Inter-State Movements Frustrate Our Attempt To Rid FCT Of Beggars, Hawkers – Olanipekun

Mrs Omolola Olanipekun is the director of Abuja Environmental Protection Board. In this exclusive interview with Nkechi Isaac, she speaks on the boards intensified efforts to sanitise the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and abate begging, hawking and destitution as well as maintain the city aesthetics.
What’s on the update on the JICA recycle plant update, why is it not yet operational?
Its on-going, if you go to dumpsite you’ll see that activities are already going on there, the areas are earmarked and we’ve started collection in the pilot district. I am sure you might have seen a truck with the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA)/AEPB partnership initiative inscription that is the vehicle we use to collect recyclables at the pilot areas and take them tour dumpsite.
It is when we transfer stations that you can recycle, what about the transfer station?
That’s a very big massive project and the systems have to be in place and these systems that have to be in place are infrastructural projects. You know the FCT on its own gave a contract award for setting up transfer stations and that is part of the start point and that project for some issues now have been stalled. But some of the equipment that you see in our office is for the transfer stations, for recycling, for compacting. We already have trucks and equipment that the government has procured to mount for effective take off of this; It’s not that the government has totally abandoned the project. So, the project will kick-start in the nearest future and there is also so many proposals on private initiatives that are coming, they need to be well reviewed to make sure they have what it takes to enter into a partnership with the FCT.
The issue of waste management is not for government alone and when the partnership wants to come in it takes a lot. And processing land for the project also takes time. These things are key to the take-off of the project but nevertheless we have a lot has been reviewed and that is waiting in the offing. Then the government also have the issue of the transfer station that they want to start with and I believe you will see transformation very soon because there’s a company already that the government has given part of the dumpsite to start this project already.
So, the initiative on that is that private companies are trying to come in to assist us with government mandate.
Are you expecting the take-off this year because as at three years ago we are hoping the dumpsite will be operational in 2017?
I hope so, but when you want to vet these companies   You look at their financial capabilities too because without the funds being there they might not be able to but these companies prove to have the funds available to kick-start this project so all hindrances and encumbrances that we’ve seen is what we have tried to look at so we’re expecting that very soon they’ll set up and we’ll start operation. Nevertheless the partnership with Jaika is on-going and we have started collection.
What sort of employment creation and generation are we looking at in this project?
I can assure you that once this project is up and running it will help to transform the face of environmental initiative of this administration. So, definitely a lot of people will be employed because there are different cadres because you’ll have sorting, compartment, you have different people working at different stages of implementation.
The FCT minister recently gave a directive that the city should be cleaned up, why wait for this directive before cleaning up the city?
If you look at the city honestly you’ll observe that there’s been an improvement with city sanitation, so I won’t really want to say the city is dirty but to the territory and different arms of government have responsibility. AEPB is not an implementing agency per say but rather a regulatory agency and our capacity most at-times are in intervention and there are arms of government that are supposed to deliver on their mandate and schedule in this area but when that is not done then the services of AEPB which is on intervention goes into that area. So, we have area councils and local government around it and they have as part of their mandate to ensure sanitation in these areas. So, when we see a gap and that is where the attention of the board is being drawn then that is when we swing into action. These axis include Nyanya, Jikwoyi, Kurudu, Orozo and some other areas. So, it’s not that our duties are left unattended to but maybe where some other people fail to deliver on their services, what we’re trying to do is to look for sustainable measures in these areas because whether we like it or not if a sustainable plan is not in place there will continue to be a repeat of such situation.
Are you working in collaboration with these areas to make the sanitation community driven instead of just intervening from time to time?
We have this and other plans as part of our sustainable plans which is currently in the offing because it takes both the generator of the waste and the arms of government to come together to ensure sustainability in that place because the people need to be educated that they’re the people bringing in this waste and they must be responsible for the waste they are generating. They also need to be sensitized on the health implication of indiscriminate waste disposal. They need to be taught proper containerisation of the waste. I am sure we’ll see a change when all three tiers involved, the community, people and government come together.
The man hole cover is being highly vandalised in the city center and environs. This is a very high risk for residents, what’s the board doing about it?
The issue of the stolen man hoe cover is a very important issue and very dear to the heart of the government. Doing all these has to do with budget but I must tell you that this was captured in the 2016/2017 budget. The facility management is working on some aspect and there’s already an on-going procurement process for the replacement of the stolen man-hole covers.
It is very embarrassing that the government will put facilities in place and you see people who don’t even understand the value of what government is doing trying to take it off to the detriment of the community. So, there’s an on-going procurement and part of it is to replace the stolen man-hole covers.
Open defecation is on-going in the city and it is a major concern to everybody.  What is the board doing to curb this?
A city is not termed as developed until you have certain key things in place. There are some Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and unfortunately Nigeria cannot be categorised to have fulfilled these MDG goals like having a FCC of this status, good roads network. It is an unfortunate situation. It’s not that there are no toilets in place but what AEPB does is to maintain the ones spread across in the city. Late last year we requested for proposal where we can place some mobile toilet pending when the government builds permanent ones because it takes time, they’ll have to give the contract, award it and it’ll take time. So to bridge the gap we have requested for approval on where to keep some mobile toilets, we believe it will some come way to alleviate this menace.
Any final words to FCT residents?
I must thank residents for how they’ve been support us. I want to tell residents that they are part and parcel of the government and therefore I encourage them to do more, where they don’t have the bins they should please get that. Also indiscriminate disposal of waste will not benefit the residents in any way and when we properly containerise our waste it will reduce incidences of communicable diseases. They should see themselves as the government and contributing their quota will lead to the proper development.
And for hawkers I want them to desist from it because the arm of the law will not cease to take its bit on them because the road is not supposed to be a market place where you can display your wares. It is environmentally unfriendly and has a lot of hazards associated to it.
Beggars and destitute, the enforcement arm take them off the street and we’ve discovered that people use it as money making venture to bring people to the city to come and beg and at the end of the day they share the proceeds. These are parts of what we have discovered in the courts and all that. And some people will go the extent of accommodating them in places, especially when it is evening or on Friday or during the week they release them.
A lot of thing have been unmasked in the process of trying to get beggars off the street, so, we try to liaise with border state so that this inter transit movement of  people in the name of,  I don’t know what they call it, maybe we can work together to reduce this incidents in the city. Maybe, the social development secretariat is also another arm of government that takes the responsibility of trying to rehabilitate these people. We have a Centre under the management of the SDS in Bwari, the government has done a lot in improving this place, so when some of these people are gotten off the road they’re taken ther
Source: Features

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