… Following Daily Sun report on looming epidemic in Satellite Town
From Tessy Igomu
RESIDENTS of Site ‘C’, a community in Satellite Town, Oriade Local Council Development Area, are rejoicing over the closure of a cottage industry involved in the processing of animal hides. Daily Sun learnt that the company, until the closure, terrorised residents of the area with poignant odour.
According to residents, the Lagos State government, through the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, (LASEPA) sealed off the Chinese firm, located on plot 6, Alaba Okiri Street, by Abule-Ado Bus Stop last week.
The closure of the company followed the publication of a story with the headline Epidemic looms in Lagos Community: Satellite residents cry out over offensive odour from Chinese firm. The story was published on pages 14 and 15 in the Lifeline Section of Daily Sun on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.
As soon as the edition hit the newsstands, members of the community inundated Daily Sun with calls on the prompt intervention of LASEPA, noting that the place was locked with a chain. A notification of closure warning against trespassing on the property was pasted boldly on the gate.
In the story, those living in the community had narrated their plight and warned of a likely outbreak of epidemic in the area. They also spoke on the steps they had taken, the health challenges they faced and the various authorities they had registered their complaints with without any meaningful intervention.
The community lamented that it was besieged by unpleasant odour, emanating from the cottage industry. They lamented that since the company was sited in the area, the nauseous odour coming out of the factory was so distressing and discomforting. They expressed fear that the odour could have serious health implication on residents if nothing was done to stop the company’s operations.
The community through its leaders disclosed that it had confronted the owners of the company and had even gone further to lodge complaints at the Environmental Unit of the local government and at the office of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), but regretted that so far, nothing had been done by the authorities.
A distraught member of the residents association of Site ‘C’ Estate, who identified himself as Mr. Femi, spoke on the dangers and challenges faced by residents, stressing that the community had never been the same since the company started operation in the area.
According to him: “The serious odour emanating from the company’s premises on daily basis has made some residents to permanently shut their windows in order not to inhale the terrible odour, which can lead to serious health challenges. While they are discharging the hides as well as the treatment and drying of the hides, the entire community is taken over by the odour. It is only on Sundays, when they don’t open for business, that it becomes less evident. But if you go close to the compound, the odour can be irritating.
“The flies that come out of the premises are not good for the community. Those that bring the hides always wash their containers on our road and this can be injurious to our wellbeing. We have two schools nearby where children who are vulnerable could be infected with any disease. In fact, some of the children now wear face masks to avoid inhaling this bad odour.”
In the course of the community’s fac-eoff with the owner of the company, Mr. Lucky Chiresa, a Chinese man, he allegedly brandished an approval to trade in hides and skin, but told them he was not licensed to operate in a residential area.
Also, when the reporter visited the area on a fact-finding mission, she almost became distressed by the poignant odour in the air. She had to hold her breath at intervals even as she spat intermittently. The stench was simply overwhelming. The stench in the air evoked the image of a dump for decomposing dead bodies. The odour was thick and palpable.
The reporter later met with 75-year-old Mr. Sam Onyekwena, a war veteran. He expressed bitterness and anger over the situation, saying he was daily exposed to the smell of decaying animal flesh. The septuagenarian also said that having to endure the smell was a punishment.
Mr. Onyenekwe asserted that the operation of the cottage industry within the neighbourhood had brought untold pain, trauma and sickness to residents. As such, members of the community had to start wearing masks.
More disheartening, the old man disclosed, was the close proximity of two schools, Kings High School and Fortress Children’s School, and the fact that the pupils were also forced to wear facemasks.
The old man disclosed that any time the firm brought in fresh stock of the hide, which would have been at various stages of decomposition, most of the residents would be forced to temporarily flee their homes.
The war veteran said residents were tired of writing letters. He said the many letters written to the relevant authorities did not yield any meaningful result.
In one of such letters dated September 27, 2015, and addressed to the General Manager of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), residents appealed to the state government to act promptly to forestall a possible outbreak of an epidemic within the community. They also disclosed that attempts to have activities of the cottage industry halted through the Oriade Local Council Development Area, proved abortive.
He further disclosed that following the letter, LASEPA officials visited the warehouse and gave the operators three months to quit the area.
The seeming lack of action, Mr. Onyenekwe had said, again made the residents to write the Oriade LCDA. He said one Mrs. Okoosi, in charge of
the Environmental Unit visited the company. Later, one Mr. Oyedokun Abayomi, also visited the place. After inspecting the warehouse and speaking with the owner, residents were assured that the company would relocated from the place on March 23, 2016.
Speaking on the latest development, an elated resident of the community, Femi said residents are very happy, adding that they could now enjoy relative peace and fresh air.
“We have never been so happy. We can leave our doors and windows open any time of the day. This is one luxury we have missed for many years,” he said.
Femi said plans were underway to have the community fumigated, but added that residents might have to wait for the company to completely relocate.
He disclosed that initial attempts by the agency to shut the company were resisted by the employees, but the LASEPA officials later returned with security agents to seal the company.
Speaking on the closure of the cottage industry, the General Manager of LASEPA, Mr. Adebola shabi, said the place would remain closed, warning that any attempt by the operators to have it reopened will be met with the full wrath of the law.