Godwin Ajom, Calabar
In the yesteryears, before the acclaimed environmentalist took over power as governor, the Cross River State capital used to be a paradise indeed. That is actually what the city is called-the nation’s paradise.
It was a place to love and behold. Calabar was known for its cleanliness. You would see street cleaners very early in the morning, making sure that the town remained the toast of the nation.
Other governors would send their team to understudy the Calabar and how the men in authority were doing it. The current minister of petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, as governor of Bayelsa State at the time, sent his official at the state environmental sanitation agency to Calabar to ask questions and find out the magic wand that made Calabar what it used to be.
Even Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, at that time the minister of FCT, did the same thing. His men were in Calabar on a similar fact finding mission. Donald Henry Etim Duke was the governor. He gave direction to officials of the Calabar Urban Development Agency, CUDA, whose responsibility it was to keep the town clean.
The beauty of the town and its cleanliness contributed to what made Calabar a tourism destination. Everybody wanted to be in Calabar. Everything was working. The man at the top was not ready to see dirt anywhere. Duke was not just a ‘beautiful’ guy, he showed that he was clean, inside out and he did everything to keep the town beautiful, clean and green.
Even Ikom, that commercial border town was also very clean. In 2005, a young boy who followed his parents to Ikom received some knocks from friends when he carelessly dropped wastes on the road. That was even in Ikom. The friends told him in pidgin “Ol Boy, here dem no dey throw dirty anyhow oo, anything you eat, put am for your bag or go for that small dustbin (uses me basket) go put am oo, if not police go catch you now now.”
From Marian to Stadium road, from Watt market to Ekpo Abasi, from 8th Miles to Diamond Junction, from Hope Waddel to Big Quo, from Atimbo to Anantigha, Calabar was clean, green and beautiful.
But not anymore. Calabar is now competing with Aba in terms of the dirtiness.The entire state is dirty- Calabar, Ikom, Ogoja, Obudu, Ugep-they stink.
Calabar, the state capital is now a paradise lost. Paradise looks like? Today, Ekpo Abasi roundabout that ushers the people into the prestigious University of Cross River state is first greeted by an uncontrollable, primitive and ostentatious waste display, as if it were a thing of pride. At Watt Market, the traders and business people who sell around Goldie by Atakpa and Bedwell lanes are passing through hell. The odour that oozes from those wastes are enough to kill the people around
“I am trying to cope on daily basis. I see waste as if they are useful things, let the government look find a permanent solution to this because it is bad four health,” one of the traders, Mrs Agnes’s chukwu said. Another trader, Yusuf who deals on rice and beans said “oga, I have tired, if I had shop elsewhere I would have gone from here. We are suffering here. The whole wastes in this axis are heaped here. You cannot bear the smell; let the local government and state government help us please.”
Meanwhile to Mr Okokon, another trader, they are getting used to the stench. He said: “My dear, me self I am used to it already, what else will I do? They should not be allowing it to overflow like this, it smells too bad, let something be done before somebody will die here. The odour is too bad.”
At St. Mary Street Calabar South, it is a shameful site. Wastes are displayed on the road.
At Mbukpa street, the display of waste is not a site to behold. Even along Mayne Avenue, wastes are occupying the roads, thereby causing traffic. At Etagbor the case is not different.
At Ikom, the shameless display of waste is worrisome. Opposite the meat market is a gigantic waste point that looks very odd at such a busy location. The drainages along Calabar Road, Sweet Mother Street, Ochodere street, Obudu road are loaded with wastes and nobody seems to care. The waste point along the border road is a crown of shame and disgrace to a promising city as Ikom. Things have really fallen apart in the state.
Barley six months ago, precisely on September 1, 2021, the Cross River state government entered into an agreement with the France government on waste management, with the intent to convert waste to power. At that meeting, Ayade asked the France partners to fasten the process and see it as a life- saving intervention.
“This is not a research, it is a life- saving intervention mission and that is why we are here. So, if you approach it from that perspective, your concept of time will become more delicate and sensitive.
“I don’t believe that you need six months to do the feasibility study because only more effort and time are required. After the feasibility study, I don’t want us to end up with a position statement, which will state that it is a feasible project,” Ayade had said.
It is almost six months now and nothing has been heard again from the governor on this issue. And there seem to be no deliberate effort by the government to remedy the situation.