Awka Residents Lament As ASWAMA Leaves Only One Refuse Dump for over 1000 Houseolds

Feb 15, 2022 - 22:43
Feb 15, 2022 - 22:45
Awka Residents Lament As ASWAMA Leaves Only One Refuse Dump for over 1000 Houseolds

By Izunna Okafor, Awka

Residents of Oby Okoli Avenue in Awka, Anambra State capital, have lamented over the closure of all refuse dumps along the street and leaving only one, by the state government.

The densely populated and ever-busy street of the Awka metropolis, which stretches from Unizik Junction/Temp. Site (off Enugu—Onitsha Expressway) to inside Okpuno Village, also cuts across other popular streets, such as former Abakaliki Street, now known as Club Road, as well as the street of Y-Junction, which leads to Regina Junction.

The Avenue, which hosts hundreds of houses and shops, is also a major gateway into and out of other streets, closes, crescents, churches, markets, hotels, lodges, estates and thousands of residential houses in Okpuno.

However busy and populated this street is, it (as at date) has only one refuse dump, thereby making it very difficult and stressful for the residents to timely and properly discard their wastes. This was as a result of gradual and eventual closure of all other refuse dumps in the entire street by Anambra State Government or its agency, Anambra State Waste Management Agency (ASWAMA), saddled with the responsibility of managing wastes.

The only one left is one sited at the Y-Junction, which is about 1,400 meters away from the beginning of the Avenue.

Not only is this remaining waste collection point too far from many households, it is visibly the only refuse dump serving the entire resident of the Avenue and beyond.

Sharing his experiences after trekking about 1,200 meters to discard his wastes at the only spared collection point, a 56-year-old resident of the Avenue, Mr. Paul Okpara, said ASWAMA has made discarding of wastes very difficult for them than they have ever experienced.

Mr. Okpala, who said he has lived in that street for the past 28 years, explained that there were over ten dump sites along the Avenue before, with few others stationed at various estates in the Avenue, which made discarding of wastes less stressful for the residents. He however alleged that government, through concerned ministry or agencies, gradually 'moved away' all the receptacles and closed those sites, for reasons best known to them. 

He further revealed that two out of the only three remaining waste collection points in the Avenue, were closed and the receptacles moved away about two weeks ago, living only the one at the Y-Junction. He explained that the two recently-closed dump sites are the one sited opposite Ebele Fish Spot and one opposite the junction of Fr. Arazu Close, and wondered why such a densely populated area in the Awka city should have only one refuse dump, despite all the households, bars, restaurants, hotels and markets that operate in that area.

“Awka is fast developing into a world class city, and this area is very significant and well-populated, for Christ's sake. So, why should it have only one refuse dump? And why won't government take its waste management in the area very serious, knowing fully well the implications of neglecting it?” Okpala wondered.

He also alleged that even when those refuse dumps were still there,  the receptacles would always be full and spill over, while the entire spot would be smelly and littered with wastes before ASWAMA would evacuate them, due their levity and latency in waste management, coupled with the populated nature of the area and the quantity of wastes it produces on daily basis. He also imagined how the situation would be now that the entire area is left with only dump site.

Another resident and shop owner in the area, Mrs. Ebele Ndiukwu recounted how she was caught and fined ₦3000 at night sometimes last year by a group of three guys after a bag of waste she discarded fell off a waste-filled receptacle begging to be evacuated by ASWAMA.

She also recounted how similar group of people accosted the her again (at night) one week ago and threatened her to pay them the sum of ₦25000 after she discarded her waste at one of the recently-closed refuse dumps, without knowing it had been closed. She said she was however saved by some passersby who intervened and pleaded with them on her behalf before they unconditionally released her android phone, which she said they first seized before before asking her to ‘settle them’.

Expressing doubts on the identities of the perpetrators of the act as government officials or ASWAMA staff, she also called on the government to mount surveillance in the area and other places they have refuse dumps to avoid people taking advantage of ill situation. She equally pleaded with government to site more waste collection points in the area, to avoid indiscriminate dumping of refuse, which will unarguably deface the Awka and foil the government's fecund efforts to give the city a facelift.

When our reporter visited the closed dump sites, it was observed that the receptacles are no longer there, while the blocks constructed for them have been destroyed, with a very small signpost bearing a tiny inscription “NO DUMPING OF REFUSE HERE BY POLICE ORDER! OFFENDERS WILL PAY ₦25,000”, left at the spot.

When interviewed, some of the people seen at a mechanic workshop newly sited in the place and another person seen in a gas shop close to the site, who all pleaded anonymity, explained that the land where the two recently-closed refuse dumps were sited belongs to a group of people or kindred in Awka, who gave out the portion to the state government, to site the refuse dumps. They however said the group recently wrote to ASWAMA and the state's Ministry of Environment and demanded them to close down all their dump sites in the land and vacate the land, as they now want to use it for another purpose.

They also explained that some of the residents and shop owners in the area were always lamenting and complaining against ASWAMA's approach to waste management when those refuse dumps were there, because the Agency would always wait until the receptacles are waste-filled to the brim, spill over, and the entire area littered with wastes and become smelly before they would evacuate them. 

They said the complains increased even more in recent time, prior to the eventual closure of the sites, as ASWAMA officials (for reasons best known to them) surprisingly resorted to burning the wastes at night, instead of evacuating them with trucks, thereby disturbing the residents with all-night smoke and insalubrious odour oozing out from the sites, which mostly affected the residents, bars and restaurants closest to the sites.

It was observed that there is currently an ongoing building construction in the land, as well as the newly sited mechanic workshop and a bamboo shop.

Our correspondent also visited the only remaining dump site at Y-Junction, where it was observed that wastes have saturated the whole area and taken almost half of the road, with the entire area smelling like piles of decomposing corpses.

It was also observed that a construction work is equally currently ongoing on the small portion of land where the dump site is sited, which suggests that the site may also be closed down or relocated anytime soon. 

Taking further tours along the down the street, our correspondent saw packs of different kinds of wastes indiscriminately dumped and scattered inside gutters, along and off the street. A group of two bare-chested men and a lady were also seen burning wastes in front of their house, Hollywood Lodge, located opposite the Living Faith Church.

When contacted on the issues, the MD/CEO of Anambra State Waste Management Agency, ASWAMA, Mr. Amaechi Akaorah said he was not aware of the developments, as nobody informed him before moving away the receptacles or closing down the dump sites. 

He said the government gave the  contract of waste management in that area to a private waste collector, whom he himself does not know.

When asked his plans about that, the ASWAMA helmsman said “I told you I don't know anything about it. Go to the Ministry of Environment and asked the Perm. Sec., please. Thank you.”

It would be recalled that the ASWAMA Boss had, sometime in October last year, 2021, while recounting the feats recorded by the Agency in waste management across the state, revealed that Anambra State Government maps out and spends over ₦2bn (two billion naira) in waste management annually.

He also, in the last year interview, stated that the Agency was attaining over 80% of its vision in waste management.

However interesting and commendable these claims may be, evidences and scenes of some dump sites in the Awka metropolis and other parts of the state show that the Agency is still under-delivering in its waste management onus and mandate, and therefore needs to step up and discharge its function effectively and efficiently, as expected.

And if there is any best time to that, it is now.

Obido taa dịba mma, ọ dị̀bàrà gboo.

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Izunna Okafor Izunna Okafor is an award-winning Nigerian novelist, poet, journalist, essayist, editor, translator, publicist, Igbo language activist and administrator who hails from Ebenator in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, Nigeria. He writes perfectly in English and Igbo languages, and has published several books in both languages. He has received over 25 awards, and has over 2000 articles published online, both nationally and internationally, cutting across creative writing and journalism. See his full profile at: