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The Search For Environmental Sanity In Oyo
The government of Oyo State has lately declared a war on filth and uncleanliness in its bid to restore the glorious days, when the state earned the pace-setter sobriquet in everything enviable. As ENVIRONMENT WATCH returns, Dare Adekanmbi examines the steps taken so far by the government in this direction.
During his electioneering campaign and shortly after assumption of office, Governor Abiola Ajimobi voiced his discomfiture at the level of environmental degradation to which the state had been turned, especially during the tenure of the last administration. At a ceremony to mark the 2011 World Environment Day, the governor had stated he would rid the state of the garment of environmental filth and unveil a blueprint for sustainable environment in tandem with the seventh target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“Our state has, over the years, acquired an undeserved notoriety and type as comprising a people who care less about their environment. Ibadan, our state capital, whose indescribable aesthetics arrested the legendary poet, John Pepper Clark and pushed him to pen the poetry of its beauty, has relapsed into becoming a city that is denigrated as occupying the first position among cities of filth and rubbles. This is unacceptable to this administration,” he had said.
Within the three months that followed Governor Ajimobi’s charge to the people of the state to prioritise the sanitation of their houses and neighbourhood, the new administration has had to grapple with critical developments necessitating the beaming of special attention on some certain areas in the state. As a result of global warming, the rains came in torrents in July and consequently, places where it was the practice to block drainage channels by stuffing them with refuse got flooded, leaving tales of tears in its wake.
Weeks after this, the destructive flood of August 26, reminiscent of the August 30, 1980 omiyale flood, occurred due to a six-hour rain. The tragic incident wreaked havoc — killed about 102 people and washed away public infrastructure and private buildings, especially those erected on flood plains.
Next was the outbreak of cholera epidemic in some local government areas of the state, which death toll has been put at 11, while 947 cases were recorded between June and September.
Described by Governor Ajimobi as omibaluje (flood destroyed the city), in view of the magnitude of the flood, the governor said the recent flood incident was unprecedented in the history of the state. He explained that the disaster was a direct result of the global climate change resulting in a 189.5 millimetre rainfall and propelled by a 65.2 kilometre per hour wind, the highest in the state in 50 years.
“When this is combined with the bad habit of erecting unapproved buildings on water ways, flood plains as well as indiscriminate dumping of refuse in drainages and rivers, thus blocking water courses, the recent flood was a tsunami magnified by people’s habit,” he said.
President Goodluck Jonathan was in the state and after an aerial assessment of the damage, promised the assistance of the Federal Government in post-flood reconstruction work in the state. He also commended the quick response of the state government and its provision of relief materials to assuage the plight of those affected.
But, perhaps moved by the dictum that heaven helps those who help themselves, Governor Ajimobi swung into action with the reconstruction of Apete bridge, one of the many that caved in to the flood, within a record time of four days, to the admiration of residents and people of the state. It was also the same stride in Olomi area of Ibadan metropolis, where damaged bridges had been re-erected, albeit as a temporary measure.
While the facilities had since been opened to human and vehicular traffic as well as for transportation of goods, the high cost of transportation occasioned by plying alternative routes had also gone down to what it was before the tragedy.
“Since the last administration, we had lost hope in the ability of government to swiftly respond to the needs of its citizens. But with the quick reconstruction of this Apete bridge within four days, Governor Ajimobi has restored our hope in government. We will be eternally grateful to him and continue to support his administration,” Alhaji Rasheed Osuolale Magbe, a community leader in Apete area told Environment Watch.
The Governor Ajimobi-led administration also declared every Thursday as a special environmental sanitation exercise, in addition to a similar one on every last Saturday of the month, as part of its resolve to sanitise the state and ensure its people stay healthy. The exercise, initially meant to last four hours (8: 00 a.m. to 12.00 noon), was reviewed to two in order to reduce the economic loss during the period. According to the state commissioner of Information and Orientation, Bosun Oladele, the emergency sanitation would last for the next six months, after which it would be reviewed.
The commencement of the special exercise three weeks ago revealed the enormity of the task the government has to confront. Hundreds of tons of refuse, bio-degradable and non-bio-degradable, were gathered across the metropolis. They were also quickly evacuated by a team of refuse collectors, while new refuse containers had been strategically located within the city, so as to entrench proper collection of garbage in the state. Hitherto blocked drainages, especially in areas such as Idi- Ape-Barrack road, leading to Iwo Road, were quickly cleared. The spare parts market in Gate area, the Oje market, the Bodija market and a lot of other places were purged of their dirts and garbage during the exercise. There was a high level of compliance among the citizens, who lauded the initiative as timely and necessary to avert a recurrence of the disaster in the state.
However, one thing is to clear refuse, another is to make sure the evacuated filths are being properly dumped to match environmental specifications. The question is, “where are the evacuated filths dumped? Are they being recycled or dumped elsewhere to constitute yet another pollution?
While the state government has been commended for demolishing the illegal structures mounted on drainage channels in Mobil area along Ring Road, Governor Ajimobi has given road side traders within the state capital a one-month ultimatum to move away from the positions or risk confiscation of their wares. He said he believed in dialogue, which was why he had personally been supervising the sanitation exercise to talk to the traders and make them see reason they must relocate.
However, some of the traders at Mobil areas, who spoke with EW called on the governor to provide alternative location for them to continue their economic activities and eke out a living to sustain their families.
“By the demolition of the stalls, we have been saved from regular accidents as a result of containers falling on people and killing them,” a commercial motorcyclist in the area told EW.
“Our administration will soon embark on demolition of unapproved buildings along river banks to put a stop to preventable killing of our people by flood and natural disaster. We will give the demolition a human face; we are currently working on providing alternative accommodation of about a 100 units because our administration is people-oriented and we shall always work for the protection and safety of our people,” Ajimobi said.
Also, the Ajimobi-led government has embarked on the greening of the environment, beginning with the beautification of the famous Parliament Road and the landscaping of the government secretariat in Agodi, to begin charity at home and make the secretariat wear a befitting look. The governor has also pledged that the greening programme would be taken to other strategic areas of the state in due course to show that the state is working under his watch.
Also, the government may need to look beyond the roadside cleanliness and go into the interior of the city like Gege Olooru, Agbowo, Beere and the like not to enforce the sanitation exercise alone but look into how the sanitary situation of the areas can be managed.
With the introduction of the Department of Urban and Physical Planning to come up with a master plan for the state, observers and environmentalists believe that it will just be a matter of months that the state will regain its once-cherished pace-setting status and also attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and be compliant with the United Nations MDG 7 for sustainable environment by 2015.
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