Among many things that are pressing in the city of Lagos, the challenge of waste and its disposal seems to be very present in the fabrics of the city. With a system and government that seems to be either clueless in solving the problem or negligent of the problem which is very much visible, Lagos environmental cleanness will always be a story for now and another day. A cruise around the city sparks excitement, youth, hope and life; but there is a part that gives the strangest thought, a sharp contrast to the good part: how can a city with so much hope and life be dirty? Michael Isaac writes…
Indiscriminate waste disposal has for long been a thing of great concern in Lagos, a threat to environmental health, the reality of urban life, and a general threat to the public health of Lagosians. Despite environmental laws, campaigns, and structures that have been put in place to combat uncleanliness in Lagos state, the reverse has remained the case.
Lagosians have, despite these formal directives, violated roads, canals, highways, street corners, marketplaces, and in fact, every available space they can lay their hands on in the disposing of their waste.
This brings the question: Is Lagos State dirty because there are no environmental laws, or because Lagosians generally just have a bad habit of haphazard disposal of wastes?
Taking to the street on two locations of the Mega-City and speaking to residents and road users, the problem doesn’t seem to sit only on the shoulders of the government.
At Jakande Gate, along Isolo-Ikotun Road rests a huge heap of dirties just opposite of the main road and in this part of Lagos, residents blame the government for this abnormality.
Speaking to Babajide, a motorbike rider, he blamed the government that provided them with a gigantic waste bin and fail to come to park it when it gets full.
“Nobody dey proud of the dirty, I think you too sef can smell am? Dem do well bring the big dustbin but the only problem wey we dey see, wey even cause the matter na say dem no dey come pack am when e full. Nobody wey no like free thing and na because of this wey people dey always pour dirty even if the thing don full.”
He expressed disappointment at the government for failing on their own part in maintaining the sanitation of the locales.
Another resident identified as Ebuka also blamed the government who introduced the system in the first place. “I remember in Fashola’s time, the PSP guys usually come to this area, estate by estate, street by street every Friday and that is when everyone will bring their dirties out and give them. That time there was nothing like this big waste bin you are seeing here. This one you are seeing her has even been here for close to two weeks now and no one is doing anything about it.”
While Ebuka and Babajide blamed the government for the issues of environmental sanitation in their area, a lady who chose anonymity, was of the opinion that people are generally ‘animals’ when no one is watching. According to her; When no one is watching, people can throw their dirties anywhere as long as they don’t live there.
“I think it’s a people thing. People are generally animals and will be their worst when no one is watching. Me myself, I don’t throw dirties when I’m in a bus. I hold it till when I get to a trash can. So it’s a people thing and not the government. Lagosians are generally dirty people and we need to address that first. The sanitation starts with us first.”
Plastic bags, nylons, bottle caps and all that are majorly present across everywhere in Lagos, on the streets, in market places, in canals and sometimes in the air, congested on electric transmitting cables. So it is safe to say that these are enemies of the environment.
In April, Nigeria became one of the countries to harbour a law against the use of plastic bags and nylons. ‘The plastic bag prohibition bill’ fines store owners who give customers plastic bags, and this is in attempts to reduce environmental pollution and enhance environmental sanitation. Well, till today, no one has been caught defaulting the law and everyone still uses plastic bags and nylons, our streets are still flooding with plastic bags and even store owners still give customers plastic bags.
A cruise around the busy market of Yaba gave us people who are of the opinion that tackling sanitation in the country may not be possible until there are laws in place and until these laws are followed through properly.
Speaking to Amoke, a LAWMA worker as she was observing her rest period under the shade of a stall, she pointed out that the problem of sanitation in Lagos has its residents to be blamed. Being a government worker, she pointed out how desperate the government of Lagos wish Lagos could be sparkling clean as soon as possible and how uneasy locales have made it.
“It’s not the government. Trust me, it’s you and I. We are the problem. Lagosians are less appreciative of the good plans the government is making for them for their streets and environment. That’s why a place I just cleaned twenty-minutes-ago will turn up dirty in no time.”
When asked‘What about places where the government has not touched? Places like Ago Egun in Bariga?’, her response showed cluelessness and concern as she replied saying ‘I don’t know there, but everything na small small.’
The truth remains that Lagos State in all its glory is a dirty place and both the residents and government have the power to correct the errors.
Just like our anonymous respondent explained, we can do better in promoting a healthier Lagos environment. The keys to a better environment are also in our hands.
Like London, Washington, Oslo, Dublin, Paris, and all the beautiful places we see on movie screens we can turn our Lagos healthier and cleaner. With the right self-discipline and conscious efforts, we could also turn most of our cities into an amazing haven of cleanliness.
This could begin with a simple habit of not throwing dirt in unauthorized places. It could be as simple as not urinating in public places even.