ABUJA, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is gradually being overtaken by filth as refuse dumps are now found in streets and major roads.
Indiscriminate dumping of refuse by residents and cart pushers, popularly known as ‘baban bola,’ is increasingly worsening waste disposal challenges in the FCT, with many areas turned into dumpsites.
However, the absence of garbage bins along streets and roads in the city is one of the major reasons for the waste disposal challenges in the FCT.
A resident of the FCT, Odinaka Agu, was spotted holding on to an empty soda can at Life Camp junction.
She told The ICIR that she had held on to the empty can since she purchased the product at Karmo, a market at least 20 minutes away.
“I bought the drink at Karmo market a while ago. Except I want to throw it on the street, there is nowhere else I can throw it,” she said.
While some residents like Agu resist the temptation to deface the city with waste products, many others are not as patient and litter the city with garbage.
Gutters and uncovered maintenance holes have become alternative means of waste disposal as they are often stuffed with pure water sachets, plastic cans and other waste products.
Abigail Orume sells canned drinks and snacks at Jahi. A few meters from her stall is a small pile of refuse where she and other traders around her heap dirt.
She told The ICIR that the absence of garbage bins left them with no alternative means of waste disposal.
“There is no other place to throw this dirt. The only thing is, we wait for ‘baban bola’ sometimes and pay them to clear this place, I don’t really know where they take the waste to,” she said.
It was the same scenario at Life Camp junction, where small refuse heaps have piled up for lack of other alternatives.
Many other streets in Nigeria’s Federal capital city are littered with waste products, including pure water sachets, plastic bottles and other food wrappers.
Indiscriminate disposal of waste attracts a fine ranging between N2,000 and N5,000, according to Public Relations Officer of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) Janet Peni.
Peni told The ICIR that residents caught disposing waste by the roadside are often arrested by officials of the board and taken to a mobile court, where they get sanctioned.
“When we catch people throwing waste around, we charge them to our mobile courts. It is the magistrate that gives fines. We usually fine first and second offenders, but if you continue doing it you could be sent to prison,” she said.
She also noted that the AEPB Act is being reviewed to include more rigid punishments which are expected to discourage residents from littering the city.
“We are working on our Act because the amount of the fines is small, so people go about breaking the law and paying up immediately you charge them. Because of that, we are reviewing our Act so as to get stiffer punishments,” she said.
But while the board seems to be channelling more efforts to enforcing punishments, the absence of garbage bins in strategic areas of the city means that residents are stuck with waste products as there are no effective means of disposal.
This results in more refuse heaps across the city, a development which poses health challenges for residents.
Implications of improper waste disposal
Indiscriminate waste disposal could lead to a breakout and spread of infectious diseases such as Lassa fever, typhoid and cholera.
Cholera is an endemic disease and occurs mostly during the rainy season in Nigeria. It affects both children and adults and can kill within a short period if left untreated.
The FCT and 33 other states were hit by a frightening cholera outbreak in 2021.
The 2021 outbreak resulted in 111,062 cases and 3,604 deaths, higher than the total deaths recorded from COVID-19.
Apart from the attendant health challenges, improper waste disposal also poses environmental problems and worsens climate change.
According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), about 11.2 billion tons of solid waste are collected annually across the globe. The decay of the organic proportion of solid waste contributes to about five per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The United Nations (UN) recognizes proper waste management as a significant contributor to sustainable development and climate change mitigation, but it is proving to be a difficult task for the Environmental Protection Board in Abuja.
Admitting that that garbage bins in the FCT are not enough, AEPB PRO Janet Peni noted that plans are being made to provide more garbage bins in the FCT.
“We cannot have our dustbins everywhere, but we have rural buckets in some places. We do not have them all over, and they are not sufficient. But we had a meeting with the director of AEPB. You know he is new, so part of the challenges brought before him were these rural buckets.
“We even found out that so many of them are spoilt and he has written a proposal for more rural buckets. I think it has even been approved. But the thing is that Abuja is large and we cannot have them everywhere,” she said.
Peni urged commercial drivers to attach waste bins to their vehicles to limit littering in the FCT.