The Ben Ayade Administration in the ‘Canaan City’ must double its effort to stave off the twin threats of refuse dumps and insecurity to the peace and beauty of Calabar, the nation’s tourism capital.
Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, has come, lately, under threats of an epidemic, and insecurity, no thanks, 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 almost pal­pable. 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.
Confusion reigns, as a result, on some of the roads as mo­torists and commercial, tricy­cle operators and pedestrians struggle for right of way on the remaining portion of the roads. Often, the situation causes ago­nisingly slow, time-consuming traffic gridlocks.
Another source of possible threat to the health of the peo­ple, investigation has shown, are the operators of petty food 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 has 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 security. 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 6 a.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 there 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, said 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, 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 – indeed, a shame – if insecuri­ty should be allowed to reign with a 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, gener­ously, in. That way, the Ayade Administration would have taken a step towards steeling 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 the press­ing needs of the people of Cross River State. - THE AUTHORITY