Inside Makurdi’s North Bank suburb
Life in Makurdi’s North Bank could be compared to sundry experiences in overcrowded suburbs across Nigeria. Oftentimes, the good side of urban suburbs such as North Bank is scarcely seen because it is hidden in the horrifying stories of criminality associated with slum communities.
There are no doubts about the similarities these suburbs share in criminality, commonly noticed in abject poverty, dirty environment, illiteracy and lack of social amenities which government alone, in many cases, could provide.
However, in Makurdi’s North Bank, there are some areas with nice residential buildings and decent surroundings just as some neighborhoods have remained filthy despite heavy trading and social activities going on.
Our correspondent, who visited the area, reports that the densely populated suburb is a mini-Nigeria with people from almost all the ethnic groups living in harmony.
Vice President of the community, Elder Baaki Mathew Ayuba, went down memory lane to recall that his father - a worker with the Public Works Department (PWD), settled at the North Bank in 1932 during the period the old railway bridge was built.
Ayuba, an indigene of Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State, said his father later joined the Nigerian Army and retired as Staff Sergeant after working in the military as a rural driver.
“I have lived all my life in North Bank as a part time farmer, politician and advertiser with Marka Advertising Company. It is disheartening that successive governments apart from that of Governor Gabriel Suswam have neglected the area in terms of improving on infrastructure,” he said.
He noted that the road to the railway bridge got so bad that the area would have been cut off from the other parts of Makurdi before the present state government attended to it following desperate cries from members community.
For Ayuba however, cultism and petty crimes, such as burglary, remained a worry for people of the North Bank community despite the police and vigilante efforts to curb such crimes.
He also expressed concern over inadequate water supply to the community as well as access roads to navigate the nooks and crannies of the surrounding, emphasising the need for the state government to open up streets and provide potable water for the people.
On drainages, Ayuba said that they have been talking to residents on the need to clear up gutters and blocked water channels while he blamed indiscriminate refuse dump on the inability of the state sanitation authority to evacuate it.
He said executives of the community provided refuse bins for residents but the problem had remained evacuation, stressing that the authorities responsible for that do not show up to remove the dirt.
While he worried about the heap of refuse on the premises of St. Mary’s Primary School in the area, he accused the Urban Development and BENSACA of not evacuating it as they had allegedly requested for the sum of N250,000 for its evacuation.
In his opinion, it was wrong for the government institutions to request for such condition before of the rendering their services, stressing that the innocent pupils should not be made to suffer for government’s failure to deliver on the dividends of democracy.
When asked about the good side of living in North Bank suburb, he answered gleefully, “If you want to rest, come to North Bank. Our market offers the best of fresh foods. North Bank is also never flooded because it sits on a hill.”
“We have in this vicinity, a High Court, two military barracks - Nigeria Army School of Military Engineering (NASME) and 72 Special Forces Brigade, a big Catholic Church, General Hospital among others. North Bank is Nigeria - a home to tribes including foreigners, and that is why we want the streets opened up for more businesses to thrive.”
The chairman of the Traders Union at the North Bank market, Odinaka Nwanya, corroborated the vice chairman of the community on the sanitary condition of the area.
The traders’ leader said the sanitation authority had consistently refused to provide bins for refuse collection and that they do not come to evacuate same while the road sweepers were in the habit of sweeping dirt into the gutters around the market.
Nwanya also complained of where to keep the refuse bins when the authorities eventually heed to their demand as he noted that the challenge of space had already caused ripples among various organs in the market with the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) rejecting the idea of situating the bins in front of their office.
Meanwhile, the General Manager of the Benue State Environmental and Sanitation Authority (BENSESA), Engr. Andrew Chile, at the time of this report was yet to react to the allegations. Our correspondent has not been able to see him after several visits to his office while calls to his telephone lines were not answered.
But Chile, during a previous interview with had blamed the activities of saboteurs which he said was truncating refuse collection and evacuation, especially in Makurdi metropolis.
Emeka Anyaoku, who lives on Ter Guma Street in North Bank, worried that the area has largely remained underdeveloped in terms of infrastructures even though it was about the first place of settlement in the history of the state capital itself.
Anyaoku, who had lived over 40 years in the suburb, thinks that government could do more to erase the slum status of the area by beautifying the streets, ensuring proper waste management and providing potable water for the people.