Filthy ‘new face of Calabar’
• Gov sacks refuse contractors as garbage heaps pile up in state capital• Waste collectors protest against non-payment of fees
THE city of Calabar is often known with the phrase “clean and green”. But towards the end of the last administration, it became a common site seeing heaps of refuse everywhere.
Two days to his leaving office, Senator Imoke had explained that due to low finances, the contractors were not paid hence the sudden reappearance of refuse in street corners.
However, just before his swearing-in, the State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, had said that the refuse heaps in the state would be turned into wealth as the current system of refuse evacuation would be faced out.
Three months into office, with the mounting heaps, the governor swung into action and called for a total re-organisation of refuse collection system saying the city of Calabar was too big to have just two contractors. Currently, refuse in the state is being managed by Patson Environmental Services and Fakonson Nigeria Limited.
As part of the re-organization of refuse collection system in the state, Senator Ayade, in a release signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Mrs. Tina Banku Agbor, directed residents and business concerns to stop further payment of waste collection tariff to the State Internal Revenue Service and Waste Management.
She said: “Henceforth, payment of approved waste collection tariff are to be made to refuse collection contractors, who will distribute smaller waste collection bins to houses/households, business premises as well as carry out daily collection and disposal of refuse services.”
“The state government deeply appreciates the cooperation of citizens so far, in a bid to create a more efficient and effective waste disposal management system in the state capital and environs. The general public is kindly requested to note the above directive and to please act accordingly.”
With the new directive, census of houses and shops for the purpose of implementing the new waste management system has been completed in some areas while some other areas in Ekorinim, Ikot Ansa, Ikot Ishie, and parts of Calabar South are yet to be enumerated.
Accordingly, smaller bins were distributed free to households even though many houses are yet to receive theirs while the big bins kept in strategic locations for general waste collection were withdrawn in most areas.
Unfortunately, this new method is yet to take off as many houses in Calabar South and Calabar Municipal have not received the new bins that are supposed to be kept inside individual homes.
Moreover, there is no clear policy on refuse and revenue collection as the new contractors put in place by government are yet to be mobilised and directives given on their modus operandi.
Three months into the change in policy on refuse collection, the city of Calabar is becoming an eyesore. Members of the public now dump refuse by the roadside and in the few old bins as the new system is yet to take off and when rain falls, the streets are littered with refuse.
With the new system, trucks are supposed to go from street to street picking the small bins from households and empty them into the trucks.
But now, the few trucks by the old contractors still move round to clear refuse dumped by the roadsides pending the take-off of the new policy. The contractors are now overwhelmed by the volume of refuse they have to evacuate.
Most of the trucks evacuate mainly on Sundays and Mondays but moments after the garbage heaps resurface. Sometimes they are left to pile up within the weeks before they come for evacuation.
Overwhelmed by the magnitude of refuse being generated, the contractors recently lined the Hope Wadell Road of the governor’s office with over 20 of their refuse evacuation trucks demanding the payment of five months contract fees the government is owing them.
Apparently embarrassed by the dirty and filthy new face of Calabar, Senator Ayade invited the contractors for a meeting in his office on Sunday to find a way forward.
One of the contractors who spoke off record, declined to say how much they are being owed, saying, “The government is owing us for five months. We have two contractors collecting refuse in Calabar. We have been borrowing to operate. Our creditors cannot give us more facility since we are not paying because we are not credit worthy. We owe everywhere- spare parts suppliers, our fuel suppliers, lubricants; safety wears suppliers we owe. We have not paid our workers for five months now and the job is capital intensive. We are not here on protest, but at the invitation of the governor.”
“We need funds. The governor asked us to come and we have been here since Sunday. Governor has seen us now (Monday) at about 11:00am and we are waiting for him to come back and tell us the way forward.”
But while the contractors with their trucks were waiting outside the governor’s office for the way forward, Governor Ayade in a press statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita announced the sacking of the contractors.
He said: “Following the inability of the contracted firms handling evacuation of refuse in Calabar metropolis to meet their obligations, the Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade has announced an immediate termination of their contracts.”
It will be recalled that during a tour of the metropolis shortly after assuming office, Governor Ayade had given the contractors a three-month ultimatum to improve on the sanitary condition of the metropolis with the view to restoring its rightful status as the cleanest and greenest state in the country, which they failed to do.
The governor, who expressed disappointment at the level of evacuation by the firms in Calabar South and some parts of Calabar Municipality on Monday, said “government will no longer tolerate the inadequacies of the contractors and is now fully ready to take over the evacuation exercise forthwith.”
Even some of the new refuse consultants who declined comment on the matter, said they don’t have a clear cut direction on how to operate taking into consideration the financial involvement because refuse evacuation is a capital intensive business.
With the non-implementation of the waste to wealth promise, Calabar remains a dirty capital.