Fear of an imminent epidemic, especially with the onset of the rainy season, has gripped residents of Umuahia, the Abia state capital, following the heaps of refuse that liter major locations of the city.

The crisis is worsened by the failure of Abia State Environmental Sanitation Agency (ASEPA) to secure a permanent dumpsite after the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing stopped the initial site which was affecting the road construction at Aba/Port Harcourt Express Road.

The agency’s trucks were repeatedly attacked by the youths and locals of Olokoro where it attempted to create a dumpsite.

The youths alleged that community leaders were bribed into giving out the area at the expense of health needs of residents.

ASEPA were thus forcefully chased out of the area when they could not reach an agreement.

They later settled for Nsukwe Village, Umuezike in Umuahia South Local Government Area yet again without proper consultation as the youths on Saturday went up in arms against the Environmental Agency.

The youths in their numbers took the community leaders by surprise as they blocked the trucks from assessing the dumpsite early in the morning.

Spokesperson of the protesters who only identified himself as Prince, alleged that the Agency collaborated with some elders to take over the area as dumpsite, stressing that the community has been faced with cholera, chicken pox and other epidemics since they started dumping the refuse there.

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“We are here because of the refuse they are dumping here, the community is really suffering, and it is bringing so much disease to us. Our houses are filled with flies, if you go into the village you will discover that many of the residents are sick.

“One of the drivers told us that the elders and some people were paid before they came here but we are not aware of anything. Our demand is simple, move this dumpsite out of here. We cannot be suffering like this. We were not consulted, and we are not ready to sell the community to a venture that will threaten our lives later.”

An ASEPA official who craved anonymity narrated the incident, “What happened was that I was driving to the site this morning when the youths stopped me that I should not proceed to the dumpsite, I tried to find out their reason, they said that they don’t need the dump site again and that flies and reptiles are disturbing them, I told them to go and discuss with the person who brought us to this community but they collected the battery of one of our excavators. I believe the elders did not carry them along”.

One of the community leaders and Special Adviser to the Governor on Grassroots Mobilization, Chief Achini Iheanacho disclosed that the community was duly paid and alleged that the protest was sponsored by the opposition.

“There are two communities that own the land, Umukwe and Isukwa, Abia state government is not owing them, they have been paid, the annoyance of the youths is that they were not given anything. We have gone into dialogue with them, they need to be tipped. Meanwhile, I just got the information that the member representing Umuahia South State Constituency at the State House of Assembly, Hon Chijioke Nwachukwu was here yesterday. Since we started, we have not had any protest, so I believe it is political and the Honourable member is engineering the protest because he is in the opposition party.”

When contacted, member representing Umuahia South State Constituency at the State House of Assembly, Hon Chijioke Nwachukwu denied knowledge of any protest by the youths.

“I saw one of the trucks littering the road with wastes some days ago and when I asked them to arrange it very well, one of the drivers snubbed me, so I followed them to the dumpsite. I did not sponsor any protest. What I observed was however absurd because there is no consideration of the health being of members of the community,” he maintained.

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