When one of her siblings was born, Rosemary, 10, thought her mother would die. That night, she watched her mother struggle in pain and tears as she gave birth in the room all by herself, with nobody to assist her.
With no healthcare facility in her community, Kapuwa, on the outskirts of Abuja, her mother’s case was not so strange. Fagami Dauda, a mother of one, had a similar experience. With labour pains at its peak, she had to be rushed to a hospital in another community in Gwagwalada, a distance of 46.5 km from Kapuwa.
Kapuwa village is a small farming settlement in Lugbe, a town along the airport road in Abuja. Subsistence farming is the major occupation of the Kapuwa people. The crops grown majorly by farmers of this settlement are maize, groundnut and sorghum, on small scale.
But when it comes to healthcare, its residents do not have smooth. While they suffer, the community’s only primary healthcare centre lies abandoned, leaving pregnant women at higher risk of mortality.
Residents interviewed said if it was not the hassle of having to travel some distance to give birth, it would be a lack of prompt medical attention to health issues, which has led to the death of some, residents say. Such is the fate of members of this community.
“Two months ago, I was very sick. I had to travel to Gwagwalada to get medication. I want the government to help us so that they can complete the hospital. If we want to put to bed, we must travel to another community,” said Mrs Lucky, one of the residents who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES.
Now, the abandoned health centre, which has been roofed, but without doors, windows, ceilings, tiles, plasters, toilet among others, is home to some illegal occupants. Its surrounding is also used as a dump.
Occupants are either admitted or dismissed at the discretion of another occupant, identified as Mr Joshua, who manages the property as a landlord. They said they pay a monthly rent of N1500 to him.
Mr Joshua himself admitted this when PREMIUM TIMES spoke with him. He described himself as the welder and iron bender who executed most of the metal works of the building from inception to its current state.
He claimed he had commenced work on the project since 2014 and that since then, he has been residing in the building.
Residents worry about the identity of the occupants and the negative of the dumpster on their health. The stench from the heap of refuse, about 20 feet high, attracts flies.
A retired civil servant, who identified himself as “Senior Citizen of Nigeria,” said “that place harbours evil for us, we don’t know the people living there, neither do we know their genesis,” pointing towards the abandoned building.
Business being affected
Directly opposite the refuse heap is a fashion boutique belonging to Eze Chigozie.
A once-booming business is now gloomy because the dump discourages customers from patronising him, he said.
“Sometimes customers will like to stop to see the products we have in our boutique but due to the smell and dirty nature of the environment, we discovered that the customers lose interest and go. It is actually affecting our business environment, very bad,” he said.
He said they have made efforts ”to stop people from dumping refuse on the site but to no avail”.
He added: “We thought the Government will come to do something about it for over four years now, we’ve not seen anything, rather the place has turned into a dirty ground where all manner of waste is kept. It is so appalling,” he said.
There is also a health dimension to this. A Research titled “Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts of Landfills” has shown that landfills are a major contribution to the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. It has the tendency of contaminating the surface and groundwater, which can lead to disease outbreaks.
Chigozie, the boutique owner said sometimes, “we feel unnecessary sickness, we treat malaria on a daily basis because of what we’re inhaling here.”
Also, microbiological and complex chemical reactions within dumpsites often result in the formation of several gaseous pollutants, persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals and particulate matter, methane, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and halides.
Inhaling these gases makes residents liable to epidemic diseases such as cholera, noted Adeniyi Sanyaolu, an environmental biologist at the University of Uyo.
“(They are at the) risk of pollution of underground (and possibly surface) water; air pollution and its associated ocular and respiratory tract infections; diseases associated with commensal rodents such as leptospirosis, Lassa fever, plague etc; infestation by snakes and it’s associated hassles; hideout for criminals etc, just to mention a few,” he said.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the head of Kapuwa Village, Emmanuel Jezhi, for comments, he said all the efforts towards drawing the government’s attention to the abandoned project had not yielded any significant result.
“We’re afraid for allowing things like this around us, automatically my people will be affected. But presently God is protecting us from a disease outbreak,” he said.
According to him, ”letters have been written to the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) in this regard. This has been followed by reminders, one on October 29, 2018, and the latest being on September 9, 2019”.
Mr Jezhi said he has contacted the project’s contractor on when the project would be completed. He said the contractor claimed he had not been fully paid or the project.
“I’m appealing to the government to come to our aid by completing this project, this place is dangerous to the community,” Mr Jezhi said.
Why the project was abandoned
It was gathered that the abandoned project was part of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Project also known as ‘SURE-P’, a scheme that was initiated in January 2012 by the Jonathan administration.
Its target was to re-invest savings accrued from subsidy removal on petrol on critical infrastructure projects and social safety net programmes, and it was one of the pivots of the “transformation agenda” of the government.
According to the billboard erected on the site of the building, the project was awarded to ‘M/S Empire Dynamic Limited’.
A search on Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) website for this company gave no result, suggesting it is not a registered company.
In a telephone conversation with the company’s Managing Director, Elvis Uwakwe, he disclosed that the project was abandoned in 2015 after the elections because the federal government couldn’t pay their balance.
He said his company has been paid N20 million so far on the project, out of a budgeted total of N49 million.
“That project was awarded around 2014 but when the election came in 2015, after the election, SURE-P was abandoned,” he said.
“The project was stopped, you know after the election, they (federal government) couldn’t continue the payment. They are still owing us about N13 million in that project,” he added.
“We have received around N20 million or so, it is not more than N20 million and as at then, that project was N49 million, we have even done more than what they have paid,” he added.
When the reporter reached him later to point his attention to the discrepancy in the figure he quoted as being owed by the government, or whether the contract fee was reviewed downward, he did not pick the call or subsequent ones and text messages seeking further clarification.
He earlier declined to comment on whether or not the company is registered.
An FOI letter sent to FCDA Sure-P office, requesting the actual releases for the project was rejected because “Sure-P office has been scrapped and no longer exists,” the courier agent said.
However, when PREMIUM TIMES visited the site in the early hours of Thursday, more than a month after the first visit, a man who identified himself simply as Adam said the minister of state for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Ramatu Tijjani, had given an order for the evacuation of the dumpsite. He said the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) was in charge of the waste evacuation from the site which commenced on Sunday.
“We’re using it to fill a burrow pit, that’s what we usually do. Although such landfills area cannot be used to erect buildings anymore, it can only be used to grow crops like vegetables,” he added.