Abiodun Jamiu, 200L Political Science Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, reports
One could begin with the flies, smells of rotten food tossed by the roadside, ugly sight of wall-to-wall faces or a community hounded by questions of neglect.
Like many communities in Ilorin, Dada, a community along Kwara State specialist hospital Ilorin, is located in Okelele of Ilorin East Local Government Area, Kwara State and well-known for her rich pottery and artistic exploits – residents, mostly women, of the community engage in pottery making and are proud of the art.
Fouling the community, the menace of open defecation and poor sewage system remained the eyesore of the community. Though Kwara State Environmental Protection Agency (KWEPA) is charged with waste management in the state, the service of the state agency had never been extended to the community; in lieu of toilet, or waste bins, residents use open field to dispose their domestic wastes.
Findings attributed the menace to poverty which makes it a challenge to build toilets; weak enforcement of laws prohibiting illegal dumping and lack of public awareness on the part of the residents regarding the environmental and health dangers of illegal dumping chiefly contributed to the health and environmental hazards the community is deeply enmeshed.
Open defecation – and largely poor sanitation – was found by WHO in 2014 to be a leading agent of diarrhoea death. An average 2,000 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhoea, residents of the community remained unruffled. Unaware, they sit on a tickling time bomb and with no flicker of hope in sight, they keep passing wastes in the open.
DADA MAGNIFICENT REFUSE HILL: A REAL EYESORE
Dada refuse heap is one among several illegal dump sites that serve residents of the community and neighbouring communities. It stand aloof at the entrance of the community, sided by a football field that has been overtaken by grasses, whose symbolic remains is the two goalposts that lies haplessly.
At the opposite end of the magnificent dump site lives residents of the community while to the left is a filling station – An Nur petroleum – and a car park, that harbours food vendors amid the humming flies and offensive odour that oozes from the nearby garbages.
Lack of wastes disposal options prompted residents of Dada community into indiscriminate dumping of garbages in the open. “Field Tawangbemu” as it is fondly called serves not only residents of Dada community but also neighbouring communities; Ijagun, Ondoko and outskirts of Alagbado.
A plate and spoon in hand, Iya Sikiru ladled three spoonfuls of Rice in the plate. She scowled, battling with flies not to perched on the plate of rice she holds. she placed the plate on the wooden chair beside her and began to lurched her hands side by side to drive the flies away.
“They are irritating (referring to the flies). There is no way you chased them away, they would still come back. This is what we deal with on daily basis. If not for God that is looking on us” she coughed, unable to complete the statement.
Iya Sikiru, a food vendor, recounted the years she has used in the park and the malady of environmental menses that hemmed the community. She hoped the heap would be cleared to safe the community from the impending epidemics.
“Garaji Ondoko is my second home. I have been in this garage for some years, selling Ewa (beans). People come from different places to dump their refuses here including feces. If not for the boys that play football there, it would have covered the whole field as well.
Though people do complain of the vile odour coming from the heap, we have no choice. We hope a day would come that it would be cleared”
Residents who live nearby lamented how smells from the heaps affected and poses immeasurable threats to their well-being, citing it as an eyesore of the capital city, Ilorin.
“It is frustrating! We dare not come out in the afternoon to receive fresh air, the odour from the heap is usually frustrating. Everyone uses the dumping ground because there is no other place to dump our refuse except when it rains that we dump them (the wastes) in the gutter.
We call on the government to help in clearing the place. Maybe when it is done and public toilets are built, people would desist from using the open, we waited but no rescue came. Perhaps, this is a cue to conclude that the health and basic needs of the people means nothing to the government” Abdulhakeem Amolegbe, an “Okada” rider, who lives near the dump site lamented as he entered into a tirade.
Sidikat, a mother of two who lives in a “face-me-I-face-you” apartment near the illegal dump site, does not allow her kids to play outside when the sun doused out in the noon owing to the perversive odour from the heap. She feared the thick odour is infectious and unsafe for them.
“If not for the fact that it just rains, you wouldn’t have meet us outside” Sidikat flanked by her two kids and a neighbor divulged ” I don’t allow them (the kids) to play outside during the day. If they don’t go to ‘ile kewu’ (an Islamic School) after returning from school, they would rather stay inside. Who knows? They might go there to play. The odour is just too much for us to bear”
“no one stops them from dumping there” she gestured towards the heap of refuses fronting her house “if we want to, they would say the land belongs to the government. Even people from other communities come with cars to dump their wastes here” she added in her strong Yoruba accent.
“There is no other place to dump our waste. We dump the refuse from my shop here. It is a routine schedule, it might be the turn of my colleagues tomorrow” Toheeb ( not real name), an apprentice, said while he made his way to dump the sack he was holding.
Abdulwasiu, a resident, recalls that even people comes with cars to dump refuse in the area particularly when it is noon. He therefore berated the government for not providing the necessary facilities that would serve the community.
“This heap attracts dumpers from neighbouring communities. In fact, some people come with cars and ‘Okada’ to dump refuse here in the night” Had the government provided the basic infrastructure, no one would turn this to a mountain” referring to the refuses heap ” provided there are incinerators and an agency to collect the refuse no one would come from their homes to dump refuse here” Abdulwasiu stressed.
For an ailing Issa Abdulraheem, a resident, the odour from the heap contributed gravely to his illness. In a gloomy demeanor, Issa unbuttoned his shirt to show an healing wound on his pelvis, noting that had he known where to lay complaints for the garbage to be cleared, he would have gone.
“It is affecting us, wallahi. Had it been I known where they would help us to clear it, I would go there to show them the wounds I’m battling with until it is cleared. Once it is noon, the odour is usually thick and frustrating; in fact, the odour is the major cause of diseases in this community.” Issa said as he managed to stifle a yawn.
He also toed the path of Sidikat’s opinion, revealing that the dump site is “a no man’s land”; no one had ever held a stance against indiscriminate dumping of garbages in the community.
Hopeless but not crippled. The least residents of the community could do is to burn the refuses, but did they know setting the garbage ablaze is baleful to their health? No. Mama Onikoko said the heap would be burnt once the raining stopped. Her words: “You can see how I sent the boys away. No one will chase them, and that’s how it expanded. Once the rain is over, the boys who used the football field beside it would set it on fire”
NOT ONLY DADA
Dada is not the only community in Ilorin where illegal dump sites are common sight, leaving the capital city in the cold hands of various health and environmental hazards identified with open defecation and indiscriminate dumping of garbages. It is ubiquitous that Ilorin Metropolis is littered with refuses owing to poor waste management system.
Along Balogun Fulani road, refuses are laid at interval along the street, while the Cannal along Challenge road reeked offensive odour around the area; Ipata, in front of Balogun Gambari Micro Finance Bank is also not left alone in the cold – refuses were dumped along the road, littering the area.
Before, there were waste bins stationed at designated areas across the city, the bins were often times filled and spilling before being evacuated by men of the state environmental protection agency. But, at the moment, no wastes bins could be found at designated points across the city anymore – a recall which has worsened sanitation in the city and made residents to confide in the open and Cannals.
Another heavy dump site shares fence with Dr Bukola Saraki Junior Secondary school, Amule Iya Balogun, Okelele road, Ilorin East Local Government. With students vulnerable to sanitation and hygiene-proned disease such as diarrhoea, intestinal worms infection, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis and polio, a lengthy cannal which runs through Oke Amule to Shamsudeen with its putrid odour is left at its own ruins, posing threat to the health of teachers and students of the school with no concerted efforts to ameliorate the menses which have gag the city in a mess.
Ismail Bukola, a bricklayer and resident of Shamsudeen along Sobi road, expressed disappointment at the ineptitude of the state waste management agency over the littering garbage in the city. He revealed that the fecklessness of the sanitation exercise which holds every last Saturdays of the month worsened the malady.
“People engage in indiscriminate dumping because there is no other option. Before, they dump their refuse in waste bins provided which are always filled to brim, but now that there are no waste bins at their designated points, those that can burn it do so and those that couldn’t, dump in the open, uncompleted buildings and annals.”
On the monthly sanitation exercise, Ismail said that people no longer engaged in the cleaning of their environment due to weak enforcement by the authority.
Solihu Ridwan, a student and resident of Okelele, said illegal dumping is becoming a norm in the community, adding that poverty and negligence on the part of the government informed the prevailing poor sanitation among the people.
According to Ridwan, improvising an illegal dump site owing to lack of waste bins is a common practice among residents of the community; they confide in the drainage by the roadside when it rains and dump in the open during dry season.
“dumping refuse in the open is a norm here. One of the root cause is lack of financial resources to build toilets; people find it very hard to raise money to build modern toilet, and this prompt them to dumb in the gutter whenever it rained or improvised a place at the back of their houses for dumping refuse.
But it is quite disheartening that people do not have full knowledge of the consequences of this act, if they were aware of the aftermath they would abstain from it.
Apart, Government also need to be blame because they failed to enlighten people on this act, not only that, the agency purposefully created to tackle this, is not as active as they are supposed to be.”
He therefore implored relevant authority to exigently provide waste disposal options across the state in order to prevent an outbreak.
Apart from lacking sewage system, residents of the community also indulge in Open Defecation. They have no choice but to pass in the open due to the absence of toilets in the community.
Sustainable development goal 6 (SDG6) seeks to ensure “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030. The targets – to be achieved by 2030 – include: achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water; access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation; improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminate dumping and minimize release of hazardous chemical.
Despite progress, ending Open Defecation – and largely poor sanitation – in Nigeria by 2030 remained a cock and bull story. According to WaterAid Nigeria – an international non-governmental organization with an eye on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), one (1) in every three (3) people, totalling fifty nine (59) million people do not have access to clean water while seven (7) in Ten (10) people, making 123 million people do not have access to decent toilet and 59,500 children under the age of five die a year due to poor water and sanitation.
Reacting, the Head of Department, Waste Management of the Kwara State Environmental Protection Agency (KWEPA), Mr. Adebayo Rufus Akinwale said that dearth of adequate manpower contributed to the inability of the agency to reach out to the tail end of the metropolis. He faulted illegal waste collectors in the state for orchestrating illegal dump sites, revealing that a taskforce has already been constituted to clamp down on the con artists
“We all know evacuation of waste is also one of the responsibilities of the government. Some of these people have reported to us and we have also directed the complaint to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry for onward evacuation. The lapses is as a result of inadequate technical staff. Provided we have enough, we would be able to reach out to the nooks and crannies of not only Ilorin Metropolis but also the whole state.
He continued: “Most of these illegal dump sites are caused by illegal waste collectors in the state. At the moment, we are committed to curbing the menace and clamping down on the illegal collectors
Speaking on the immediate evacuation of Dada heap of refuse, Mr Akinwale said: “We now have a working Governor who is committed to ensuring an healthy atmosphere in the state. We would definitely forward it to the Ministry for inspection and evacuation. When we remove waste like this, we would urge the residents to be vigilant and erect a signage to warn defaulters”
Speaking further, Mr Akinwale said the poor usage of the waste bins informed the agency decision to recall the damaged bins. Feared the offensive odour that oozed out of the bins, owing to misuse by the public, were detrimental to the health of the people living nearby, he revealed that the waste bins would not be distributed to the designated points, but a waste collection contractor has been charged with collecting wastes across the Metropolis.
“We discovered that the waste bins placed at strategic locations across the city are misused by the public. While some would go as high as dumping dead animals or ashes in it, other would dump refuses on the ground. This damaged most of the containers and thus, necessitate the recall.
Following the recall, we have waste contractor approved by the state government that go out to collect wastes. They have been approved, so the chance to replace the bins is very thin because as result of misused by the public, we discovered that the containers also foul the air.
He thus stressed the agency’s commitment in ensuring adequate sanitation and hygiene across the metropolis.
HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF INDISCRIMINATE DUMPING OF WASTES
Worried, experts have warned that should the menace be left to gambol unchecked, the country is on the verge of an outbreak which would have devastating implications on the health and socio-economic life of the people.
Auwal Gambo, a microbiologist, attributed poor sanitation to two parallel lines which draw from inadequate sanitary facilities and awareness among communities in the tail end of the country.
He said that poor sanitation has been a major cause of outbreaks in th the country and therefore cautioned relevant authority to make amends in order to avert preventable epidemics.
“Open defecation and indiscriminate dumping of garbages is a two sided phenomenon. One, inadequate of public sanitary facilities that people can easily have access to, and lack of awareness on the health implications of such practices among the community/people that perpetuate it.
When people defecate in an open environment there are implications. The faeces which contain pathogenic microorganisms may be flushed away by rain into the stream/rivers and can be used as source of water for drinking and cooking and other house chores. It might be carried by flies and insects and when these land on food and water, they serve as vehicle of transmission. Consuming food and water being contaminated with faecal material is the major cause of most outbreaks in Nigeria, among which is cholera.”
Marshalling his thoughts, Mr Gambo worried the implications are deadly, noting that the looming outbreak would not only affect people living in the rural areas but also the socio-economic life of the country.
“Should this continue, We would continue to witness a serious but preventable outbreaks in the country. The infections will not be restricted to the areas with unsanitary practices. Because there will be a cycle of transmissions having water and insects as the vehicle to transmit them to further areas. This will have significant economic impact apart from health related issues.”
Substantiating Mr Gambo’s fear, Dr Ummah Muhammad, a medical Microbiologist, said indiscriminate dumping facilitated contractible outbreaks which would have adverse effects on the health and socioeconomic life of the country.
She said that lack of effective waste disposal and evaluation framework by the government aided gravely the spread of the menace.
Her words: “People indulge in open defecation and illegal dumping owing to lack of proper refuse disposal/evacuation strategy by the government; Where toilet facilities are available, they suffer lack of repair and are overburdened due to over population. Lack of adequate awareness of the populace on the adverse effect of open defecation and illegal dumping also contributed to the wide acceptance of the menace in rural areas.
When disease causing microorganisms are spread by air, soil or vectors into the environment from the open feces or improperly managed sewages and refuse, it contaminated the water ways, food stuffs on farms, market places and thus facilitated transmission of a wide variety of foodborne or waterborne diseases such as Hepatitis A, Polio Myelitis, Cholera, Typhoid Fever etc.
Not only that, obstruction of water ways by refuses dumped in Cannals consequently result in flooding. Possible outbreak of emerging and re-emerging diseases; Increased pests and rodents are also imminent”
She, therefore, urged the government to embark on a pragmatic campaign towards ending the scourge of Open Defecation in the country.