Calabar – the capital of Cross River State once acclaimed as the ‘Nation’s Paradise’ – has come lately, under threats of epidemic, and insecurity; no apology, for instance, to the failure of the authorities to clear ambitious heaps of refuse on most of the busy roads. Checks have revealed that an overflow of refuse dumps and blocked drainages, as well as spilling sewage and broken pipes, have become common features on many streets, and even some of the highways, in recent months, thereby posing clear and present environmental hazards to residents of the city and its environs.
Residents of most of the affected areas stated that they had made several appeals to the authorities on the development, but to no avail. In Edibedibe, Afokang, Ibesikpo, all in Calabar South, for example, over-grown weeds and heaps of refuse have taken over many roads. Similarly, most of the designated wastes dumps have exceeded their installed capacities, eagerly expecting evacuation. At such points, flies gather and the stench that issues from the refuse is palpable, almost. Individual efforts by residents to burn the wastes have failed, because they have become wet and, therefore, fire-resistant due to rain and water from nearby blocked drainages.
On some of the roads, confusion reigns as motorists and commercial, tricycle operators and pedestrians struggle for right of way on the remaining portion of the roads. That the situation often causes agonisingly slow, time-consuming traffic gridlocks, is an understatement. Another source of possible threat to the health of the people, investigation has shown, are the operators of petty restaurants, roadside food hawkers around the filthy roads or streets and highways, despite the stench from the nearby dumps. It’s even more nauseating that public health operatives or sanitary inspectors either from the local government or the state Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Environment do not seem to care.
Mr. Patrick Imo Ete, whose residence is not too far from one of the filthy environments, but works with the local government, decried the unhealthy condition in which people live in the affected areas. He noted that since the beginning of the current administration of Professor Ben Ayade, and with the rainy season and consequent humid weather that make burning of the waste difficult, the situation had worsened. “We are worried here because the whole environment is polluted with stench and we are choking. All appeals to the authorities to evacuate the wastes have been unavailing,” he said.
Another very worrisome situation in Calabar, lamented Mrs. Asuquo Eyo Ita, a civil servant, is that of insecurity. She said that in a state where residents sleep with one eye open because of alarming crime rate, it would be expecting too much for investors to pump their funds in the city. The security situation, in effect, could be a lot better than it currently is. It was registering Ita’s concern, when, it was reported, on Wednesday June 22, 2016, that at least five expatriates and two Nigerians were kidnapped at the Idundu axis of the Calabar-Oban road by suspected militants. The incident occurred around 6a.m., when the foreigners and their Nigerian colleagues, working for MacMahon Construction Company, were on their way to work. The construction firm is located at the Mfamosing Plant of United Cement Company Nigeria Limited, in Akamkpa Local Government Area. The company is said to be one of the major contracting firms to Lafarge Holcim, owners of UniCem.
The workers, who were conveyed in four MacMahon vehicles, were escorted by a security pickup that had four armed policemen when they were attacked by the gunmen before the Idundu Bridge. The armed police escort team could not help the situation. One of the expatriates, identified as Tim Croot, an Australian citizen – alongside the driver of one of the vehicles, whose name was given as Henshaw, escaped, while another driver, Matthew, was killed in the process. Besides, there are reports of gangs of youths, who, sometimes, attack residents with impunity. The situation is so bad that residents are forced to rush home from wherever they are before 7p.m. or risk being attacked, maimed or forced to part with their valuables. Even their homes are no longer safe. Such criminal-minded youths often break into homes with all kinds of sophisticated weapons and collect all their victims’ valuables, leaving them fatally harmed, as may be the case. This is almost an everyday occurrence.
A lecturer, Mrs. Grace Archibong told The Daily Times that kidnapping had taken over the state. She said that a friend of hers was kidnapped recently in front of her residence at the parliamentary village. As of mid-June, nothing has been heard about the victim. Life in Cross River State is like hell on earth. Here was a state that was once a Mecca for people from far and near, who wanted to have a healing rest. “But, today, is it still so?”, Archibong queried. Something needs to be done urgently – especially in the area of security. Governor Ben Ayade is trying in other areas, like prompt payment of salaries to civil servants, and trying to woo investors, an engineer, Mr. Christopher Atupka, from Iyalla, who is a businessman at Wode Market in Calabar, admitted, but he should, as a matter of urgency, address this alarming issues of insecurity and the filthy environment that could give his administration a bad press. Add a plethora of boundary disputes – some of which, in recent times, have been violent.
Some concerned citizens of the state – including environmentalists and political analysts, said that because of the threat posed to public health by the mountain of refuse and deplorable security situation in Calabar and its environs, the state government should organise, now, a summit of stakeholders – including royal fathers, market leaders, students, skippers of industry and organised labour, the police and other security agencies Councillors, representatives of non-governmental organisations, members of the State House of Assembly, elected deputies of the state at the House of Representatives and the Senate, to address the issues. It’s their view that, as a top player in the national league of oil-rich states – with a forward-looking infrastructural profile, as with Tinapa, the current narrative of the state is, put mildly, unfortunate and unreadable. And because Cross River State lies at a strategic point in one of the country’s economic corridors, it would be a disaster and a shame – if insecurity should be allowed to reign with reckless abandon at the risk of shooing prospective investors and tourists away.
The Ayade administration should, in the interim, they offered, inject a visible amount of state security vote, under his care, into a long-term, sustainable programme of making the state a business friendly milieu. The representatives of the state at the National Assembly, who earn gargantuan salary, should also weigh in generously. That way, the Ayade administration would have taken a move to steel voters’ confidence in it; for, by putting behind the current crises, using tax-payers’ money, it would have, thus, made politics and government useful and responsive to some of pressing needs of the people of Cross River State.