•How we survive in the dumping ground– Esther, Mercy, others
•Widows, jobless youth also feed there – Mr. Archibong, Scavenger
•Not residential, strictly a waste dump – DG, Bisong, C’River Waste Management Agency
CALABAR- The stomach-turning odor emitting from the waste-yard engulfs the nostril from over a kilometer away, but bizarrely, this is where over 200 kids have made a dwelling, eke out a living and munch through through at Calabar, capital of Cross River State.
The pile of refuse stretches as far as the eye can see and walking the labyrinth of wastes is a herculean task even to the most physically fit. Located in a place called Lemna at the outskirts of the city, along Dr Goodluck Jonathan Bypass, off Ebrutu Army Barracks, Calabar, many inhabitants know it as Calabar Refuse Dump. It is managed by the Cross River Waste Management Agency.
The mindboggling shacks passed on as habitats are built with discarded woods and the roofs are tattered tarpaulins and corroded metal sheets excavated from the heap of refuse.
Children poking around for food leftovers
When NDV visited the garbage dump, weekend, the location was wet ostensibly because of the torrential down pour the previous night, but the place was abuzz with activity as many of the children were seen digging through the heap of newly dumped refuse by a waste truck rummaging for food remnants.
They horribly stuff the junk into their mouths. While some pick and throw empty plastic cans into filthy bags hung across their shoulders, others stood at the doorposts of their wobbly fleeting lodging watching the dealings from a distance in all probability contemplating how to satiate their famished stomachs.
My uncles chased me away after my father died – 14-yr-old Esther A 14-year-old girl, who gave her name as Esther, from Odukpani Local Government Area in the state, was seen yelling full throat while six boys watched and laughed animatedly.
Questioned by this reporter, she said someone stole her N700 kept in her bag when she went to defecate in the trash dump, muttering, “I am from Odukpani and I am 14 years old. I have been living here for four years. My father died and my uncles said I killed my father and drove me away from the house.”
…Occasionally, we stay awake till 3am waiting for night trucks Esther disclosed that after a refuse truck empties its contents in the dumpsite, they would swamp on the garbage and look for whatever food leftovers may have been brought by the truck and with it they douse their appetite.
She narrated: “Sometimes, we stay awake till 3am to wait for the night trucks to come and we could be lucky because food remnants from events like burial, wedding ceremony or birthday celebration could be dumped into the dustbin and we get them and eat, and if it is much, we keep some for the next meal time.”
I have nowhere to go – Mercy
Another girl, Mercy, from Mkpat Enin in Akwa Ibom state, who claimed to have spent five Christmas festivals in the place, asserted: “My mother sent me away from the house because she could not feed us and I had nowhere to go, so I came here to look for food to eat.”
We have no choice
All the children, who spoke with NDV, said they would have preferred to live outside the place but have no choice or anyone to take care of them.
Govt should rescue these children – Archibong, forager
A scavenger identified as Mr. Archibong, who said he had been around since the time of ex-governor, Donald Duke, who established the dumpsite and the time of Senator Liyel Imoke, revealed some of the kids were taken to schools and those that did well were sent abroad for further education.
“This government should do something for these kids, he said, adding: “The dump has served as feeding place for widows, jobless and street kids who scavenge for food and abandoned items to sell and fend for themselves.”
According to him, ‘They pick plastic bottles and cartons, which they sell to some traders that repackage and send them to Dubai and from the proceeds, they fend for themselves.” Archibong stated that occasionally, Good Samaritans bring food to the boys when celebrating birthdays and other memorial events.
C’River Waste Mgt boss speaks
Director General, Cross River Waste Management Agency, Mr Joe Bisong, said the waste-yard is “strictly for dumping of waste and nobody is allowed to live there, which is why we have a security gate to stop unpermitted people from getting into the place.”