31 July 2009

Nigeria: Gosa's Living Wasteland


Abuja — Gosa is a dump site in Abuja Municipal Area Council in Abuja, which is relatively unknown to most residents of Abuja for several reasons. Yet each and every resident has contributed his own quota to its present status,which has even been described as unbefitting of a Federal Capital Territory. Located off Jabi road in Idu Industrial Layout about 30 kilometres off the express road, the rough and bumpy road that leads a first time visitor to the site could best be described as repulsive.

But beside the unmotorable road, the long abandoned site is a village that is home to a lot of activities tucked away from the preying eyes of the public. Given the nature of waste that are daily dumped there by trucks that collect waste from various locations of the city, the site also plays host to businessmen in search of used plastics, cans, metals of all type, and other items that could be recycled in nature.

While bringing in their trucks to load items that could be recycled, they find willing hands in men whose work is purely to work daily on sorting out the waste into categories of plastics, metals, bottles and even rubbers. They are paid for the sorting out and for loading the trucks. That is their daily ritual on the site.

This perhaps explains why the likes of Ahmad Sanni and Babale Abdukarim Adamu, left their respective homes in Kano with wives and children, to be sorting out those waste items, as well as help to load them into trucks that they claim are used to take the items to a plastic factory in Kano, for recycling to produce plastic products.

For the two of them in the group of other men who have made the dump site despite the presence of various species of flies that roam the space freely, their efforts is rewarded monthly with a paltry sum of N6000 or less, depending on how they are able to fill the trucks. Sanni who told Daily Trust that he is married with six children who are in Kano with their mother, revealed that the search for means of livelihood drove him from Kano to Abuja to live in the midst of waste.

In a day, he said he makes between N500 and N600 depending on his strength. On whether he and his colleagues were aware of the inherent dangers of living in such a filthy environment, he said he would have loved to be engaged in a more decent job than the one he is currently engaged in , but that there was none at the moment. It is there against all odds that they eke out a living in the midst of domestic, industrial, hospital and chemical waste.

Pointing to a shanty where he claims he lives, Sanni said "look, this is where I dey live, make the FCT minister help us, we dey try and we dey suffer here". As far as they are concerned all they need in the waste village is electricity supply, as there are electric poles already connected to the place.

Asked about how often he visits his family in Kano, Sanni said he travels home every two weeks to see the family. Apparently, they take solace in living in shanties with all kinds of offensive odour, crawling and walking animals ,like snakes and dogs that are also living their lives undisturbed.

Another scavenger in the waste dump, Ibrahim Tofa told this medium that he was forced to take up the job because "when I left Jos for Abuja, I had the intention of doing shoe making business, but on getting here, the fellow who was supposed to give me the initial capital to start up the business disappointed me .Since I have to do something to put body and soul together, I started working here based on my friend's suggestion, which for me, is better than stealing or begging"

However, this situation has caught the attention of the authority of the Federal Capital Administration which, in the first instance ,designated the 90 hectares of land as a central refuse dump site.

While visiting the site along side another member of the Committee, Senator Ume Ufot Ekaette and the Director of Abuja Environmental Protection Board, Engr Abubakar Yabo, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Folashade Grace Bent lamented the state of the dump site which she described as an eyesore in the nation's capital.

Senator Bent said that the three Ministers that are directly responsible for the site should appear before the Senate Committee to offer explanation on why the site has been in its present state.

The affected are Minister of FCT, Senator Adamu Aliero, Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Oshotimehin, and Minister of Environment, John Odey, who are to appear before the committee.

"I'm very depressed. I'm extremely sad with what I'm seeing here with my colleague, it's an eyesore that does not befit any human being in any city ,no matter how uncivilised the city might be. But this is what we are confronted with. I don't understand it. I'm amazed and extremely disappointed that this kind of thing is in a federal seat of government. Honestly, it is disheartening. I must confess I'm not happy with it," she said

She insisted that it was unimaginable that a site like that was in Abuja ,noting that it was a worrisome development, saying every kind of waste is being disposed there, including hospital waste, industrial waste, chemical waste. The unfortunate thing for the residents of Abuja is the chemical waste it releases to the water table, which is a very dangerous chemical and which is capable of eliminating everybody if taken in"

"You could see that scavengers have taken over the place, you could see the huts. They have already improvised little homes for themselves and their families. Now they claim they are taking the sorted waste to Kano.We don't know what they are going to do with them. They have been able to sort out plastics, can rubber and metals. These are the sort of things that could be recycled and used in other areas to promote our industrial development, but we don't know what these local people are going to do with it", she added

However, the AEPB Director disclosed that the FCT administration would need between N16 to N18 billion to be able to put the dump site in good stead, adding that the Board approached the Senate Committee on Environment in order to assist in including the project in the next budget.

Dr. Yabo disclosed that for the refuse in the nation's Capital City to be evacuated and treated successfully, more than N16 billion was needed to provide logistics and construct the proposed land-dump projects.

He also told the Senators that the refuse dump project at Jabi has been successfully completed ,and would soon be inaugurated after landscaping and provision of water in the premises.

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