Lokoja: Tourist Attraction Or Filthy Hub?
HEAPS of refuse are threatening the tourism potentials of Lokoja, theKogi State capital. The eyesore grows daily at strategic points, an indication the state’s sanitation agency has to do more than simply bear its name.
Much of Nigeria’s colonial history is woven around Kogi State, particularly Lokoja. A trip around Lokoja would afford visitors the opportunity of close contact with the allure of its many historical sites and monuments.
Overlooking the city, westward, is the towering 458.3 meter (1500 feet) Mount Patti with a stretch of 15-kilometre plateau. It used to serve as a strategic defense for natives in war times and also against slave trade raiders. Sir Lord Fredrick Lugard, who loved the beauty of the plateau, built his rest house on it, from where he savoured the grandeur of nature.
From Mount Patti, a visitor could easily visualize the pleasant outlay of the confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue. This is the meeting point of the largest rivers in West Africa. The two kiss in Lokoja, forming a ‘Y’ shape with a ‘tail’ flowing southwards into the Atlantic.
Other colonial endowments include the oldest hospital in northern Nigeria, the oldest prison yard in northern Nigeria, the safe of the oldest treasury also in Northern Nigeria, and a cenotaph in honour of Nigerian and African soldiers who fought in World War I and II.
Notable tourist sites include Magazine Hill, where Lugard kept his arms and ammunition. Another is Kabawa where some northern emirs who opposed colonial rule were detained. Notable among them were the late Emir of Bida, Mallam Abubakar; late Emir of Kano Mallam Abdullahi; the late Emir of Futatoro; and the late Emir of Zaria. Following their death, they were buried there. There is also the Holy Trinity Primary School, the first in northern Nigeria, built in 1865 by Bishop Ajayi Crowther.
These pluses are, however, diminished by appalling scenes of filth at refuse collection points at Ibrahim Taiwo Road, 200 Housing Unit Junction on Ganaja Road, Federal University Junction, and many other points in the city.
Sometimes, receptacles at the collection points are left for days without evacuation. Residents, meanwhile, continue to deposit their wastes, even when the entire place is full and the filth is encroaching on the roads.
An environmentalist, Sunday Idajili, described the situation as unfortunate, saying it could negatively affect the tourism potential of the state. He described as worrisome the practice of using fire to burn the waste, as smoke from the smouldering heaps constitutes a source of air pollution. This is especially the case at the refuse collection points at Catholic Cathedral and Bishop Denise School.
The General Manager, Sanitation and Waste Management Agency, Mrs. Florence Joseph, however, said the presence of refuse heaps in the city does not mean staff of the outfit are idle. She complained of lack of equipment for disposal of refuse and expressed optimism that the new administration in the state would bring about change.
“I want you to know that there is no organization in Kogi State that works as much as this agency I am heading; we work everyday, including weekends and on public holidays, evacuating waste. Waste generation is a continuous thing. When you leave a place you have cleared and return there after two hours, you will meet a different picture because people generate waste every second,” she said.
She explained that in the past one month, the agency’s trucks have been down. “It is like we are using half a truck, not even one, because that very one can break down at any moment. The vehicles are also broken down and we cannot remove waste with our bare hands,” she said.
The agency, according to her, has only two compactor trucks. And although one of the trucks can do the work of four tippers, when it eventually breaks down, not much work can be done. “The trucks are aged. The truth is that we need more equipment. Our people are always on the field. But with tippers only, they can do very little,” she said.
The use of tippers for refuse collection, according to Joseph, is cumbersome as more hands are required and workers are exposed to the danger of contracting diseases. She said that in the absence of compactor trucks, the agency has to fall back on tippers or tractors. The advantage of the compactor truck, she noted, is that it can compress waste, with a single trip being the equivalent of five, for a tipper.
“The cost of maintaining the compactor truck is very high and waste collection is energy sapping. It is also capital intensive and there is no magic about it. It is not as if our people are not working when refuse is seen everywhere. The problem we have is using tippers instead of compactor trucks. This consumes more time, more fuel and more man-hours. Besides, when using tippers, there is risk of accidents, as labourers try to lift and empty the receptacles into the tippers.”
Joseph said the ideal thing that should be used is “what is called roll-on-roll-off or communal waste bin, which is a very big container where people dump refuse.”
She added that the agency is expecting the state government to provide it with more drums for refuse collection and disposal. “Very soon, there would be additional drums at strategic points. And the final solution is the communal bin. The state government has promised to provide about 45 of these. They would be used in place of drums. It is because of the financial situation of the state now that we are still using drums. Also, a committee on sanitation and beautification has been set up. It has the Deputy Governor as chairman. That is to show you the commitment of the administration. We never had a dumpsite. But the current administration has earmarked a place for that purpose,” she said.