Onitsha Needs and Deserves Environmental Facelift

by Emeka Chiakwelu

Onitsha the commercial Mecca of Anambra State in Nigeria, the city that gave us Main Market, the largest market in Africa, has been neglected so much that it desperately cries for a facelift. Some of the roads are so deteriorated that they pose both traffic and health hazard to the urban habitants. The quality of life has been and will continue to depreciate if the trend is left unchecked. The multiplicity of the pot-holes unfortunately has become pool of dirty waters and raw sewage. With these facts, the pot-holes teem with mosquitoes. The devastating effect of mosquitoes and its malarial consequences cannot be overemphasis within this context. Wastes and refuses that litter all the nooks and corners of Onitsha especially streets and roads contribute to this menace. There is no adequate waste management program for the collection and disposal of refuse. The ubiquitous trashes are health peril to the urban dwellers; the reckless abandon of rubbish has however, diminished and disfigured the aesthetic configuration of the city.

With the governor Mr. Peter Obi at helm of affairs, the local and state governments could liaise to formulate sound environmental course of actions and principles that will revive Onitsha. A solid waste service and prudent management must be instituted for the collection, disposal and recycling of discarded materials in a manner that will be safe, efficient, environmentally sound and cost-effective. A blueprint strategy of comprehensive refuse disposal to the landfill in Onitsha will spell a new beginning for the city and its inhabitants of nearly 2 million. This will create a neat ambience that will automatically elevate the quality of life. By improving the environmental quality of Onitsha, it will definitely spur rapid economic development. This is possible because it will attract new businesses and capitalists – who will be willing to invest in the city and as well, spend some time there. Not only that the improvement will facilitate business activities; it will also help to position Onitsha as a Mecca of business and tourism in Nigeria.

Environmental deterioration in Onitsha does not augur well for the citizens of Anambra State in particular and Nigeria in general, in view of the sociopolitical and economic symbolism Onitsha stands for. These have significantly diminished against the status quo -due to neglect and in-action.

A city that had produced great legal and political bigwigs like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Louis Mbanef and others, who were in vanguard of Nigeria’s independence struggle and actualization, cannot be abandoned to rust and decay. The task of rebuilding, restoring and refurbishing a new city does not rest entirely on finance, though it is important, the primary and key condiment is the political will. The resolve to combat the detrimental state is and must be rooted on the political will and commitment.

All stakeholders -politicians, government executives even public companies (as a result of their social responsibilities) must seize the opportunity at this moment to act on the best interest of the masses. Initiating a master plan and mustering the will-power to move forward must be the order of the day. The electorates have rendered power or mandate to the leaders through their elections into offices for an all-encompassing performance. With the exception of God, no other is more sacred than the votes of the electorates. The Governor and Chairmen of the local governments need no extra mandate than the power already derived from the people as reinforced in the constitution. Leadership must therefore, take the bull by its horns, by nipping this menace in the bud.

The major environmental defect is the refuse abandonment, which must be tackled to accomplish the lofty task of creating and cultivating sustainable strategies for a cleaner environment in Onitsha. The initial strategy is to constitute a task force under the auspices of the ministry of works, which will then come up with the comprehensive plans to formulate the methodology and implementation of refuse disposal. The committee will formulate environmental policies and ethics that will delineate the responsibilities of the private citizens and government officials in sustainable clean environment.

“Trash receptacles will be strategically placed to ensure that the public is given ample opportunity to dispose of litter. Messages will be stenciled on the trash barrels to enlighten the public on how to properly dispose of litter. This will help to ensure that trash is removed before runoff; wind or birds move it to the drainage channel. Trash containers are to be emptied at a minimum of once a week. All collected trash and debris will to be hauled to an approved landfill by licensed solid waste disposal vehicles. Vehicles used to haul the debris shall have a sealed bottom to prevent leaks or seepage, and the trash materials shall be covered while the load is in transit. All personnel will be instructed the correct procedure for trash disposal.”

External monitors and strategists in the form of experts, consultants and managers are needed to work with government. Government alone cannot segregate itself from the private enterprises towards the planning and implementation of sustainable clean environment. In the free market economy, the presence of private industries does enable fast delivery of services and portends well for probity, transparency and it deepens capitalistic democracy.

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