◗ Their tales of woe will shock you
Their story is a very pathetic one. It is a tale that draws emotional feelings from anyone that has an encounter with them. Though it is the desire and prayers of individuals to become a landlord in their community but the answer to that wish has turned to a nightmare for some in a Lagos community. Owning a house in the area has become a big burden and source of sorrow to the extent that landlords are now fleeing and abandoning their houses to become tenants elsewhere.
This is the tragic story of several landlords in Igando community, a sprawling suburb of Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State. The questions on the lips of many in their neighbourhood are: why are these landlords abandoning their houses, are they being haunted by some evil forces?
Saturday Sun investigations, however, revealed that these landlords and residents are running away from the area because of the Igando refuse dumpsite that has become a health hazard to many communities in close proximity.
Further findings revealed that until 2008, these parts of Igando were commonly referred to as Igando Paradise Haven, Igando Small London and New Jerusalem because of the serenity of the environment.
Then, it was a big deal and the desire of many residents to own a plot of land there. It was further gathered that that was one of the reasons Lagos State government sited Igando General Hospital in the vicinity. Not only that, Lagos State government also carved out a large expanse of land in the neighbourhood and designated it an industrial estate. Living in the neigbourhood then was blissful. But the story changed for the worst around 2008 when construction work started on the Iyana Ipaja-LASU road.
According to investigations, the contractor handling the road project started excavating sand from the large expanse of land which had been designed as Igando Industrial Estate, and few years after some private waste operators started bringing their trucks to dump refuse on the vacant land.
Residents claimed they challenged them but rather than stopping, the waste operators continued their activities unhindered citing official backing from the state government.
This was how the area allocated as an industrial estate turned into a massive refuse dumpsite the size of 10 standard football fields. Igando refuse dumpsite is so massive that it has been described as one of the biggest in Nigeria.
Tales of woes by residents
Speaking with Saturday Sun on how the dumpsite has ruined their lives and turned their joy into sorrow, landlords and other residents openly heaped curses on the waste operators, and people they described as collaborators within the official circle who turned the place from an industrial estate into a dumpsite.
One of the aggrieved landlords, Abiodun Offe, a retired naval personnel who witnessed everything from the beginning till now, accused the Lagos State government, some top politicians and even the community representatives at the state and national assembly of betrayal.
“We have been betrayed by those people we put our lives in their hands. Here we have been neglected and abandoned. Not only that, those of us living here are dying by installments. Although we are alive, but we are dying daily. The refuse dumpsite has become a big albatross on our neck; 24 hours of the day, foul odour and thick smoke emanating from the heap of wastes have become our permanent companion. We can’t stay outside our house to take fresh breeze. Not only that, flies of different sizes and mosquitoes have also become our companions. Whenever we are cooking or eating inside our houses, a swarm of big flies will descend on us. We can’t also use water from our boreholes again because dirty water from the refuse dumpsite has polluted our land — life in hell can’t be worse than what we are passing through in this community,” he lamented.
Ofee further told Saturday Sun that he and other six members of his family including his wife and children have become asthmatic as a result of being exposed to the health hazards. Unfortunately for him, his house shared a fence with the dumpsite.
“I was not using inhaler before, but now all members of my family have become asthmatic, and we are now using inhalers. Many other landlords and residents are also having different health challenges as a result of Igando refuse dumpsite,” he said.
Asked how many landlords and streets are affected by the dump, Offe said: “Several communities, countless streets, and thousands of people are affected – these include all residents and landlords in Igando Estate Phase 3, Igando General Hospital and its surrounding neighbourhood, and others living along the long stretch of LASU-Isheri expressway. We are talking of millions of people. The best thing is for Lagos State government to shut down the dumpsite and relocate it. Several businesses are closing down daily, many landlords are relocating to become tenants elsewhere because of the health challenges the dump yards pose to their lives.”
Giving reasons why he and some other landlords can’t relocate, Offe further said: “Myself and some other landlords wanted to relocate also but we are trapped with this refuse dumps that endangers our lives because we are pensioners and we don’t have money to rent another house. I spent 35 years with the Nigerian Navy before retiring from service, and I built my house with all my savings believing that I have retired comfortably but see what I’m passing through now.”
Another landlord, Obafemi Ogunmeru almost in tears narrated how the dumps had destroyed his source of livelihood. “I invested heavily in fish-pond farming and rearing of livestock but the refuse dump destroyed all my fish farms. The dumpsite has blocked some streets in this area, and whenever it rains, heavy tide of flood from the dump usually flood our neighbourhood. It was in this process that my fish ponds were destroyed. Our suffering here is too much. It is very sad that Lagos State government has abandoned us to our fate. We’ve written several letters calling on the state government to save our lives and businesses from the menace of the dumpsite but it has always been promises upon promises with nothing being done.”
Ogunmeru implored Governor Ambode to intervene in their plight. “It is unfortunate that Lagos State government can be treating us this way despite the fact that the ruling APC starting from AD days usually get most of their votes from this area. It is like a case of using us and dumping us. And like obedient citizens we have been paying our taxes when due. We want this dumpsite to be closed down immediately. Life was very rosy for us before the the dump was brought here, but now life in hell is even better, and this is why some people who want to taunt us often call this place hell city. We were living in paradise before the dumpsite was dumped on us by the Lagos State government. The dumpsite was an act of betrayal by the government because what they promised us was an industrial estate.”
For another landlord, Pastor Uche Chimezie, it is like the case of a double tragedy. Apart from having erecting his house in the neighbourhood, his church, Amazing House of God is also in the vicinity.
“This place was being called Small London when I built my church and house here. It was an ideal environment to stay, but it is sad what the Igando refuse dump has turned this place to be. Churches are usually referred to as places of succour but ironically because of the stench, smoke and 24-hour foul odour from the dump, several members of my church have stopped coming. Our congregation is fast dwindling, and no new members are coming because the environment is terrible,” the cleric lamented.
The cleric who insisted that action would have been taken to bring their sorrow to an end if a top official of Lagos State government is living in the area, implored Governor Ambode and members of his cabinet to visit the community and stay with them for 30 minutes or one hour for them to have a feel of the environment.
“I like Governor Ambode. He is a hardworking governor. He is a man of the people but I enjoin him to visit us here one day and stay just for 30 minutes or one hour with us. That period will be enough for him to understand our plight better,” he said.
Pastor Chimezie’s position was supported by another resident, Ajibola Ogunseitan who called on Governor Ambode to hold one of his town hall meetings in the community as soon as possible. “We want to see Governor Ambode in action, and that will be for him to come and hold his town hall meeting in the midst of Igando refuse dump community residents. This is a challenge we are throwing at His Excellency for him to appreciate our woes.”
Ogunseitan who berated politicians and political representatives from the area for betraying the people said it would not have been possible for the dump to be located within the vicinity if some politicians have not compromised. “How can an area earmarked as an industrial estate suddenly be turned into a refuse dumpsite? Something is wrong somewhere.”
For Elder Gbade Adesuyi, he can never forgive those who brought the dump to the community. However, apart from other pains he passes through as a landlord in the area, the dumpsite destroyed the marriage plan of his second son about five years ago, and since then, the young man is yet to find another lady.
On how the refuse dumpsite destroyed the marriage plan, he opened up: “As you can see I have a modest bungalow here which can be described as a standard one. We were to host some family members of my son’s then fiancée. It was actually not a big thing but a parlour affair. Everything was going on smoothly until the arrival of my guests. I noticed that trouble was in the offing when as soon as they were seated they started covering their noses inside my sitting room – initially they couldn’t openly complain, but one could see from their countenances that they were not happy with the foul odour emanating from the dumpsite.”
Continuing, Adesuyi said: “Hell however broke loose when food was served, and suddenly from nowhere big flies from the dumpsite covered everywhere. The flies covered not only the food but everybody – some of my guests even ran out while me and my wife, and my other family members tried to calm them down. That was how my son’s special day of joy was destroyed. That was how my in-laws-to-be left, and up till today, they never came back. Whenever I remember that ugly incident I don’t pray for those who brought the dump here.”
Further findings by Saturday Sun reveal that the woes of the residents is further compounded by a private mortuary located in the area. It was gathered that the mortuary is usually flooded with water from the refuse dump whenever it rains. Not only that, the floodwater usually carried corpses from the mortuary to neighbouring streets, claimed residents.
“The situation here is terrible, so terrible. On countless occasions when it rains, when we wake up in the morning, we will see dead bodies from the mortuary floating in front of our houses. Not only that, we are often trapped indoors for two or three days, waiting for the flood water to abate, before we can go out”, another resident, Labake Fasuyi told Saturday Sun.
While urging Governor Ambode to save landlords and residents of the communities affected by the location of the dumpsite, the chairman, Igando Estate Phase 3 Development Association, Alhaji Akeem Dada said the dump has become a big headache for the people.
“What is more painful is that many landlords and business premises owners are already here before the dumpsite was dumped on us, otherwise nobody would have wished to build his house or site his business in a place very close to such a place. We are also not happy that a place designated as industrial estate was turned into a dumpsite. We want Gov. Ambode to do something urgently about our case. We have written several letters to him, the last one being on September 15, 2017, which was duly acknowledged by the Office of his Chief of Staff in a letter written to us by one Mr Kola Aileru on behalf of Chief of Staff to Lagos State Governor dated September 19, 2017. But since then no action has been taken by the government to provide us any form of relief,” Dada declared.
While reacting to the landlords and residents claims, an official in Lagos State Ministry of Environment told Saturday Sun on condition of anonymity that: “Something is being done about their case. Just like Lagos State Commissioner for Health assured a few weeks ago that action was going to be taken about the menace of refuse truck drivers in front of Alimosho General Hospital Igando and action was taken, this time around, the state government is going to take a concrete and firm action about the dumpsite, but the action will be gradual. Landlords and residents can be assured that succour will soon come their way.”