As the second wave of Coronavirus begins to wreck havoc in the world, residents of Umuahia, Abia State capital particularly those living, schooling, teaching and trading around Girls Secondary School, Amuzukwu and Amuzukwu Community Primary School have raised alarm over the continued degradation of their environment by traders at the newly relocated Amuzukwu Relief Market.
Hugely affected are the two schools located in the vicinity of the market and the residents whose lives are now at the risk of coming down with COVID-19 untidiness of the place.
A visit to the place shows that traders, residents, teachers and students of the area have surrendered themselves to fate following repugnant odour oozing from the wastes indiscriminately being dumped at the nearby Amuzukwu Girls Secondary School. the relief market which shares neighbourhood with the two schools, has not cesspit.
No receptacle was kept there as the wastes that scattered everywhere were dumped near the school gate and by so doing, pose a great health challenge to not only the schools in the area, but the Amuzukwu Community.
Indeed, other parts of the Abia State like Aba, mountainous refuse stare the residents in the face as people are threatened by the likely spread of any disease in most parts deadly disease including COVID-19.
According to one of the Supervisors for the ongoing National Examination Council (NECO), exams at Girls Secondary School, Mrs E N Anazodo, “if not for the closure of schools, many of the students here would have come down with COVID-19. Both the primary and post primary schools here are threatened by the wastes.
“The good intentions of the Child Rights Law should be implemented. Wife of the governor of the Abia State, Mrs Nkechi Ikpeazu should save the children. She should walk her talk of protecting the rights of the girl-child.
Meanwhile, investigations show that the committee charged with the responsibility of managing and clearing wastes as well as maintaining clean environment in Abia State headed by the Secretary to the Government (SSG) has woefully failed in its assignment of maintaining healthy environment in the state, even as some residents described it as a sham.
Said a roadside artisan, Mr Amadi Matthew, “If there’s a committee like that, we don’t know; maybe the members are there to cart money away. If they’re working, the wastes wouldn’t have been dumped on the ground all over the place like it’s done now.
“If they must allow for the dumping wastes here, they must provide a receptacle or dump bin in front of these schools? See, this thing is causing great health challenge; the odour is not friendly at all”. Sadly, he disclosed that good number residents including pupils and students around there have fallen ill as result of the wastes.
In the meantime, a Child Development and Environmental activist, Ifeanyi Ukaegbu has described the dumping of the refuse in front of the girls’ school as well as the relocation of the market to the place, a residential area, as a wrong policy of government, stressing that “it is a disaster waiting to occur”.
“With wastes of these nature sharing neighbourhood with schools and the people, it’s safe to conclude that the policy violates the Child Rights Act which says children, especially the girl child should be protected from disease and harmful practices. The Wife of the Abia governor, Mrs Nkechi Ikpeazu is touting to stop the abuse of children particularly the girl child from harmful practices and today, the reverse is the case. They should relocate the market to the land behind the Kings Court, Amuzukwu”, he suggested.
Another respondent our inquiry also acknowledged that members of the committee charged with the responsibility clearing of wastes in the state which is led by the SSG has profoundly failed to discharge their function properly, arguing “they should be held responsible if COVID-19 becomes uncontrollable in the state. They’re incompetent to say the least and should be sacked forthwith.
“Even the Amuzukwu Community whose criminal silence has been worrisome cannot be exonerated. There are other wastes infested areas in this state like Ngwa Road, Mosque/Ngwa Road, Asa Road, Good Morning Market; Isigate, Upstairs Line, Umuahia etc. the committee has failed to address the problem of refusal disposal in those areas.
However, Helen Ibe, a trader near the market lamented that the repugnant odour emanating from the wastes assault their nostrils every minute. Similarly, Miss Orji her colleague explained that the inability of the government to provide a cesspit has continued to pose health challenge to the neighbourhood that was once serene and tidy. “I don’t drop my waste there, I go to Isigate to dispose of it whenever I want to”, she revealed.
Both traders added, “Mrs Nkechi Ikpeazu, wife of the governor of Abia State should endeavour to implement the Child Rights Act as it concerns girl child and the Amuzukwu schools and not just to talk and talk. During school days, the students are sometimes asked to pick some of the dirt rolling towards their classrooms with bare hands. We cry because of this”.
“The odour is very offensive and we want these wastes cleared immediately to stop us from coming down with COVID-19, unless the government is pretending about the war against COVID-19. They should relocate the Amuzukwu Relief Market to that valley at Okpara Square”, they demanded.
In the same, a student of Girls Secondary School, Amuzukwu, Miss Onyinyechi Olileanya said the students are in a danger of being infected by the COVID-19, pointing out that the location of the wastes was exactly the place where food vendors that sell food to the students and pupils of the two schools station their wares every day they come to sell.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.