Lagos residents turn to cart-pushers while awaiting new waste reform

An informal waste collector on duty

Lagos residents, who are yet to have access to the promised waste management reforms by current administration, are reverting to use of cart pushers to dispose of their wastes. The cart pushers, once banned by the previous administration, at least on major streets and highways, appear to be enjoying high patronage, as residents in parts of Lagos are turning to them for solution to their waste management.

At the beginning of its establishment during the last administration, the Lagos Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) was on top of its act, and had put in place effective strategies that enabled it adequately handle waste management across the state. But towards the tail end of that administration, its operation became haphazard, as refuse were not regularly cleared in some places, and the era of refuse heaps dotting the streets of Lagos gradually returned.

One of such places is the median at Iyana Itire in Surulere. With the absence of LAWMA trucks in some of these areas, residents are left with no other option than to patronise the outdated cart-pushers, popularly called kole kole over the fear that mounting refuse could lead to an outbreak of communicable diseases, such as cholera.

A resident of the Low Cost Housing Estate, Lawanson, Daniel Jeremiah, lamented LAWMA’s inability to live up to expectations. “LAWMA used to bring its N500 monthly bills regularly to the residents and it did not fail in evacuating the rubbish every Mondays and Fridays. But it is not like that any longer. Last month, the heaps were almost becoming an eyesore. We had to use an alternative means to clear them. Some residents went to LAWMA office to ask for bills and find out why the sudden change,” Jeremiah said.

The Guardian learnt that some residents of the Estate had failed to pay their bills, while some LAWMA trucks were no longer functional. Meanwhile, residents of Egbeda in Akowonjo Local Council of Lagos were full praises for the agency.

According to a resident, Ada Nnaji, LAWMA has not defaulted in clearing the community’s dirt. “It only refuses to evacuate those refuse, where residents refuse to pay bill,” she said. A resident of Ijegun also accused LAWMA of refusing to evacuate refuse from their areas. He said the dirty environment could endanger residents’ lives if nothing was done as soon as possible.

Apparently, it was in a bid to tackle the problem that the current administration decided to overhaul the old system and put a more invigorated one in place to cater for this aspect of need. The new reform, the government said, will be comprehensive in its approach.

Towards this end, Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Babatunde Adejare, on behalf of the state government had called on the citizens to embrace its Solid Waste Management reforms, tagged the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI), as it will bring about effective and enduring flood control measures.

The commissioner had explained that under this initiative, primary, secondary and tertiary drains would be maintained all year round, while refuse, vegetal growth and silt would be removed from drains to allow for free flow of storm water.

“This will be done based on zonal arrangement across Lagos State,” he said. The Commissioner also informed that the CLI would usher in the cleaning and evacuation of all forms of debris and litters from navigable waterways, that is, lagoon, creeks, rivers and any such water body through the use of specialised amphibious cleaning equipment/machinery.

He said clean, desilted and well-maintained drainage channels, which is the requirement for effective flood control, was what CLI promised to deliver. He also urged Lagosians to embrace the new initiative, as it had enormous benefits, some of which include creation of 40, 000 jobs, provision of 600 brand new compactors, 900, 000 electronically tracked waste bins, provision of Transfer Loading Stations, Material Recovery Facilities and Engineered Sanitary Landfills, as well as mechanised and manual street sweeping, in addition to effective and efficient drainage maintenance measures.

But while all this is being packaged, Lagosians still have to take care of their refuse. So, rather than endure the stench emanating from refuse that has not been evacuated, cart-pushers have come in handy and are taking care of this problem. Some are also worried over the health implications of such heaps of refuse in the metropolis, especially as the rainy season begins.

So now, the cart-pushers, who used to operate in a clandestine manner, have become bolder, as they are to be seen on major streets, where they were formerly banned. With their carts usually filled to the brim, they go about doing their business confidently, knowing full well their services are really required now.

Speaking with The Guardian on the development and their mode of operation, one of the itinerant waste collectors, who gave his name as Musa, said patronage by residents in Ikotun area is high. He attributed the booming business to the operators’ low charges.

“For instance, residents could dispose of small waste for as little as N50, and in some cases, N20.” But Mohammed, another waste collector, who operates around NNPC area of Ejigbo, said he and his colleagues take as much as N300 from residents to dispose their refuse.

“We even collect more money, if the refuse is much. For instance, a drum filled with refuse will require that we pack twice. So, we can take as much as N600 for such, although it depends on the bargaining power of residents.”

However, they are restricting their operations to only the streets, as they try to avoid the highways, where they are still being harassed by relevant authorities.
“One of my friends, who is also into the business, was recently arrested by government officials,” Musa lamented. “The business is being hampered by constant harassment by government officials, especially men of LAWMA.”

On where they dump their refuse, Musa said a chief in the locality gave them a piece of land, where they could dump the refuse. Another operator, Ahmed, said he avoids the highway because he knows LAWMA officials can arrest him.

On how he disposes of the refuse, he explained that some builders usually invite them to dump it at their sites. “Some of them use it to fill their sites before using sand to cover the refuse,” he said.



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