Many years ago, Port Harcourt, the capital city of Rivers State, used to be known as the Garden City. It was a garden city indeed, with a flurry of beautiful sceneries, very inviting ambience, clean and flowery streets.
The gutters were equally clean, the medians kempt and every neighbourhood very alluring. At that time, it was easy to find sanitary officers move from house to house to be sure that people kept their surroundings clean. There was no monthly sanitation. No market forced the traders to close their shops on Thursday to enable them undertake sanitation exercise.
There were road sweepers and you would see them very early in the morning, doing their own thing. Before the residents begin to hit the roads, the sweepers would have already finished sweeping the roads and all you would see is a clean road, devoid of refuse. Refuse heaps were not there at all. There was that sense of cleanliness everywhere.
In those days too, not many people had the water system toilet facility. So, it was common to see those men who would hit the streets around 3am to discharge faeces, especially in the densely populated Diobu axis of the state capital. Before day break, they were done and you would hardly know what had happened at night. Port Harcourt people enjoyed fresh air.
But not anymore. And it is painful that with the turn of events, with the establishment and funding of the state waste management agency, not much has been achieved in the area of sanitation. Now, even with the monthly sanitation exercise which, of course, only holds whenever the state government does not have events, Port Harcourt has remained very dirty.
There have been reports that the waste management agency has been properly funded by the state government. That means they do not have reasons not to keep the city clean. There have been reports too, from the agency, complaining of the ineffectiveness of some of the companies engaged to ensure that refuse dumps are cleared from the streets of Port Harcourt as and when due.
The other side of the coin is the attitude of the residents who would not obey the government’s directives on waste disposals. A number of times, the government and the relevant agency have had to shout at residents, urging them not to dispose wastes on the median, or dispose their wastes at unauthorised places. Even when they show-case those who have been arrested for contravening the laws, people do not seem bothered. They still go about disposing wastes whenever and wherever they want, thereby contributing to the eye sore that Port Harcourt has become.
Our position is that the government has a duty to fight this malaise with everything at its disposal. Government is much more powerful than all the people who have chosen not to keep the city clean. Sanitation officials should be more serious with their work. The time has come for sanitation inspectors to also begin to visit every home to ensure that people do the right things.
Waste disposal contractors should either sit up or do the work they are being paid to do or the government should have the political will and courage to drop them. Even though we have no issues with patronising politicians who fought to install the government, there should be a deliberate decision to draw the line between political considerations and service delivery.
The residents should also realise that they have a duty to keep the city clean. It is a shared responsibility and it is only when everybody plays their part that the city can return to its former status as Nigeria’s garden city.