The stink­ing slums of Makurdi

Daily Trust - - ENVIRONMENT - A dirty area in Wa­data From Hope Abah, 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.”

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