the outbreak of cholera in the affected suburbs, adding that the authority would clamp down on any offender.
He said that his team is creating public awareness among the residents in the notorious poor sanitary zones before it begins to wield its ‘big stick’.
The general manager, however, expressed his optimism that a lot would be achieved soon by the authority following the recent recruitment of 2, 500 additional hands under the Federal Government Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P) to boost cleanliness in all parts of the state.
He added: “With the SURE-P, we will now have enough staff. We will strive to achieve the best. In other parts of the state, we are also taking the advantage of the scheme to curb sanitation excesses. And with the state government planning to equip us with more disposal vans, sanitation will become enhanced in the state.”