Lagos, a state ever struggling with the challenge of waste management due to its huge population, has once again become a giant refuse dump. Heaps of refuse littering the streets, worsened by the recent relentless flooding in many parts of the state, are posing unquantifiable environmental and health risks, writes OSA VICTOR OBAYAGBONA, Deputy News Editor, BusinessDay.
When seven-year-old Grace suddenly began to stool and vomit frequently, her parents thought it was a projection from the witches in their village. But diagnosis by doctors at the hospital in their Okota, Lagos neighbourhood, showed she had diarrhoea.
“Grace survived due to timely intervention and capacity of her immune system to withstand the bacteria,” said one of the doctors.
Ten-month-old Amarachi was not so lucky. The once healthy baby passed away hours after she came down with diarrhoea. Several injections administered on her by the nurses at a private hospital were too little, and too late.
Amarachi’s parents are heart-broken. Amarachi was their only child, and she came after seven years of marriage, scores of medical evaluations, and intense pressure from family members. Now they are back to square one.
Diarrhoea, if one may ask, is usually a symptom of a bowel infection (gastroenteritis), which can be caused by: a virus – such as norovirus or rotavirus; and bacteria – such as campylobacter. The answer is not farfetched. The heaps of refuse and dustbins that littered the environment, which have not been evacuated for months, was the root cause of the untimely death of the innocent girl and the unnecessary spending by family of the girl that survived.
In recent time, heaps of refuse have been a commonplace across Lagos, Africa’s new and emerging mega city and Nigeria’s commercial hub.
A drive from Egbeda/Iyana-Ipaja through Ikotun/Egbe, Isolo, Okota to Amuwo-Odofin, Mile 2 through Orile and Ajegunle to Apapa, Nigeria’s premier port city, the story is the same. Heaps of un-cleared refuse and dustbins, housing various sizes of flies and other harmful insects known for carrying viruses that cause diarrhoea, are now a daily sight Lagosians must behold before getting to work and home.
It could be recalled that the state government recently sacked some refuse collectors across the state, with a promise to bring in an international refuse collector. Months down the line, nothing has been done to rid the Mega City of the constant death lurking in the corner to snatch the innocent. However, cart pushers, who the state had proscribed, are now up to the rescue, but how much can they do.
It is certain that Lagosians across the suburbs can relate with the stories above, only that documentation has not been ordered by any yet, as the situation is worse with the continued heavy down pour of rain.
Just last Tuesday, Jide Idris, Lagos State commissioner for health, disclosed an outbreak of diarrhoea in the state. Of the 27 cases confirmed, a total of two deaths were recorded and the remaining 25 persons placed under surveillance.
While briefing the press at Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja, Idris said the cases of diarrhoea were reported in key areas in the state including; Somolu LGA on July 19, 2017, Oshodi-Isolo LGA on July 20, 2017, and Surulere LGA on July 21 2017, after the incidence of the heavy rainfall in the state, which caused massive flooding in some parts.
Reviewing the statistics of the cases reported, Idris noted that six cases were reported in Somolu LGA with one of the patients reported dead.
“Two cases were recorded in Oshodi-Isolo LGA. One was managed at a private hospital and he is alive, while one died at home. Fourteen cases were reported at Surulere LGA and managed at Randle General Hospital. No death was recorded.
“Two cases were managed at Mainland Hospital, both are alive. Three cases were managed at Gbagada General Hospital and all are alive. The cases managed at the two hospitals are currently being investigated.
“Majority of the cases presented with the typical diarrhoea and vomiting associated with cholera.”
We do not need a seer to know the enormity of what we have at hand; this is the time to act fast.
MABEL DIMMA, lives in Aguda
They scurry around in their numbers, at any time of the day, happy to live among humans, it appears. Long ago, these furry animals where seen once in a while on the streets, especially dark corners or around heaps of refuse, but these days, massive well-fed rats are seen strolling down the many streets in Lagos, a clear result from the neglect of the environment, which are paved with heaps of refuse.
Swarms of cockroaches also compete with the rats in being more daring, as they are found in cars, on the main roads and every other place. Can it now be said that Lagos, the most populous mega city in West Africa and home to almost 20 million inhabitants, is rat-infested and in dire need of rescue?
Michael Ochonma, a senior journalist who lives in that axis
The ongoing expansion project along the proposed 10-lane Lagos-Badagry highway appears to be threatened, as the entire stretch of road is gradually being overtaken by refuse dumps right on the middle of the road.
Areas worst hit by the menace along the corridor, which is described as a gateway to other West African countries, are the Alakija Bus Stop linking Festac, Satellite and Navy towns, respectively.
Others are the Volkswagen of Nigeria (VoN) axis, Abule Ado neighbourhood, the Lagos State University area, and the ever-busy Iyana-Iba Market.
All these areas are also flash points for miscreants who most times use the refuse dumps as their hideout to carry out their criminal activities during gridlocks.
Those who spoke with BusinessDay say the sudden return of refuse on the streets of Lagos metropolis was due to the cancellation of the monthly sanitation exercise in the state by the current administration.
OBI DANIEL, another senior journalist and resident of Okota
In Isolo-Okota area of Lagos, some residents have turned streets and gutters into refuse dumps. It becomes most disturbing when this act is perpetrated as if it is a norm and without molestation by anybody, including local government officials.
A resident in Okota who prefers anonymity observed this reckless attitude of turning streets and gutters into refuse dumb by some Lagos residents. This escalated when Lagos State government cancelled the monthly environmental sanitation. “It is unfortunate that most streets are now dustbin dumps. Some homes pack their dirt into nylon bags and deliberately dump them on the streets,” he said.
Some observers also complained of coverage of gutters by kiosk owners and other retailers making it difficult to clean the gutters and drainage.
HEZRON ATUNDE, an undergraduate staying in Maryland
Maryland is not left out of the bad littering habit; as some of the residences still indulge in indiscriminate dumping of refuse. Although, compared to other parts of the mega city (Lagos) I will score my area high, as a good number of residents have developed good sanitation habits and the community association has also made efforts to keep the environment clean.
CHINEDUM ONYEMA, a resident of Tedi – Ojo area
The cancellation of monthly sanitation exercises has brought back dirtiness in Lagos State. Lagos, once one of the best states in Nigeria in terms of neatness, has turned into a full-time refuge dump.
Before now, Oshodi, Agboju, Ojo Alaba, Tedi, Muwo, Iya-niba, Okoko-maiko, Badagry, Ajegunle, Apapa, Orile to mention but a few, were made cleaner through the monthly sanitation exercise enforced by the then state governor. But today, Lagos story in term of cleanliness has become a thing of the past.
The above mentioned areas and others have become a refuse dump, even along express roads, where billions of naira have been spent by the government.
The state government should do something fast to ensure the restoration of monthly sanitation exercise to overcome and regain the dignity of the state.
PATIENCE OKEKE, a mother and housewife, lives at Casco Street, Agboju Amuwo
There are often refuse in this area, sometimes in heaps, littered around the street. There are no refuse cans or refuge disposal system in place for proper disposal of refuse.
As a result of this deficiency, when it rains, the refuse are often scattered and flows with the waters to various places around the street. Sometimes, when it rains, we wake up to see refuse that have been moved by the rains in front of our house, and most times could be very irritating.
PETER EHIGIATOR, an info-graphic journalist, lives in Ikotun-Egbe axis of the state
A walk through Ikotun, Egbeda, Isheri Oshun, Igando, Iyana Ipaja, all in Alimosho Local Government Area, we observed that mega refuse building up in these areas, particularly in and outside the Ikotun Market. Some drainage channels in the areas have been turned into waste dumps, including the Ikotun Roundabout.
A resident of Ikotun once said, “We pay PSP operators N3,000 per flat for coming to collect waste once in a quarter. Most times, we employed the services of the cart pushers to dispose our waste. Apart from the health implications, we are also met to pay most time for the services not rendered.”
ANTHONY NLEBEM, lives in Surulere
Seriously, it saddens me to see Lagos so dirty; I have never seen Lagos so dirty like this in the past eight years or more. You find dumps of refuse at almost each bus stop along Lawanson axis to Ijesha Bus Stop.
Each bus stop you go, you find refuse littered along the streets on major roads from Ijesha to Ojuelegba. From Ijesha Bus Stop to Ojuelegba, you will find over 10 bus stops littered with heaps of refuse blocking the streets and drainage, with odour that is injurious to health.
The drains are filled with garbage of refuse, and obstructing the flow of water. The impact of this waste was seen at the recent rainfalls, where floods sacked residence along Surulere, Itire-Ikate and Aguda to other areas.
In the past few weeks, the number of LAWMA trucks packing refuse has reduced drastically; you find one truck servicing over 30 streets; how can they get all the waste out with one truck?
This is a threat, and if not controlled, it could lead to cholera, diarrhoea and malaria epidemic. It is a wake up call for Lagos State government; it should ensure there are more pick up trucks for refuse clearing.
It is very critical now that Lagos pays attention to clean and safety environment.
ANGEL JAMES, an undergraduate, lives in Igando
Currently, residents of Igando are lamenting the environmental pollution in the area, with negative effect on their health. This is what we see every day, and there is no clear effort directed at eradicating it. Usually, the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) buses are parked towards Ile-Epo area in Igando, in addition to the stench from the dirty water from this waste, which pollutes the environment and hurts passers-by.
The waste are kept sometimes for four days without being disposed, emitting awful smell, capable of causing outbreak of diseases.
AREGBESOLA PETER, lives in Ketu-Alapere area
The era of dirty environment is gradually coming back to the streets of Lagos. If you move along the popular Ikorodu Road; you will be amaze with the heaps of refuse everywhere.
I believe Lagos State should do something about it so this will not lead to epidemic, though I heard from a reliable source that this was cause due to the ongoing reformation in the environmental law of Lagos, and that government is making serious effort to clear the mess.
Some of government effort is to introduce motorised truck that will sweep the highways, because government realised that those who are sweeping the highways presently are being knock down by moving vehicles. Under the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, to be introduced in September by Lagos State government, those who are presently sweeping the highways will be redeployed to sweep the inner streets.
Temporarily, to get rid of refuse heaps, the KAI officers have been mandated to go to the streets and take pictures of the refuse and the locations and forward them to an ad-hoc task force set up by the government to clear the refuse, pending the time the Cleaner Lagos Initiative will kick off in September.
Increase LAWMA capacity; give homeowners a mandate on Lagos cleanliness, get the LGAs involved, because refuse is a grassroot issue, bring back sanitary inspectors, according to concerned citizens.
Is it not sad that just last week Tuesday, the Lagos State government confirmed 27 cases of diarrhoea, with two people dead? What else do we need to do than for the state to expedite action on what it plans to do to save Lagosians from this preventable death. If Lagosians keep spending more on medicals, it is certain they will have less to pay as tax. A stitch in time, as the saying goes, saves nine.
It could be recalled that in August last year, an NGO, Phosguard Fumigant Limited, in partnership with the Lagos State government, introduced a rat killing bounty as a means to tackle Lassa Fever and other vector borne diseases in the state. Oluwasegun Benson, CEO of the company, said then that the aim of the project was to de-rat the state, as these rodents would be exterminated from residential as well as business areas by the use of high-tech chemicals and equipment that would make their decomposing bodies harmless and non-infectious.
Almost a year later, the story remains the same, in fact the rats are bolder and the cockroaches high flying. Maybe this was the case in Hameline, Germany, when they sought the services of a Pied piper, and Lagos is in urgent need of one.