Ibadan, the largest city in West Africa, is renowned for its running splash of rust and gold, aptly described by the poet, Prof. J.P. Clark. This iconic city of brown roofs is, however, mired with dirt and heaps of refuse dotting the highways and inner-city roads.
The stench oozing out from heaps of refuse at the median of the roads and drainage is not only offensive and dangerous to the health of residents, but ranks Ibadan among one of the dirtiest cities in Nigeria.
That the ancient capital city of Oyo State has long hugged that sobriquet is not news but what is disturbing to residents that fear of looming epidemic and long for a breath of fresh unpolluted air is the indolence of the state government to put a handle on stemming the menace.
Some residents who spoke to The Guardian said the first term of Governor Abiola Ajimobi witnessed massive enlightenment and efforts to clean up the city, but this was not sustained during his second term while all gains recorded between 2010 and 2014 had since been buried under heaps of refuse dotting the landscape.
A first-time visitor to the former capital of the Southwest region would be amazed at the mass of filth that would welcome him to the city that boasts of many ‘firsts’ in Nigeria and Africa.
Entering Ibadan from Lagos/Ogun states axis via the Lagos-Ibadan expressway or from Abeokuta to Apata axis or from Osun State to Iwo Road axis, or from the northern states through Ilorin-Ogbomoso-Oyo highway to Ojoo, the story is the same. Roadsides, canals, residential areas, market spots and uninhabited areas are overtaken with heaps of refuse.
Filth has now become an external decor for the entire span of the road connecting to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Places like Oremeji, Olorunsogo, Soka, Sanyo, Akobo under-bridge, Power House, Iyana Bodija, Agbowo junction and other areas, have indiscriminate dumpsites at different spots by the roadside and at the road median.
At Ojoo, Oyo-Ojoo-Iwo Road expressway, Bodija Market, Ologunerun, Eleyele, Apete and Moniya, the story is not different as waste is also dumped in the middle of the road. The lifestyle of residents at Oniyanrin, Popoyeosa, Inalende, Beere, Foko, Gege and Beyerunka has not changed much as those areas remain dirty and could be mistaken for a piggery.
In fact, urinating and defecating on the refuse heap in the middle of the road to the full glare of passers-by is a common sight. The filth at New Bodija Estate is a metaphor of the city that was once a pride of the South West in the First Republic.
Blaming the state government for poor implementation of its environmental laws, which gave the leeway for residents to indiscriminately drop refuse at the median and other every undeveloped property in the town, Mr. Segun Adeniran, said Ajimobi’s mistake of playing politics with governance eroded his efforts in leaving Ibadan cleaner than he met it.
He said: “At a point in Ibadan, we witnessed government efforts in getting the environment cleaner through the activities of the Oyo State Waste Management Authority (OYWMA) and PSP that collected refuse at every corner of the city.
People paid a token for this service and the amount paid depends on area you reside. But along the line we began to experience laxity in their operations and cart pushers who disposed waste indiscriminately suddenly took over.
“You would think there are no Sanitary Inspectors in this state. We have them but they are not empowered to carry out their statutory duties and that is why you will continue to see people defecating or urinating in public.”
The concerted effort by the governor, Abiola Ajimobi, in giving Ibadan a face-lift during his first term in office was instrumental to his success at the 2015 governorship election where he broke the age-long second term jinx in the state.
Mrs. Tayo Adegbenro, who resides in New Bodija, blamed the PSP operators for the ugly environmental situation in Ibadan for not keeping to their terms of agreement. “They are supposed to come and evacuate refuse here every week but most times they come once a month. Then what do you expect people to do than to patronize illegal wheelbarrow pushers.
“We can’t keep the refuse at home, we must dispose them. The truth is that politicians are the ones licensed for this PSP operation and since they belong to the same party, what do you expect from them?” she lamented.
For Miss Oluwatosin Oni, the way trucks carrying the refuse breakdown constantly on the roads have exacerbated the situation. She said for years, Ashi has remained dirty, notwithstanding the efforts made by the state government.
Many have condemned the attitude of residents in refuse management in the city. Other blame it on the state government’s negligence in entrenching a sustainable refuse management model that would solve the problem once and for all, while officials clearing the refuse complain of poor pay and inadequate welfare provision.
“How much are we collecting as salary that they will be owing us seven-month salary arrears?”, said one of the workers of the Oluyole Local Government Area, who would not want his name mentioned.
Investigation revealed that many of the workers while clearing the refuse usually constitute themselves to public nuisance as they usually beg for money from passers-by under the guise of government’s failure to pay them as at when due.
Speaking on the health implications of the filthy environment, a digital health expert and lecturer at Lead City University, Ibadan, Mr. Adekunle ‘Tosin Adeluwoye, said residents are at the risk of epidemic and numerous diseases associated with living in a dirty environment.
He stressed the need for a high standard in environmental hygiene. “Improper disposal of solid waste has untold effect on the environment, with attendants diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, cholera, among others.”
Also, a health officer and Founder/CEO of Pabokede Initiative, Mrs. Patrician Abokede, said: “Dirty environment has a lot of negative effect on the health of the people. First is pollution. Inhalation of dirt from the atmosphere can build up toxins, which can lead to poor health of the community.
“Poor environment hygiene such as dropping of faeces remain one of the most hazardous pollutants, and constitute a major threat to human health. Poor waste management, a lack of sanitation and contamination of water can lead to an outbreak of water-born diseases like cholera, typhoid, and dysentery.”
Sadly, a large percentage of the populace seems not to bother about the threats the refuse heaps pose to their health. Some of the raw food sellers, who display their wares near these mountains of refuse at Bodija Market, said they were not bothered by the stench from the refuse nor its implication on their goods.
One of the traders, who identified herself simply as Mariam, said she was sure that her customer would wash whatever they bought from the market before cooking it.
Mr. Kareem Adisa, who sells meat at Moniya market, also shares same sentiments. He said he was not bothered by the filth because “nobody eats meat raw. We are not bothered by this refuse at all. Forget the housefly that perches on this meat, once it is cooked, there is no problem again. You know we cook our meat very well here and we even fry it, that’s why we are less concerned about the refuse.”
Reacting to the development, the Oyo State Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Chief Isaac Ishola, blamed the dirt and refuse menace on illegal waste management operators. Isola also blamed residents for their lackadaisical attitude towards hygiene in the state.
He said: “It is unfortunate that our people like their old ways. But it is our responsibility as a government to ensure strict enforcement of environmental laws. And that is what we are doing. We cannot fold our arms and allow these people to take us back.”
He denied the allegation that government was not enforcing environmental laws, disclosing that many people are being arrested and prosecuted by a mobile Magistrate Court established to try such offenders.
“The refuse you see in the median of the road is the handiwork of those illegal waste management operators. They are the people dumping the waste there. We have arrested some of them. They are not registered. They are collecting money from people illegally. They collect waste and dump it in those areas. We have been arresting those illegal waste management operators. There is no week we won’t arrest no fewer than 25 people. We have been trying our best. We even have stand-by magistrates that try them. Enforcement will continue until we get to where we are going,” he added.