Ogun’s war against refuse - HON OLUSOLA EKUNDAYO

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ogun’s war against refuse

A major effort is underway to remove the heaps of refuse which litter many parts of Ogun State.

“This is a market. It is supposed to be clean. But, this is disgusting. As you know this state has been at the forefront of achieving a cleaner environment. So, you all have to come out now to get this place cleared of dirt, or else, we are going to come tomorrow and shut this market.”

These were the words of the Ogun state deputy governor, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga. The situation had got to a worrisome stage, hence the new approach by the government in tackling the dirt and refuse situations in Ogun.

At the beginning of the administration in 2011, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun’s quest at improving the state of the environment was visible to all. Barely two months after assumption, the administration contended with the perennial flooding. Hundreds of residents lost their valuables in the heavy downpour which destroyed public and private buildings in areas such as Ijaye bridge, Ijaiye, St. Mary Anglican Church, Oke-Ejigbo and Isale Abese bridge among others.

The governor chastised them on the indiscriminate dumping of refuse inside the drains and channels, which were largely responsible for the blockages during the rains, and subsequent flooding.

Apparently heeding the call, residents turned road medians in particular the new roads across the state to refuse dumps, as cases of flooding subsided. From Sango-Ota to Ado-Odo, Ilaro, Ewekoro, Abeokuta, Ibafo/mowe, Sagamu, Ijebu-ode the story was the same. The ministry of Environment, which is primarily saddled with the responsibility, hitherto seemed  up to the task by providing refuse vehicles and customized tricycles for the evacuation of dirt  every now and then.

On December 14, 2014 as the countdown to the festive period of Christmas approached, Amosun, members of the State Executive Council  and Body of Permanent Secretaries took the front row in the “operation clear refuse in our state”. The affected cities include the state capital, Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode, Ilaro, Owode-Yewa and Ota. Others are Ifo, Mowe-Ibafo, Sagamu and Akute/Agbado/Alagbole/Ojudu.

Nine working groups to clear heaps of refuse in major cities of the state were set up. Each group consists of a supervisor from the governor’s office, a representative of Ogun State Environmental Protection Agency(OGEPA) to work in conjunction with the head of the local government authorities in each area.

In a further move aimed at expressing the state government’s determination to effectively manage waste disposal and collection, three teams led by the Head of Service (HOS), Mrs. Modupe Adekunle, Secretary to the State Government (SSG)Taiwo Adeoluwa and  Chief of Staff to the Governor Prof. Ganiyu Olatunde  worked throughout one particular night in Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode and Ota clearing refuse.

Members were provided with face masks, hand gloves, sanitisers, shovel, rakes, pay loaders, lorries, and other implements needed to evacuate the refuse to the authorised dump sites.

In order to ensure strict compliance to the apparent non-effective environmental sanitation law, the government began to wield the big stick, and it all started with the deputy governors  visit to  Ijebu-ode, during the sanitation exercise on July 25. Onanuga, who equally visited Sagamu witnessed display of refuse on the road median.

The news perhaps got to the state helmsman and he and his entourage decided to also move around the state capital. Our Correspondent  gathered that the issue took the front burner at the weekly executive council meeting. All relevant stakeholders were contacted and reinforced and the march towards a clean state started.

The Governor subsequently re-echoed the environmental sanitation law, emphasizing that dumping of refuse on road medians had become punishable by law.

The governor personally took charge on July 29. During an unscheduled visit to Onikolobo, Panseke and Quarry road areas of Abeokuta, he directed officials of the Ogun State Environmental Protection Agency (OGEPA) and security agencies to carry out the arrest of landlords and residents who live around the littered areas.

That Thursday happened to be the weekly sanitation exercise in the market and the visit further exposed the poor state of refuse disposal in the community. Some residents, however argued that when government failed to provide alternative designation for the disposal, the road medians became readily available.

But, the visibly angry governor would not take such excuse. “Why not put it in front of your house, instead of the road median. We spent your money to construct these roads and it is for your safety and not to be a refuse dump. When you put them in front of your housesv, the refuse collector will come and pick them. I have warned several times.” He stated that the arrested individuals numbering 14, would be charged to court for prosecution, noting that the action would send warning signals to other residents flouting environmental laws.

“We will no longer tolerate environmental lawlessness. We have issued releases, and tried all means to ensure that our people stop this act of indiscriminate dumping of refuse which has become a menace. I have ordered the immediate closure of all shops and houses which are within 50m range of any road median around this Onikolobo, Panseke and Quarry road here in Abeokuta, and those arrested would be charged to court tomorrow,” he maintained.

Chairman of Transition Committee in Abeokuta South Local Government, Mr. Olusola Ekundayo explained that those arrested during the August 6 exercise would face the courts. According to him, arrested offenders who contravened government’s order not to open for business until drainage channels in front of their shops were cleared, are going to be prosecuted.”

A member of the State House of Assembly, Tunde Sanusi lauded what he described as the “proactive drive” of the government towards a cleaner environment in the state. He gave this commendation while participating in monitoring and enforcement of a weekly market sanitation exercise carried out by the Environmental Sanitation Task Force at Ibafo, Obafemi-Owode Local Government area of the State. Sanusi, representing Obafemi-Owode Local Government said Ogun State was one of the few States in Nigeria where refuse is being packed by government free of charge, adding that the State governor has been living to the people’s expectation on his promise to ensure that the State is kept clean as promised in his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015.

“I wish to commend our governor for being proactive in his determination to discourage improper waste disposal along road medians, on the day of his inauguration he said the State will no longer tolerate unclean environment. You can see how he has effectively hit the ground running. He is being proactive on environmental sanitation. The Ministry of Environment is also working hard on this direction too especially on daily basis,” he said.

He however advocated for government to develop a dump site within the Mowe-Ibafo axis, owing to the teeming population in the area.

“Waste management has been a huge challenge in this area. My personal advice to government is to develop an industrialized dumpsite somewhere around this area, so that waste generated here can be processed for the overall benefit of the State. From our own end in Obafemi-Owode, we plan to meet with traditional rulers and other stakeholders in our communities to get a land for this purpose. The state is beginning to wear a new cleaner look since efforts at  creating a cleaner Ogun began in earnest.

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