• Amuwo Odofin: Lagos community where garbage, rats, robbers rule
By Sunday Ani ([email protected])
Many are the afflictions of the residents of Amuwo Odofin Estate, Mile 2 area of Lagos State. They struggle to extricate themselves from impending environmental and social crisis; ranging from mountains of refuse dumps scattered all over the estate to the biting water scarcity and incessant theft of generators, pumping machines and car accessories among others. The people are really going through tough times and there seems to be no end in sight.
Investigation revealed that the refuse heaps, which dot the entire estate was the result of alleged announcement by the state government sometime in January this year that residents should stop paying waste bills.
According to the residents’ association chairman of Zone C, Unit 8 in the estate, Alhaji Olawale Tijani, the information, asking residents to suspend the payment of waste bills was hinged on the fact that the state government wanted to modify the operational method of clearing waste before residents would commence payment.
He said: “They used to clear the refuse twice in a week and we paid our bills promptly but the problem started sometimes in January this year, when we got an order from the state government not to pay again. The state government said it wanted to introduce new system of clearing the refuse and that we would continue to pay after that but that was the end of it. Since then, nobody has come to clear the refuse.”
Residents are crying over the odour from the many heaps of refuse that torment them. They live in constant fears as they await the possibility of epidemic.
Apart from the odour and the fear of an outbreak of epidemic, mosquitoes and rats have continued to multiply in their numbers. Indeed, comfort has taken flight in the estate as people no longer stay outside to take fresh air in the evening because of the army of mosquitoes that are being bred daily in the abandoned refuse heaps. Rats are equally on rampage as they keep perforating people’s mosquito nets on the windows in a bid to gain entrance into people’s home.
“On daily basis, the people battle to ward off rats from their homes just as they guard the mosquito nets on their doors and windows from rats. We contend with rats as much as we contend with mosquitoes and both of them can cause serious health challenge,” Tijani said.
He also said he had made personal efforts to reach out to the Head of the Department (HOD) of the Environment in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area but all the promises made to him never produced any positive result. “Later, I personally went to one Mr. Tella, who is the head of the department of environment in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area to tell him our challenges. He told me that the contractor in charge of clearing our estate said we refused to pay our bills and that was why they stopped coming but I told him it was not true. I also told him that some people don’t pay but many people always pay. He promised to come and clear it with the local government’s truck, which he said was only one. That was in February but up till now, I have not seen them around here,” he explained.
The angry residents have also alleged that what the private waste company now does is to negotiate with some people and clear the refuse around such persons’ homes. Speaking on such development, Tijani said: “I can’t say if that is true but I see them sometimes clearing refuse in some areas in the estate. I don’t know why they have refused to come to our area.”
Investigation revealed that all the refuse bins along the expressway in Mile 2 are cleared on a daily basis. Checks also showed that these waste bins on the highways, particularly the ones around Mile 2 International Park, are partly used by the estate residents, who dump refuse there. However, findings also revealed that recently, the boys at the garage have started collecting money from residents who make use of the waste bins. It was gathered that the boys at the garage ask residents to pay N200 for every bag of waste, no matter how small it is.
Speaking on the efforts to ensure that refuse along the highways are promptly cleared every day, some residents said: “They promptly clear the ones on the road to present the picture that the state is clean. They don’t want the governor to know what is happening in the estate, even when they know that those refuse along the highways are being dumped by the people from the estate.”
Lamenting the extortion which the development has exposed them to, they said: “You can imagine those boys at the garage asking us to pay N200 whenever we go there to drop refuse, when our bill per month to the waste management agency is N500. Is that not day light exploitation made legitimate simply because government has refused to carry out its responsibilities to the people?
Residents are calling on the state governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode to come to their rescue. They want the governor’s intervention as a matter of urgency in order to avert the impending epidemic.
“The odour is getting out of hand. It is seriously affecting our health. Mosquitoes are multiplying in their millions every day and they are making life hellish and miserable for us. Rats are also on rampage, destroying our food stuff, eating up our documents and destroying our window mosquito nets. We can sense danger. Epidemic is looming and unless an urgent step is taken, it will surely happen. So, we call on Gov. Ambode to have mercy on us and order for the immediate clearance of the several refuse heaps in the estate,” they implored.
Investigation revealed that traders at the Aroso Market in the estate are also adding to the woes of the residents. It was gathered that since they are stranded as to where to dispose off their waste, they have resorted to secretly disposing off their waste materials at a heap nearer to the market and they do that in the middle of the night when residents have all gone to sleep. It was gathered that they contract truck pushers, who do the dirty job for them.
A teacher at the secondary school within the estate, who pleaded anonymity for fear of victimization lamented that the refuse had almost blocked the entrance to the school and pleaded with the authorities concerned to come to their aid. “I don’t want my picture or my name there. All I am saying is that you people should beg them to come and clear this before it blocks our entrance. Apart from the odour which distracts us in the school, the thing is about to block the entrance to the school. So, please beg them to do something fast,” the teacher stated.
Another resident, who plies his trade in the open space around the school, also decried the insensitivity and nonchalant attitude of the authorities concerned with the clearing of refuse, describing their action as wicked.
Pouring his heart, he said: “Tell me how an agency of government could be so callous to abandon its responsibilities like this. Look at what we are going through here. I can’t breathe good air and it also affects my customers. Some people cannot come near this place because of this thing. Please, they should just wake up and face their job. We are tired of all these nonsense.”
Like the biblical Job, residents are afflicted with numerous crises. It was gathered that for more than two years, the public tap had ceased running in the estate. After several complaints without any meaningful outcome, majority of residents resorted to digging boreholes since man can hardly exist without water.
Tijani traced the water problem to the last two years. He said: “The problem of water in the estate started about two years ago. Before 2015, we used to have constant supply of water from the water corporation. People are now digging boreholes here and there. Others are buying from the water tankers while others patronise water vendors, who supply with trucks. It has been promises that there would be water soon but nothing has happened. I actually don’t know what is happening about water because nobody is talking to us. In fact, I don’t think government is still ready to do anything about that again.”
As if the hardship inflicted on the people by the scarcity of water and refusal of the concerned authorities to clear refuse from the estate are not enough, thieves are also running riot there. Items such as generators, pumping machines as well as car accessories have become their targets. Many people have fallen victims of these nefarious activities by hemp-smoking roughnecks, who have invaded the estate.
Investigation revealed that incidents of petty theft became pronounced, following the demolition of shops and containers in the estate by the state ministry of the environment in March 2017. According to Tijani, “it is happening because containers have been demolished and everywhere is now open. Since after the demolition, theft of generators, pumping machines, car side mirrors and other parts have become rampant. Before the demolition, people used the containers to hide entrances into their blocks but now, everywhere is open, so you can’t even know who comes in and who goes out. Everywhere is now road and I think that is why such petty theft is on the increase.”
One of the victims of generator theft, Mr Chidi James revealed that he had lost generator. “It happened in April. I didn’t even know until about two days because that time, we had constant supply of electricity, so I didn’t bother to put on the generator. So, I cannot say exactly whether it was at night or during the day that they stole it,” he said.
For Mr. Matthew Ugwu, he was lucky as he narrowly escaped losing his pumping machine. The criminals had already dismantled his pumping machine but it was too heavy for them to lift because the concrete which was used to cast the machine followed. So, in their bid to separate the concrete from the machine, a cracking noise woke a woman that lives downstairs. On looking through her window, she saw the boys trying hard to disentangle the machine from the concrete and she raised the alarm, which made them to run away.
Talking about the incident, Mr. Matthew said: “I was lucky but there are many other people who were not as lucky. They had already removed the machine from the ground and disconnected it from the tank but they could not easily carry it because of the concrete with which it was casted. Just when they were about removing the concrete from the machine, their noise attracted the attention of my neighbour, who lives downstairs. It was the woman who shouted and they ran away. So, the next morning, the woman just told me to check my pumping machine and when I got there, I was amazed. It was just a narrow escape.
“We also have the issue of water but that is an old story. It is no longer news. We equally have the problem of refuse. The authorities concerned have abandoned their duty, leaving us at the mercy of refuse. It has assumed a dangerous dimension and if nothing is done urgently, I am afraid, it could lead to epidemic.”
However, residents commended the state government for putting up fence around the estate; a step they agreed would ward off the activities of petty thieves once it is completed.
“The erection of fence around the estate by the government is a good step towards curtailing the activities of petty thieves once it is completed. Entrance into the estate by just anybody anyhow will be controlled.
“For the refuse, we are at a crossroad; we don’t know what to do. Government should either come up with their rumoured new method or revert to the old method. Let them not tell us that some people are not paying and that is why they have abandoned us. We have told them to lock up the flats of those who have refused to pay their bills or take them to court but they refused to do that. We don’t believe that they stopped coming because people were not paying. The money we pay is even enough for them to do their job. We also don’t know if government has disengaged them but we want the refuse to be cleared,” they said.
They also decried what they described as unfair treatment given to the estate by the local government. They alleged that local government authorities are clearing the refuse in Festac regularly. “The local government is concentrating more in cleaning Festac than Amuwo Odofin estate; we don’t know what our offence is,” they lamented.
Checks also revealed that the only canal that traversed the estate, emptying into the Mile 2 lagoon is also in a very bad shape. It could trigger flooding, if quick intervention is not provided. The canal, it was gathered, is half filled with waste materials and sand. And that can cause flooding in the estate if there is a heavy rain.
Residents said that in the past, the state ministry of environment used to clear the canal of refuse and sand before the rainy season sets in or soon after the rain starts but for about four years now, what has happened is that only waste materials are removed, leaving the sand unattended to.
When the head of the department of the environment at the Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area was contacted on phone to know what his department is doing about the refuse that has overtaken the Amuwo Odofin Estate, Mile 2, he said they had started work on clearing the refuse and that they would soon clear everywhere in the estate. He said: “As at Saturday, we were at Mile 2 estate clearing everywhere and we are doing it gradually and we are on it. We were at the Central Mosque side and we cleared all those places. The refuse there was huge and that was where we worked on Saturday and this week we are also working. One of our trucks just had problem and they are repairing it and we are coming there now.”
Efforts to get official response from the Lagos State Waste Management Authority did not produce positive result as calls put through to the agency’s general manager were not connecting. But, an official of the agency who doesn’t want her name in print told our reporter that they stopped clearing the refuse in the estate because residents were not complying with the payment of bills. She insisted that as long as residents were not willing to pay, the agency would keep away from the estate until such a time, when they would be ready to continue with the payment of their bills.
Her words: “They don’t want to pay their bills. Every morning, we will come there and shout, begging them to pay their bills but they will not. So, we have also decided not to bother them again. Whenever, they are ready to continue with their bill, we will come back and start work in the estate.”