By BENJAMIN JIMMY
If nothing is done urgently, an epidemic may soon breakout in Eka, Itam Streets and their environs following the failure of De Choice Mall along Ikot Ekpene Road, Uyo, to honour an agreement it entered into with the Landlords Association in the areas to properly manage its food waste disposable.
The landlords, under the aegis of Eka/ Itam Streets Landlords Association said there was an agreement it entered into with the management of De Choice Mall in 2018 which was for the shopping centre to devise a method of managing its food waste to avoid an outbreak of an epidemic in the surrounding areas.
Speaking with our reporter while tendering documents showing series of letters of notification the association had written to De Choice Mall and the Ministry of Health, Akwa Ibom State, the Secretary of the association and also a landlord, Mr. Emmanuel Iniobong Effiong, expressed displeasure that the communities of Eka and Itam had exhausted all avenues to compel the shopping centre to stop its reckless discharge of food waste into the drainage at its backyard which he said usually flows down to their environments, causing an environmental pollution.
He said their first letter of notification to De Choice Mall, with the title: ‘NOTIFICATION OF IMPENDING HEALTH HAZARD’, dated 5th November, 2018, which was signed by the Community Development Chairman, Eld. Udoh E. and the Secretary, Emmanuel Iniobong Effiong, the letter raised serious health concerns that could turn into epidemic if no step is taken regarding the manner in which De Choice Mall has been discharging its food waste.
The letter reads: “ This is to bring to your notice that residents of Itam Street, Eka Street and its (sic) environs are at a risk of an epidemic breakout. This is due to the continuous evacuation of food waste and sludge through the drainage system servicing the area, by your establishment.
“It is instructive to note that the action of your establishment caused the blockage of the drainage path and the decaying sludge has put us in perpetual discomfort and that if this ugly situation is not handled properly, may lead to an outbreak of disease”.
According to other parts of this notification which our reporter was privileged to read, the communities had invited De Choice Mall to a meeting on Friday, 16th November, 2018 where they requested it to construct a sewage tank to properly evaluate its food waste.
Mr. Effiong told The Crest that De Choice Mall had honoured the invitation by attending the said meeting on that Friday and promising to remedy the situation. He said part of what was agreed on was for De Choice Mall to have a sewage tank where all its food waste could be emptied into, to stop careless pouring of such waste into the drainage.
He further revealed that the attention of De Choice Mall was also drawn to the impending environmental hazard in the areas its activities are likely to cause.
He stated that the manager of De Choice Mall who represented the outfit in the meeting promised that something would be done to arrest the situation.
The Secretary however disclosed that six months after the meeting, De Choice Mall did not fulfil its promise, a situation he said threw up other options which they conceptualized as a way of compelling De Choice Mall to stop the pollution of their environments.
The first option, Mr. Effiong disclosed, was that the communities wrote a petition to the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources on 8th April, 2019, calling for interventions.
He also revealed that another petition was written as the next action and sent to the Commissioner for Health, through the Director of Health Services in the same year, stating efforts so far made and the lips service De Choice Mall was paying to the issue.
The community leader however expressed disappointment that despite constant reminders from them to De Choice Mall, series of petitions to Akwa Ibom State Environmental Waste Management Agency (AKSEPWMA) and the Ministry of Environment to rescue the situation, nothing has been done to solve the impending issue.
“Despite constant petitions and reminders from the community, AKSEPWMA and the Ministry of Environment have failed to call De Choice Mall, Uyo to order. They have failed to use their good offices to call them to order”, the Secretary lamented.
Mr. Effiong told The Crest that having exhausted some avenues available to them, they community might be considering seeking legal redress, as the only option left for them.
Our reporter who inspected the drainage connecting De Choice Mall with the communities where the food waste is usually released into, was told that the condition of the areas is often messy and smelly during the dry season where there are no rains to wash off the mess.
The communities therefore, appealed to the relevant ministries and agencies of government to come to their aid before a serious health emergency is reported in the areas.
Our reporter who visited De Choice Mall on Saturday, 2nd September, 2022, to find out what its doing to stop the impending health situations in the area, was however told by one of the staff that the manager had been transferred to another branch.
This reporter also sought to speak with the most senior staff of the outfit, but was disappointed when the respondent said he was not around.