As darkness slowly crept in on a Wednesday evening in Okokomaiko, Lagos, a dark-skinned woman, who will later be identified as Iya Blessing, picked up her bag of refuse on her way to dispose of it around the uncompleted part of the Lagos-Badagry expressway.
“Aren’t you throwing your refuse away now? I am going o!” Iya Blessing announced in Yoruba, while peeking into her neighbor’s living quarters.
“Hmm…I will. Later.” the neighbor, who simply identified herself as Rachel, responded.
Indiscriminate refuse disposal is very common in the Lagos metropolis, especially as the government pays very little attention to its waste management sector. This lack of proper waste management has left residents and traders stumped for where to properly discard their refuse and as a result, some have resorted to leaving theirs on the roads. The indiscriminate refuse dumps can be seen in Okokomaiko, some yards away from the Badagry entrance of the Lagos State University, Volks, trade fair and some other parts of the expressway.
The Lagos Badagry expressway road construction began in 2009 during the Fashola administration. The plan for the project, which is meant to be completed in 2019, is to expand the expressway from four lanes to 10 lanes, with a metro rail line in the middle.
Since the construction stopped, Iya Blessing and some other inhabitants of Okokomaiko litter the Badagry expressway indiscriminately and now have to contend with mountainous heaps of refuse and feces for space.
While gathering details for this report, the reporter saw three cart pushers dumping some household refuse in parts of the uncompleted expressway.
“Some people will cross the road and dump it (refuse) where the refuse is very much,” a resident in the area, Mrs. Oluwafunmilayo Bello, said. She admits that they dump their refuse on the road mostly at night to avoid been arrested by some unknown men who patrol the area sometimes. She suggests that the government provide refuse bins in strategic places in the area, for easy collection by refuse collectors.
Mrs. Bello also mentioned that PSP (Waste Management Association of Nigeria) operators do not visit them, and the cart pushers do not come to their area anymore.
“PSP do not visit us and when we did not see the mallam (cart pushers) again, we now started throwing our refuse across the main road. We have been dropping our refuse there since I started living here, about a year now,” she said. She noted that while it is not ideal, they are truly left with no choice.
Speaking further, Mrs. Bello revealed that even during the period while the expressway was still underway, refuse collectors came through regularly to carry out their job as stipulated but, “I think throughout this year now, those vehicles [haven’t] come again.” She also mentioned the are had a “dumping container” at Okoko but that is no longer in use.
Despite the establishment of the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) to promote a safe and healthy environment in 2017 by the present administration, Okokomaiko sits in its own filth.
Another resident who simply identified herself as Mama Esther noted that the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) was active in the area in the past, not anymore. “My household refuse is being thrown on the road, at night. There is no need to pay the cart pushers since they will also throw it on the road. So, I have resolved to throwing my waste on the expressway until the government intervenes and provides an ideal way of disposing our refuse,” she quipped.
Sanni Antashi, a potato seller in the Okokomaiko market, said that he also dumps his refuse on the road because the LAWMA has refused to collect it. “Some people do come here to defecate,” he mentioned.
Antashi complained that the foul odour emanating from the indiscriminate dumpsite hinders his economic gains. “The stench affect our sales. The government should evacuate the dirt and discipline defaulters.”
Speaking with the Babaloja of Alukagun, Okokomaiko, Salami Adio, about the inappropriate disposal of refuse, by traders in the market, Adio said (in Yoruba) that it is not good. He also suggested the government provide a functional refuse collector whom the marketers will pay, to prevent people from dumping their refuse in the middle of the road.
Adio blamed the incomplete infrastructure as the major reason for the indiscriminate refuse disposal.
Additionally, a trader who identified himself as Blessed Child, described the indiscriminate refuse disposal as an eyesore. “People have the mentality that they can drop refuse anywhere unlike Abuja, where I came from. It may also lead to contagious disease,” Blessed Child said.
He added that the stench affect businesses adversely, noting that “there are places where you can’t go close to where they sell because of the smell.”
When asked about what he thinks the government should do about the road-turned-dump-site, he said: “Government should know what to do.”
“Cart pushers collect our refuse here, we don’t dump it on the road,” Mrs. Gabriel Inyang, mentioned. She noted: “LAWMA used to come here. They counted our house then, like NEPA bill, all of a sudden, they stopped coming.”
Mrs. Inyang bemoaned the dirty state of Okokomaiko’s environs, noting that one needs to “be careful in order to cross the road, so that you don’t step on refuse.”
Failing to heed Mrs. Inyang’s warning, reaching the other side of the road to take a picture of the cart pushers dumping their refuse on the incomplete Lagos/Badagry express road, our reporter stepped on feces, unfortunately.
A woman who identified herself as Mrs. Oyekan, a roasted yam seller, mentioned that refuse management was not as bad as this during the past administration. She said that since this present administration scrapped the environmental day clean up, situations like this became commonplace.
“When there was environmental day, they dare not dispose refuse here. The environmental day clean up should be brought back and defaulters should be sanctioned. If the environment is clean there will be no room for disease,” Mrs Oyekan added.
Mrs Oyekan also revealed that commuters passing through the area contribute to the heaps of rubbish visible on the incomplete road project.
Our reporter tried to speak with two cart pushers on different occasions about where they dump the collected household refuse, but they all declined. Luckily, a cart pusher in Surulere who identified himself as Abdullahi, disclosed that after he collects the refuse, he dumps it at the boler located in Doyin, Orile or the one in Alakija, Mile 2.
Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA)
According to Ola Oresanya, the Managing Director of Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) the agency is working to evacuate the refuse in the area.
“Very soon we will resolve the problem. We are working on it,” Oresanya said.
When asked if the government is aware of the environmental impact the site already has on its residents and others, Mr Oresanya admitted that the “government is aware of it, we are working on it. And you are going to see results, just be patient.”
Health implications of the dump site
Akinyemi Olusegun Kabiru, a Professor of Microbiology at the Lagos State University, Lagos, has stressed that the effects dump sites of this magnitude will have on its residents are enormous.
“The dump site serves as reservoir for the growths of these pathogenic microorganisms that are known to cause deadly diseases in the society. The continuous dumping of all these refuse here and there may lead to unwarranted outbreaks or diseases, cholera may ensue or other associated…outbreaks that may claim the lives of so many people.”
“It is not safe, it is not ideal, it is unhygienic, and it an eyesore to the society and a great stress to public health. It may cause cholera, viral disease and some other fungal associated diseases and tuberculosis, and what what have you,” he explained.
He went on to note that all these things can be contacted from the dump site because, for instance, “Somebody that is harbouring Tubercle bacillus for example may get sputum in the dump site and somebody passing by there maybe the fruit just drop there and you just pick the something without washing thoroughly, you ingest it. The tubercle bacillus will be ingested and at the end of the day, will continue to grow in the system and after sometime the person will start losing weight and all sorts. Before you know it, he or she will be diagnosed to have tuberculosis.”
Mr Akinyemi stressed the need to be hygienic and complained of the alarming rate of tuberculosis in the country.
“If you look at the rate of people suffering from tuberculosis today in the present situation you find out that they are high, we have high rate of cases of tuberculosis and what have you. And a complicated form of tuberculosis if care is not taken may also deplete the immune system. And once it deplete the immune system, even ordinary disease that is not supposed to come up from individual will continue to come up. And that is how other diseases will continue to surface,” he revealed.
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