Mohammed Oluwatimileyin Taoheed
Nigeria Grassroots News reporter, Mohammed Oluwatimileyin Taoheed goes undercover for 13 days as a student researcher to unravel how Government deficiency influences the practice of indiscriminate waste disposal that endanger the lives of many residents in Kwara State to diseases and environmental hazards.
A study from the Global Journal of Research and Review says that when wastes are improperly disposed of, the effect is it exposes humans to environmental degradation such as flooding, drainage obstruction, widespread infectious diseases, and waterway blockage which leads to an infestation of flies, ticks, and breeding of mosquitoes that cause malaria.
One of the major problems Nigeria is facing today is climate change which continues to portend a serious threat to the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the country. The high rate of carbon emission affects every sector of the country’s economy, particularly agriculture and water resources which consequently have health implications as a result of the susceptibility to environmental pollution encompassing air, water, and land, limited access to safe water, and poor sanitation.
Data has revealed that Africa contributes a total of 125 million tonnes per annum with 81 million tonnes (65%) being from sub-Saharan Africa. However, there is a growing concern about the ways these wastes are being managed in municipal areas. For instance, Nigeria gets no fewer than 32 million tons of solid waste yearly but out only 20-30% is collected with those collected being burnt down openly or dumped indiscriminately.
Recycling, a thrash for cash method as adopted by some organizations in Nigeria like Sustyvibes, LASEPA, RecyclePoints, Plasticultured, and Secure Cycle are all safeguarding environmental quality that is consistent with the social and economic needs of the State, and consequently protecting the health, welfare, property, and quality of life. Despite these efforts, the governments of some states in Nigeria have not yet embraced this sensational health defense method as many citizens are not conscious of their actions and the health implications. The conventional way of randomly creating dumping sites wherever and whenever they want remains a great threat and concern that is calling for prevalent diseases to prowl the health of many Nigerians.
Indiscriminate Waste Disposal In Kwara Communities
One of the places this reporter visited is an extreme dumping site in Atan-Oba Community Offa, where he met a middle-aged woman, Iya Bashir who complained about how inappropriate dumping of refuse within the community has set a drawback for her business.
“You can’t withstand the stench of the huge wastes, especially during a rainy period like this. We see feces and pampers. The people who used to dump it there do it at night, even drop it in front of our shops because they are very close to it as you can see.
“Some customers would go immediately once they perceive the terrible odor, nobody takes the waste at all and I can’t leave this place for any other because of its students’ area.” She said.
The trader disclosed that the improper dumping of refuse and the displeasing odour had caused her to close her shop many times and closing it down has driven many of her customers away. “It affects my sales a lot,” she said.
Recounting her experience with the ugly situation, Iya Bashir narrated how some residents used to curse her whenever she caution them against the pollution of the environment with their wastes. She said this pointing to a sack which she claimed was dropped yesternight after she left the shop.
The trader added that she has made several attempts to reach out to the government to get the heaps of waste evacuated from her shop, however, her effort yielded no positive response.
Similar to the Atan-Oba Community, Isale-Oja, a community that derived its name from its closeness to the Owode Market in Offa town also faced the same dilemma.
Residents of this community lamented that the main road that enters the community is always covered up with excessive floods during the rainy season as a result of illegal disposal of waste. This menace has worsened to the extent that divers get stranded and commercial farmers struggle to bring their products to the market for exchange.
Speaking with the Nigeria Grassroot News, “Babaloja” (Chief Market Leader), Alhaji Azeez Olaiya reveals that lack of proper drainage and proper waste disposal has contributed to this problem. “What we need is a good drainage system here.” He noted.
Wheelbarrow Pusher Taking Responsibility
Ismail Omoniyi, a wheelbarrow pusher in Isale-Oja was resting after a long day of work under a wooden tent with a group of six others, among which is Olaleye Daniel, who claimed he was an architect and graduate from the University of Ibadan.
Ismail also confirmed that potholes, floods, and improper waste management affect the people in the community and no actions were taken by the government to curb this spread.
He said, “This water is contaminated by the refuse they dump here. The flood is affecting the market greatly. I use to fill the places with sand and ensure that the wastes are burnt in the dry seasons. If not, feces will be here and there. The government is not paying me a dime.”
Visiting The Kwara State Environmental Department
Offa Local Government Secretariat.
Disguising as a student researcher, this reporter visited the Offa Local Government Secretariat to check what unfolds in a province where 50 operators and sweepers work on Wednesdays and Saturdays as claimed by the Officer-in-Charge of the Environmental Department Mrs. Olori Afolabi.
She also disclosed that complainants should not expect the government to collect waste in interior areas unless they can pay the bills.
She said, “They don’t expect the vehicle to be going inside, it’s not possible! We operate only on the Olofa Way and that is from the Total Filling Station to the front of ODU Hall. We can grant their special request if they can finance it. We will buy diesel and rent batteries. In Offa LG, we don’t have waste disposal vehicles. The truck you see is for waste collections only. Even if we have, people won’t abide, they will drop unborn babies in the basket.”
On Saturday, the 7th of August, this reporter followed the Kwara State Wastes Collectors to monitor their services as they took the wastes from the people and shops near the federal expressway for evacuation.
The truck is being used to collect wastes in the Offa community.
After a few discussions with Mrs. Afolabi, the driver was ordered to set the vehicle on the road with this reporter in the truck. Contrary to Mrs. Afolabi’s claim, no single operator followed the truck except an old, tall, and slim man who drove the vehicle.
Getting to the scene of actions, the driver mounted the truck in a bid to rearrange loads of waste he was collecting, however, it happens that doing the work alone was beyond what he could deal with alone, so he urged this reporter to join him in packing the dirty trash which they both did for 4 hours before the closing time.
He said, “You will have to come with me here, you can see that this thing is very much. Drop your phone, this will help your research. You are ‘alakowe’, a learned person. You don’t know how to climb a car like this. Put your leg on that tyre and turn around. Help me to draw those sacks.”
After some few minutes of driving, the driver while soliloquizing also lamented that the lack of funds has affected their operations in the community. “We haven’t gone out since ‘ileeya’. No fund. I don’t blame those, my boys that did not follow us today, they are in search of a better source of livelihood.” He said.
At the dumping site, Nigeria Grassroots News observed that the disposal zone was full of many dug holes and bushes have grown over them and the driver even grumbled that some people are farming on the same land. Unlike other states, Kwara State does not have enough initiatives to collect waste and recycle. Without the recycling method, health hazards would get more complicated and would threaten the health of many residents in Kwara.
Kwara State Versus Malaria
In Nigeria, about 31.9 percent of the global malaria deaths which is approximately 200,000 deaths in 2021 are recorded. The World Health Organization defines malaria as a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
Nigeria’s total malaria cases had a record of 3.18 million with Kwara State being the lead. In 2020, the government disclosed that they spent billions of naira to distribute insecticide nets to local governments. Despite this measure, Kwara State still has a high prevalence of occurrence in the country. Children under 5 accounted for about 80% of all malaria deaths as the country was home to 96% of deaths in 2020 out of the estimated 241 million cases reported worldwide.
The United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) disclosed that Nigeria is on the verge of collapse because a child under five dies of malaria every 75 seconds with this death toll translating into 74% (416,000) of deaths that claimed the lives of young children in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also posits that there will be a constant increase for a country like Nigeria which has not yet developed a strong immunity to the disease.
Also, Water pollution causes a greater percentage of death to aquatic life because their existence depends on water and when there is any disturbance in their ecosystem like an abundant growth of algae, the oxygen content becomes lesser thereby causing the death of fishes and other organisms with 100 million marine lives being lost each year.
Ministry of Environment’s Position
Nigeria Grassroot News contacted the Spokesperson of Kwara State Ministry of Environment, Yakub Aliagan, but he refused to speak with our reporter saying, “I can’t tell a journalist anything,” he shouted.
Indiscriminate Wastes Disposal Is A Pandemic” – Expert
An Environmental Scientist and Health Safety expert, AbdulMojeed Sadare has revealed that the problem of waste disposal in Nigeria has become a pandemic and a joint effort will be required to curb its continuous spread.
He said, “Indiscriminate waste disposal is a product of poor implementation and enforcement of policies on the waste management system. The problem is pandemic and its solution must be a joint effort and starting from the household level.”
Speaking on solutions, the experts advised that the Government should place waste containers in strategic locations across communities and also educate people on recycling.