Before the inception of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s government in 2011, the city of Owerri, the Imo State capital, was variously adjudged to be the cleanest state capital in Nigeria, but Damian Duruiheoma reports that the reputation has nosedived to become the dirtiest.
Owerri, the capital of Imo State, is currently an eyesore. This is because of the several heaps of garbage which litter almost every street in the city. To many residents of the capital city, Owerri now appears to be the home of refuse dumps, with an outbreak of an epidemic seriously looming if nothing is done to address the situation soon.
Close to three years after the capital city was adjudged as one of the dirtiest cities in Nigeria by the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, the environmental state of Owerri is yet to improve for the better. Rather, it is attracting the tag as the dirtiest state capital in the country. As was contained in the report, the Imo State capital is still presently grappling with excrement in the street, graffiti, indiscriminate dumping of refuse and lack of sanitation exercises.
Checks by The UNION reveal that at Old Okigwe Road near Government House/Wetheral Road roundabout, Umezuruike Street by Royce Road, world Bank market, Douglas Road, Egbeada Road, Item/Mbari streets in Ikenegbu, Hardel Junction, Orji, Tetlow, Egbu, Old Nekede and Royce Roads, etc, heaps of refuse have since taken over the roads and streets.
The situation is worse at Old Okigwe Road, World Bank (opposite Dreamland Hotel) and Douglas Road as well as such markets as Relief, World Bank, New Market, Eke Onunwa and School Road Markets where some traders display their wares including edible items while those allergic to such repulsive odours emitting from them, abandoned their stalls waiting till when the officials of Imo State Environmental Transformation Commission (ENTRACO) come to evacuate the dirt.
It is even worst any Saturday the citizens decide to embark on general sanitation by scooping out dirt. Such roads as Royce, Tetlow and Douglas would be impassable for days.
As a result of this, residents and traders are no longer finding it comfortable doing business around the affected streets and markets.
For instance, shop and stall owners on Old Okigwe Road, opposite Olive Business Centre near Government House Roundabout and New Egbeada Road Junction, Amakohia have packed up since one week.
Speaking to The UNION, a resident at World Bank, Miss Ijeoma Ohiri, described the environmental situation of the capital city as a mess and nothing to write home about.
She expressed deep concern that Owerri which was once reputed for being the cleanest city in Nigeria, has turned to a dirty stinking place, adding that the situation seemed to be worse at World Bank area, opposite Dreamland Hotel, which was now replete with repulsive and overpowering stench of rotten heaps of over-stayed and overflowing refuse.
Ohiri wondered why the Rochas Okorocha-led government should allow such ugly sites that were capable of causing epidemic in the state capital to exist unattended to.
she urged the current government to emulate his predecessor, Chief Ikedi, whose government, she said prioritised environmental cleanliness by carting away refuse from every street two times daily.
Also speaking, Mr. Eze Amaeshi, a journalist attributed the poor environmental condition of the capital to the state governor not engaging the right people to manage the city’s sanitation.
He accused the governor of giving the job of managing the santory situation of the state capital cronies who know little or nothing about the job.
‘My brother, the entire situation is an eyesore. From my residence at Irete to Wetheral Junction here and inside all the markets in the metropolis, the site you behold is a very dirty capital city. It’s very unfortunate.
‘I must tell you that since this government came into being, Owerri has not remained the same again in terms of cleanliness’, he lamented.
Another resident, Mr. Ndubueze Nwokoma, who resides at Orji, could not understand why the state government should pay lip service to environmental sanitation, saying for about two years now, the state capital had consistently remained filthy.
“You need to visit the streets. What you’re seeing on the major roads and streets are too small compared to the level of filth in the streets”, he told The UNION, pointing out that all the drains in the city had been clogged with reckless abandon as a result of piled up refuse, with the government doing nothing about it.
Nwokoma advised that the government and its agents should cultivate the culture of cleaning the environment especially the drainage system.
Findings from the ENTRACO office in Owerri have revealed it that the immediate past administration of Chief Ikedi Ohakim was spending about N125million monthly to keep the capital city clean by organising monthly sanitation exercise.
According to the sources who refused to mention their names, the Okorocha-led administration stopped the exercise and reduced it to N70million and has not been able to achieve much in terms of keeping the city clean.
One of them stated that most of the individuals who got the contract of refuse disposal in the state, lacked the capacity and experience to do the job, and as a result, had to sublet the jobs to foreign a firm who was said to have deviced a means of evacuating the refuse at their convenience. Thus, instead of daily evacuation of the refuse, the contractors now allow the dumpsites to heavily overflow to the roads and the streets more than two weeks before coming to evacuate them.
They accused Governor Okorocha of being the architect of the whole problem, saying that because of the amount involved, the governor decided to sideline ENTRACO officials and awarded the job to his relatives who, as it were, had messed up the job.
‘It is very painful to recall that during Ohakim’s era, we were fully involved in supervising the daily evacuation of refuse in Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe and we never failed. But these days, job seekers bypass ENTRACO to secure the contracts only to hire tippers and waste disposal equipment at day pay in order to maximise profits’, said one of the Entraco officials.
Another official told The UNION that the First Lady of the state, Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha was now in charge of everything about environmental cleanliness in the city and not ENTRACO, saying that she determines how the job is done
They appealed to journalists to inform the governor to address the situation before a major outbreak of epidemic which is looming within the state capital.
All efforts made to reach the general manager of ENTRACO, Mr. Henry Ike for reaction proved abortive as calls and sms put through to his gsm line (07063305277) were not responded to.
Over population is the cause of refuse problem in Owerri.
Most of Imo state have been constrained to live in Owerri by long years of govt development policy in the state which deprives development infrastructures to other areas of Imo state outside Owerri. And Owerri loves this phenomenon to the fullest.
For example, Owerri hosts more than 120,000 students from all the five state and federal tertiary institutions of learning in Imo state all located in or nearest Owerri; but Owerri protests even to the gods each time a state govt wanted to relocate one of the three universities in Owerri to anther area outside the zone of the state capital.
Rochas should stay at home and face the job he applied for and was offered. Orlu Road in Owerri stinks. That is the road that leads to his village. Instead of politicking, this loud mouth should stay in the state and tackle dirt. APC is not helping matters. Peter Obi has shown us the way to development. Rochas does not have the mental capacity and capability to lead Imo.
This situation is exactly what we predicted in a study of solid waste governance in Owerri which was published in the prestigious journal Waste Management 30 (2), 355-357.
DOI:10.1016/j.wasman.2009.11.009. Let the policy makers take a look at the recommendations and do the needful. Owerri can still regain its former status the cleanest city in Nigeria!