The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has begun strengthening local capacities to effectively advance human rights and improve waste management policies in the Niger Delta. The project started with a stakeholders’ mapping, community dialogue sessions, and training for stakeholders in Edo and Akwa-Ibom States.
ERA/FoEN carried out an investigation which showed that most waste generated and collected in the cities end up in the local communities, creating public health, ecological hazards, and violation of the rights of host communities as receivers of all manners of waste generated in the major cities.
ERA/FoEN identified and worked with locals in two communities – Otofure and Akpayak – in Edo and Akwa Ibom States respectively, that house dumpsites and have bitter tales to tell about impacts beyond the putrid smell from the sites.
Otofure community in Benin City, is a dumping ground where all the kinds of waste generated in urban areas of Edo State are dumped.
Otofure suffers disease outbreaks, as well as water and air pollution.
But worse, the waste site is now a breeding ground for criminals who see the site as a depot to store their weapons and a place to evade arrest for the crimes they commit.
Though the Edo State government has made a promise to build health centres, construct all the earth roads in the community and provide community water services as measures to alleviate the sufferings and ailments of the local people, no reasonable effort has been made by the government and concerned authorities to address the issues.
Community Chairman, Mr. Odion Airhihabuwa said: “the only demands we are making is for the Edo State Government to relocate the dumpsite from the community and implement all its promises to the community as a result of the community’s agitations.”
Residents of Akpayak community in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State are also lamenting the challenges they face even after five years of decommissioning of the dumpsite site that they housed for more than 3 decades. The community alleges that the decommissioned site is now a den of hoodlums. They also allege that some security agents are observed associating with the hoodlums when they are supposed to help the community chase them away.
A community youth, who did not want to be named for fear of being identified or victimized said:
“The hoodlums habiting the dumpsites are so brazen that they convert people’s farms into their own private property. They even go as far as chasing farmers away from their farms.”
“During the wet and dry seasons, we are not safe. The government needs to return the areas affected by the site to their original state and provide security and streetlights for the community to keep us away from danger. The community called on the police commissioner to set up a quick response team to remove the criminal elements in the community. Even though the police have made several attempts to get to the criminal elements, the site makes it easy for them to evade arrest.
He concluded by calling on the government to provide medical care for the people and to compensate those who have lost relatives to the harmful effects of the waste.
Mr. Ubong Henry, the Youth President, called on the government to carry out immediate fumigation of the site to keep rodents (snakes, scorpions, etc), pathogens, and flies away from ravaging the community.
Speaking during a training session for waste management actors in Benin City, Barrister Chima Williams, the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, said that all the testimonies provided by the various communities visited by ERA/FoEN so far confirm the need for a swift transition to zero waste. According to him, effective waste management policies coupled with the attitude of people to practicing waste separation at the source of generation will help a lot in achieving zero waste.
The ERA/FoEN executive director called on the various waste management boards to be proactive in their waste evacuation plans because people are willing to pay for better waste management services.
Ubrei-Joe, M. Mariere, the project lead for ERA/FoEN pointed out that “there are so many advantages of practicing zero waste. Zero waste will help to reduce waste related conflicts, disease burden, water, and air pollution like we have witnessed in host communities. Apart from helping the government to generate more revenue, zero waste will also help jobless youths in society get jobs in the waste management sector. While condemning the state of the dumpsites in Benin City and Uyo because they are below international standards.
Ubrei-Joe recommended that governments consider building “resource sites” and not dumpsites. He concluded by saying that a resource site has a good engineering structure with different compartments to support waste separation from the point of collection to the final resource site. In doing this, the work of waste pickers is made more productive. We have seen that the government is not properly decommissioning old dumpsite sites and this issue needs to be looked at,” he concluded.