Abuja and The Moving Soakaway

Abuja is a beautiful and fast growing city no doubt. Talk about the beautiful gardens and parks, tree-lined streets, good road network amongst other good things Nigeria seat of power can boast of. However, waste management has remained a big issue like many other cities in the country and around the world.

The Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) is the body in charge of waste management, monitoring of cleaning contractors, running after street hackers (you need to see one of these funny episodes yourself) and other environmental concerns. Dirt in plastic bags on road separators, parking lots, markets and walkways is gradually becoming a common sight in the city.

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AEPB has some cleaning contractors signed on/contracted to manage waste in the city. These companies have trucks in different shapes and sizes used for waste collection. My major problem is not how late they come out to pick waste but how smelly and malodourous these vehicles are. These vehicles definitely leave a ‘bad taste in one’s mouth’ especially for most of us with very sensitive nose.

I started noticing this smell during my service year. I served somewhere in Wuse II, on this fateful day, I went to an EcoBank branch around Glo office. When I left the bank, I decided to take a walk back to my PPA just to exercise the body instead of taking a N200 drop. Immediately as I started walking, I noticed this offensive odour that was so overwhelming people I met on the way are either covering their noses or spitting. Though I was not able to establish the source and cause of that nauseating smell.

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Few weeks later, I was on my way to the local market when I perceived this same odour on my street; lo and behold there was a waste collection truck on the street. When I got back to where the truck was packed about 30 minutes later, the mephitic odour still lingers. This could be associated with traces of water that dropped from the truck onto the street.

The most memorable and disgusting of these evil-smelling experiences was when I returned to Abuja after the 2015 election break. When we about to ascend the bridge that leads to Jabi Park, a waste collection vehicle drove past us from the opposite direction; this smell was so bad it’s hard to describe. It is close to that kind of smell that emanates from a septic tank due to empty. The strong-smelling odour prompted almost every passenger in the Toyota Sienna to brandish their handkerchiefs and others with the hands on their noses.

In conclusion, these stinky vehicles are a menace, what is however worrisome are the workers who follow this vehicles around to pick and pack waste. I wonder if these people do not perceive this odour or their sense of smelling has evaded them.

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Sanitation Workers
Men At Work

Are these workers paid hazard bonus? At a time when some countries are adopting automated waste collection system that requires less human involvement, it is high time cities in Nigeria develop waste management systems that truly works. I also hope these companies take the maintenance of their vehicles seriously. The are many waste to energy projects around the world where waste is converted into power or cooking gas, although this is also gradually gaining traction in Nigeria.

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Olajide Ishola

Olajide Ishola

A tech-savvy linguist, Lazy writer and conservative Foodie.

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