Reviewing Amaechi’s Environmental Sanitation Policies

With the appointment of Isobo Jack as the new environmental sanitation czar in Rivers State and Nnamdi Wokekoro showed the back door out of the work, is a repositioning that all must praise Governor Chibuike Amaechi for.

Many of us knew that Wokekoro tried, but it seemed that he was incapable of carrying out the environmental task in the state as they were. Providence knew why his stay in the office endured for so long upon that. The Rivers State environmental sanitation work was recklessly abandoned. Many of the agents cared less for the environment, but rather, were concerned of how to make money from residents of Rivers State.

Wokekoro's oust and his replacement with Jack might not bring about the “Garden City” that Amaechi and all want of Port Harcourt. Amaechi must make sure that Jack worked. Imagine that the drainage systems in Port Harcourt are eyesore. Heaps of refuse dugout from the drainages still glare at us around the streets. Mosquitoes invested smelling waters still surround our different compounds due to lack of functional drainages. Instead of water running on the few ones we have, pure water sachets and other filths occupied them. Keeping the environment clean should not be about sacking and replacing the sanitation agents but about considering how to make the environment clean.

Amaechi must improve the quality of our living environment. Gone are not the days when one would enter a bus under Isaac Boro Park and hit Eleme Junction without an eyesore of filths littered everywhere. A lot of people describe such indiscriminate liter of filths now in Port Harcourt as unbearable. One wonders when Port Harcourt began to be the city known for dirtiness. Visit the government council premises and be sorry of cars impounded by the taskforce filled the whole place. Some are rusting like a decaying grass. While the owners are not left, without the huge amounts of money, they are to pay. The same is applicable in the Rivers Sanitation Authority office.

Immediately one drives from Aba to Oyigbo junction or from Owerri to Elele the picture of Everest refuse becomes the monument of the city. No one should mention the indiscriminate cars at every junction in Rivers State with careless motorists picking and dropping passengers. The picture becomes unappealing. Apart from the menace of motorists, what about the situation by the activities of hawkers and streets traders? Walk from the Boro Park to Rumuola; from Air Force junction down to Oil Mill junction and feel the sorry state of the menace of the hawkers. Don't tell anyone what you saw at Oil Mill, especially on Wednesdays. That is the market days!

It is very sad that the authorities have continued to rid the city of illegal markets, street trading and now illegal parking mainly on the pages of the newspapers. Take a walk round Port Harcourt and you will observe that the environmental agents connive with the security operatives who allow residents to continue their acts of illegal refuse dump and street market. Oyigbo is a university thesis for students studying refuse management.

But every day, both the sanitation authority and the city council commence a fresh campaign to rid the city of dirt. No new drive seems to have come from the change of leadership in the sanitation agency. The only new drive Hon. Nnamdi Wokekoro brought to the activities of the sanitation agency was his incessant crusade on the radio without work seen was done.

It was very sad to note that when people air views of where to focus on the sanitation in the state the authorities concerned rarely attend to such views. Many business dealers and residents in the state are not discipline. They litter the street anyhow. Many people drop the pack of whatever they ate anywhere. The sanitation cans and drums are not even in sight. Even when they are in sight, many of people are not conscious to use them.

We have to all join hands to make Rivers State a clean place. Enabling people, or is it forcing people to pay sanitation fees or dues, has confused the sanitation agents in this state so much that they have derailed from the objective of the work. The Rivers State Environmental Sanitation Agency (RSESA) set up to help the administration of Amaechi work should think twice. Innocent residents have been much harassed and intimidated in the name of “checking sanitation fees” in Rivers State. The rather perceived “militants” working for RSESA should be checked.

Amaechi should warn them to stop the uncouth manner they harass and arrest motors and motorists. RSESA was not formed to make money but to keep the state clean. The opposite has become the case today. Amaechi should know that they're denting his government because of their hated toutish lifestyle. They go after stickers and baskets. We wonder why one sticker cannot serve the purpose of the unnecessary stickers people are intimidated to pay in this state. Amaechi must re-define what RSESA exists for in Rivers State. He must make sure the agency pursue the definition to restore the glory of Port Harcourt is, than gallivanting. We are crying for the money these sanitation boys have (il)legally collected from residents by overbearing into areas that was not their business.

It is very sad that Port Harcourt is looking beautiful with the stride of works that Amaechi is doing, but very dirty. Many residents built on drainages. For example, at Oyigbo, the First Bank allegedly built on drainage, thereby causing the residents of that axis the bank is built to suffer flooding.

Let us not talk about supply of drinking water in Rivers State not to annoy anybody. But where is the full supply sanitation coverage in the state? Conservation, utilization and development of sanitation policies in Rivers State have become a sorry tale today. Is it not bad that Rivers State could be identified as one of the states in Nigeria that does not work vigorously with its draft of sanitation policies? When would Rivers State develop Rural Water and Sanitation sector strategy and action plan?

Amaechi should recognize water and sanitation as the nitty-gritty for maintaining the residents' life and the envi­ronment. His government should see both water and sanitation as the fundamentals for the socio-eco­nomic development of the state. What is the difference between the RSESA and the once State Water Board and the State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWATSA)? Significantly, the same inept agencies.

Amaechi must initiate effective implementation of the environmental policies in Rivers State. With what these sanitation boys were doing, there is need for institutional reforms at the State and local government levels. Amaechi should and must provide leadership, not only political will, needed to push the change processes we taste for in this state.

Since Rivers Sate has no functional Water Board, RSESA should help us with the maintenance of sanitation facilities, quality assurance and control of urban and rural sanitation systems. This will ebulliently work together with other government agencies, to curb the state of poor sanitation. Priority should be given to practice of proper sanitation, to avoid being infected with preventable diseases, such as diarrhea.

Diarrhea claims thousands of lives each day especially children. Like in China there is heightened pressure on polluters, there is (a genuine) legislation that allows for stiff fines against heads of companies that foul its scarce water resources. The Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law, which were passed ahead of the annual full session of China's parliament, or National People's Congress, took effect on June 1, 2008.

Amaechi should make sure that enterprise heads directly responsible for causing severe water and environmental pollution incidents be fined up to half of their income. One asphalt plant in Oyigbo is causing WONDER there. However, it should not be only the executives that must be faced with this disciplinary action; the government must struggle to curtail the environmental consequences of its hurried economic growth. It is very sad that people still spill dirty into rivers. Drinking water supplies has been cut off from many communities in Rivers State as a result of that. This was most seriously in a place like China in 2005, an explosion at an industrial plant sent toxic chemicals streaming into the Songhua river in China's northeast.

In Rivers State excreta from crude oil, industrial waste and untreated sewage also cause foul-smelling algae. We must recall March 22, 2008, when Nigeria joined other nations to flag off its International Year of Sanitation and marked the World Water Day. Amaechi should set a goal to speed up progress towards the UN's MDG target to halve, by 2015, the share of the 2.6 billion people around the world with no access to basic sanitation and we must set objectives to increase awareness on hygiene promotion, water quality and wastewater treatment in Rivers State.

As a collective effort, we must make sure that we are not still without basic sanitation, because with the present trend it might be difficult to achieve the MDG sanitation target. We must do this to help our children under five who are most vulnerable to the effects of insufficient sanitation and hygiene. Imagine that every year, an estimated of not less than 300, 000 deaths, mainly amongst five year old children, occur annually due to diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices.

UNICEF believes that improving excreta disposal can decrease diarrhea rates by 35 per cent and hand washing with soap at critical times can decrease diarrhea by over 47 per cent in Nigeria. People living in the rural areas, the progress of meeting the Millennium Development Goals and its implication for the achievement of other Millennium Goals in other sub-sectors should stop being challenging in Rivers State.

Orderliness of refuse disposal must be returned in Rivers State, we must enjoy the type of cleanliness we see at the Government House axis of Port Harcourt where Wokekoro once placed bills numbering more than the users, perhaps for Governor Amaechi to see the deceitful work on sanitation in the State, which does not meet the eyes.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: [email protected]

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