•Residents raise the alarm as operators of articulated vehicles turn highways, bridges, drainage to open toilets
An epidemic might be looming over Lagos. Residents are getting anxious, as drivers of articulated vehicles and their conductors have turned the city to an open toilet.
The articulated vehicle operators are contributing to environmental hazards across the city, leaving residents to deal with the putrid smell of faeces and urine as part of their daily life.
In Lagos, the culture of people defecating in the open is not new. Oftentimes, residents are seen urinating and defecating anywhere they can find a space. They do this even where there public toilets are available.
Now, with the entry of this new environmental challenge, Lagos definitely has something different to contend with. Each day, residents are confronted with the increasing presence of scores of articulated vehicle drivers and conductors spending days and nights on the city’s roads and bridges before gaining access to the ports to transact their business. In the face of this development, there is the growing fear that Lagos might soon experience an epidemic.
The drivers and their conductors, who are believed to be contributory to this new phase of environmental degradation, travel all the way from the hinterlands. On arrival in Lagos, they have nowhere to sleep all the days and nights they spend in the city save for their vehicles’ cabins. They defecate in open drainage channels, any available spaces and on the roads and bridges. They bathe in the open, sometimes at dawn, sometimes in the daytime, with passers-by watching.
Sadly, this narrative is taking place in a city whose managers describe it as “Africa’s Number One Megacity.” Nearly more than a decade now, governor after governor of the state have done their best to boost the environment by building roads, drainage and walkway infrastructure and planting flowers. They also embarked on ambitious projects targeted at giving the city a facelift.
But all these efforts sometimes come to nought when folks urinate and defecate on lawns, gutters, roadsides, medians, bridges and other spots, leaving their waste for everyone to see. Expectedly, such sights are as offensive as they are scandalous. Imagine the putrid stench that emanates from the environment hours and days after, all happening in a city many insist is on the steady rise.
Not too long ago, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Hussein Adamu, declared that an estimated 46 million Nigerians practise open defecation, regretting that the figure was the highest anywhere in the world.
Adamu made the declaration in Bauchi State through the Permanent Secretary in his ministry, Musa Ibrahim. He noted that more than two-thirds of the country’s population had no access to basic hygiene and sanitation facilities. He also regretted that efforts in the past to address the challenge had yielded little or no result.
Perhaps Lagos, largely an urbanised state, ranks among the states where residents are regular abusers of the environment. This is so especially given that the city’s population has maintained a steady climb.
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, the population of Lagos was estimated to be 1.4 million in 1970. But it rose to 12.2 million in 2012 before jumping to 21 million in 2016 and 22 million in 2017. Yet, it is projected that its population would hit 25 million in 2025.
“Lagos’ population is growing at a very fast rate and, with this pace, it will have a population of 300 million in the coming 25 years.
“By 2050, Lagos’ population is expected to double, which will make it the third largest city in the world but with less infrastructure than many large cities of the world.
“With the rise in population, renting a house in Lagos is really very expensive and the most expensive in the entire West Africa,” noted Wikipedia, adding that it accommodates 1,200 new people daily, having surpassed Cairo in size in 2012 to become the largest city of Africa.
“Large flocks of people still migrate to Lagos in the hope of getting white collar jobs, due to which Lagos has swelled, gulped up surrounding cities, and even encroached, forebodingly, into bordering states.
“The World Economic Forum (WEF) says Lagos is the fastest-growing city in the world, with a growth of 85 people per hour. The population growth of Lagos is faster than that of London and New York put together, with the two cities growing at a rate of nine and 10 people per hour.”
According to Daily Sun investigation, Lagos is already paying dearly for its high population. This is further compounded by the trouble experienced by drivers coming to town to discharge and lift goods at the wharfs and imported petroleum products from tank farms in Apapa. The drivers’ are confronted with worsening roads and attendant gridlocks that keep them stationary for days. Before each of the trucks reaches its destination, it would have added to the environmental challenges Lagos is experiencing.
On a bad period, for instance, scores of articulated vehicles attempt to reach the wharfs and tank farms through Ijora and Wharf Road. But since they cannot be attended to all at the same time, the drivers queue up on the bridges waiting for their turn. They form long queues, which stretch from the heart of Apapa sometimes to Ojuelegba in Surulere about 10 kilometres away or Fadeyi and Onipanu. Some take up available spaces around the area overlooking the National Theatre, with some cleverer ones going to Apapa through the Eko Bridge via Ijora Causeway. They occupy the bridges and claim one of the two available lanes. Sometimes, they are stagnated at the same spot and compelled to spend long nights and days.
The drivers and their conductors eat, sleep, urinate and defecate on the bridges. One of such drivers was Umar Abdullahi, attached to an independent petroleum marketing company based in Kaduna. When this correspondent met him, he had spent a day in Lagos waiting to load fuel in Apapa.
“We came into Lagos yesterday,” Abdullahi said in Pidgin English. “Perhaps, we will be here for as long as it takes other vehicles to start moving. Sometimes, we spend like two or more days before we load fuel, sleeping and waking up inside our vehicle cabin.”
Abdullahi and his colleagues always come to Lagos prepared. “We carry our buckets with us because we need to bathe; that is necessary because we spend days on the road before reaching our destination. So, wherever we have the opportunity to have our bath, we do so and whenever we have the opportunity to ease ourselves, we also do the same.”
Going into Apapa from the Mile 2 end of the city can be one hellish experience. For years, articulated vehicles have taken over the road. Efforts by the Lagos State government and the Nigerian Navy to clear the traffic maze and re-open the route for use by other motorists have been futile.
On a daily basis, long queues of articulated vehicles waiting to reach Apapa stretch as far as Ijeshatedo Bus Stop on the Oshodi-Mile 2 expressway. The drivers and their conductors come prepared. They wash and spread their clothes on the body of the trucks. In the day, some sleep on improvised beds under their trucks. Those who park around the busy Mile 2 defecate on the road medians and railway lines under construction. Joining them in the act are hundreds of ubiquitous commercial motorcycle riders, the army of beggars and hundreds of people who conduct their business around the area in the night. Together, they have all turned the area into a mess, with heaps of human waste littering the entire space.
Investigations revealed that available spaces on either sides of the road to Apapa are often also in a sorry state. Articulated vehicle drivers and their conductors easily locate uncovered drainage channels in which they defecate. Human waste is often seen floating in the dirty gutter water. Some of the culprits simply throw their waste into the big Apapa canal.
On this occasion, the correspondent encountered Olalekan Olasebikan, a truck driver on top of the big Apapa canal bridge. He was less than a kilometre to Tin Can Island Wharf gate.
“For three days I have been on this same spot,” he lamented. “I have been sleeping and waking up inside that contraption,” pointing to the cabin of his rickety truck nearby. “We are being hampered by the bad state of the roads and the poor attitude of workers at the wharf.”
Asked how he managed to dispose his waste, he said: “The canal is there, of course. We can also do it anywhere. Why not?”