The putrid stench fills the air. Heaps of garbage practically wave at you on the streets of Lagos. The mess waits for weeks and months to be cleared. Residents say the mounting refuse is steadily turning the busy city into a mega dumpsite.
Right now, there is no part of the state that is completely exempted from this unhealthy drift. From the mainland to the island, the story is almost the same. The people are finding it difficult to identify the appropriate spot to dump their wastes, even as they patiently and endlessly wait for the authorised body to empty the garbage.
In many areas, since the state government disengaged the PSP operators from collecting refuse in Lagos, the new handler has obviously not been able to meet the expectation of the residents. The pace at which it clears wastes in most parts of the state appears too slow for many to be accepted.
To worsen the situation, cart and wheelbarrow pushers have been banned from collecting waste from individual homes in the state on the excuse that their activities were inimical to the environmental cleanliness of the city. It, therefore, leaves the residents at a crossroads.
Many residents have deployed smart means of discarding their refuse. Some of them told Daily Sun that they wake up as early as 4am to dispose of their wastes while others throw theirs away at midnight.
The stench oozing from the refuse that dots the long stretch of the median of Old Abeokuta Road in Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) is enough to hospitalise anyone. Apart from the wastes generated at the area, many commuters and motorists are wont bring wastes from their homes to add to the refuse on the road.
Except urgent actions are taken to find a lasting solution to the menace, many have expressed the fear that the state might be overrun by mountains of refuse that could lead to an epidemic.
On March 10, Mr. Kunle Adegbite, who resides in the Meiran area of Lagos, got more than he bargained for in the hands of officials of Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC). He was arrested at 9pm that fateful day while he went to throw away his refuse at Baba-Ijebu Bus Stop close to his house.
He said he went there as a law-abiding citizen with the belief that it was a designated place to drop wastes, but he soon discovered that he was wrong. He said he carefully dropped the refuse, which was tied in a big black polythene bag. But before he could complete the ‘assignment,’ a group of young men in mufti appeared from nowhere and grabbed him by the waist. They told him that he was under arrest and would be charged for indiscriminate dropping of refuse.
He said they whisked him away. While he tried calling his family members to inform them of his whereabouts, one of the officials seized his handset from him. His wife became worried when the journey of less than eight minutes extended to over one hour. Her fear increased when her husband’s mobile phone continued ringing without a response.
“I cannot forget that day because I was humiliated for no acceptable reason. I went to the place to dispose of my refuse because there were four trash bins belonging to Cleaner Lagos. They didn’t care to listen to my explanation but they pushed me into their vehicle like a common criminal.
“Having collected my phone, they took me to Kolington in Alagbado area and from there to Iyana-Ipaja and finally to Egbeda. While they were taking me around, they demanded 5,000 naira from me. I was not with enough cash, I pleaded with them to accept an online transfer of N2,000 but they refused and insisted that it must be N5,000.
“When they finally allowed me to use my phone after about two hours of pleading, I asked my people to come with policemen because it was already midnight. I was afraid that those boys could be working for ritualists. Everybody, including my neighbours, was worried that I could have been kidnapped.
“A policeman from Meiran Police Station followed my people to where I was at KAI office in Egbeda. It was discovered that the people that picked me up that night were not even assigned to my area (Meiran) for any raiding. My family members, neighbours and l returned home at 1.15am. However, we didn’t pay any money to LAGESC for my release except the transportation fare given to the policeman that accompanied us.
“Up till now, we are always afraid whenever we take our wastes to where we have Cleaner Lagos buckets because they could say the same spot is no longer authorised. The safest time for us to throw away our wastes in my area is either before 4am or midnight. The buckets get filled up in a few hours or within a day but the people in charge might not come to collect them for weeks,” Adegbite said.
A journalist with one of the national dailies, Esther Arowole, warned the state not to handle the collection of refuse with levity, especially with over 21 million people swarming the commercial city, together with enormous economic activities generating wastes.
In the Ijeshatedo area of Lagos, it was gathered that the residents are finding it more difficult than ever to get rid of their garbage. In fact, to succeed in dumping your wastes somewhere, you must be smart and brave at the same time.
Unlike some areas where they still secretly render skeletal services, cart pushers have distanced themselves from this community. Yet, you face arrest from the officials of Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LNSC) the moment you take your garbage somewhere to throw away.
A resident of the area, who simply identified himself as Ogbonna, told the reporter that discarding refuse is like planning a coup, which requires a spy and other forms of intelligence gathering.
Said he: “The last time we went to get rid of our refuse at my bus stop (Ijesha), my wife had to call me ahead to hang around the location for some minutes and monitor the environment to ensure that it was safe for her to bring the wastes. I diligently did so and we succeeded.
“While we were there, we saw a young man drive down slowly and park his car close to the heap of refuse. Without putting on a shirt, as if prepared for a battle, he opened his car boot and hurriedly emptied his trashcan there and zoomed off.”
Some of the places dotted by refuse dumps include the entire stretch of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, especially, the Okokomaiko end, Agege, Ojuelegba, LASU-Isheri road, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Mushin, Isolo Road, Ilasamaja, Ishaga, Lawanson, Alakuko, Ijaiye, Igando, Egbeda and Command. Also affected are several parts of the Lagos Island.
Indisputably, dumping refuse on roads and other public places constitutes hazards and has negative impacts on human health and the environment. Rodents, flies, mosquitoes and other vermin breed in refuse dumps, and flies and rats are very effective vectors that spread disease.
Another disturbing development in the city is that, as the heaps of refuse remain on streets unpacked for too long, scavengers descend on them for their economic gains. But while they sort the scrap, they expose themselves and sometimes others to dangerous items such as broken glass, razor blades and needles, which pose risks of injury or poisoning.
For residents who have resorted to burning their wastes, experts have warned that the act causes major air pollution, affects climate change by increasing greenhouse gas emissions, besides the negative effects on human health.
There have also been increased campaigns against dumping of solid wastes in drainage channels and gutters. They block the flow of the sewage, which often causes flooding in different parts of Lagos.
A resident of Agbado Oke-Odo, Ebele Uzor, told the reporter: “Lagos has never been this dirty. When I passed through Ojuelegba last week, I was asking myself what is actually wrong with the new refuse collector handling the project. I am sure they need more hands to help them overcome this problem.”
Another resident of the state, Shina Adebiyi, said: “I think Igando is the worst of all. At almost every bus stop, there is a foul odour emanating from the huge refuse. It is sad and unfortunate. We must not die before something is done to clear the heaps as fast as possible.”