BY MUHAMMAD M. ALI, DECEMBER 13, 2021 | 10:08 AM
As I was going to work few days ago, around 8:30am, I saw an old woman almost knock-down by a car. At high speed, the car was trying to dodge a caution sign put in the middle of the road, indicating that road cleaning was ongoing.
How the-slow-walking-old-woman survived this incident, as many will also like to describe it, was a miracle. And this miraculous incident happens almost on daily basis on our roads. The victims would go their way and the cleaning work would continue.
But the truth is, this miracle has not been the faith of every victim. Some of these incidents might have sent many people to their early graves; many have turned handicaps and many are currently suffering on hospital beds.
No doubt, the idea of putting caution sign is a thoughtful one, even though on many occasions it is being abused. But something important we are not talking about is how we can avoid all these distractions on our roads.
In Gombe state, this issue has been dealt with since when the government subcontracted the street cleaning job to INEX Cleaners Ltd. The last time I was in the state capital, I was impressed; I saw cleaned roads. Compared to roads in Maiduguri it is like a football pitch and a refuse dumping site.
If not recently, Borno State Government had never been serious about environmental hygiene even though it ought to. There was no effective policy on sanitation. The ministry responsible for this had handled the affairs carelessly, and as time went on, the carelessness gave birth to a very dirty environment that could only be rescued by extraordinary commitment.
Waterways are blocked (in some places evacuated recently). Reason being two: that government allegedly have sold out refuse-dumping site for personal development and people resorted to dumping their refuse anyhow.
My fair is that, as the recent effort by the government in collaboration with nongovernmental organizations in evacuating the drainage blockages has continued to record more success; these successes may not be sustained if government did not provide this refuse dumping sites.
Why talking about this is important is because poor hygiene is a silent killer – government should know that investing in environmental cleaning is never a waste project.
Coming back to our area of focus – road cleaning in Maiduguri – the pattern is more a direct killer. It is not save for the cleaners. Amidst the helter-skelter of motorist, in a broad daylight the cleaners bend down close to high-speed lane to sweep, often with zero or poor caution sign to indicate road cleaning is ongoing. For me, this is carelessness on site of the government. At least, safety of workers should come first.
In Gombe, the cleaners come out very early for the work. During my visit to the state capital, I had woken up early for my business meeting but surprisingly, I did not see a single cleaner on their roads.
I only ran into them while I was coming back from morning prayer few minutes after 5am. That is the time they normally finish cleaning the streets; one of them told me. And I was like: Wow! By this time!
The efficient and timely cleaning is not even the only most important dividends from this timing.
Another is how the timing has influenced young men and women (students, idle youths and others) into the service. Most of them are energetic young people and needed stipends not salary. They effectively drive the service with passion.
If Borno State Environmental Protection Agency could do the same thing by sub-delegating this sub-service to a private firm (note: private firm that mean business, so that the relationship can remain purely business), the sense of higiene on our roads will come back to life.
Or alternatively, if the agency can rise to its responsibility, I think it will also be good.
This is important because leaving the lives of people, including that of the cleaners, at risk is a negligence and negligence is not an accuse especially to a government.
Muhammad M. Ali write from Maiduguri, Capital of Borno State.
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