Apprehension in Igando and environs as epidemic looms
Driving through the LASU-Isheri road in Igando, Alimosho Council of Lagos State, one is greeted with a putrid stench hanging thickly in the air at Lanre and Okofili bus stops, where two of the many refuse dumpsites- Solous Two and Solous Three- are located and dominate the area like twin mountains.
A visitor to the area for the first time cannot, but cover his/her nose and hold his/her breath to save himself/herself from the hazard of the foul smell, which appears to have become an integral part of life in the area, as residents get accustomed to it, whilst going about their businesses, seemingly unbothered by the situation.
A few metres apart, Solous 2, by Lanre Bus stop, also called Bola, and Solous 3, close to the Igando General Hospital at Okofili, which seems to be very active, has been rated among the largest in Africa and sits on five hectares of land, with an average of 2,250 tons of refuse dumped there daily.
The Guardian learnt that the sites of the dumpsites were on the outskirts of the metropolis until population expansion, commercial and residential buildings, including a Lagos State-owned nursing school, caught up with them.
Some students of the Department of Nursing, Lagos State University (LASU), which is located inside the Igando General Hospital (LASUTH Annex), were recently reported to have lost consciousness, probably, due to their body system’s inability to cope with the poisonous stench from the site to their hostels.
The Guardian, during a visit to the hospital, discovered that there is also the Igando Maternal Childcare Centre, whose complex is directly opposite the dumpsite, as well as the Igando mini-waterworks of the Lagos State Water Corporation.
The dumpsites have caused residents so much pain and anguish over the years. Apart from having to cope with stench and toxic fumes that envelope the air, there is an invasion of the area by various houseflies, even as the people battle with chronic nausea, debilitating headaches and respiratory problems.
In addition, they are faced with the threat of contamination of the ground water, which has become the main source of potable water supply to them, as the nearby mini-waterworks seldom function, and when they do, the supply is usually contaminated due to pipe leakages.
Olateju Oladipo, Vice Chairman of the nearby Ire-Akari Iron Sellers Association in Okofili said the market was already in existence before the dumpsites came to be.
“We have been here since 1992. This dumpsite (Okofili) met us here, although it was a burrowed pit before. In 2007, this place was seriously flooded and we complained to the state government.
“The then commissioner for Environment at the time, Muiz Banire, came and inspected the area. We rented an excavator to clear the refuse and created a channel for flood to flow out into the pit.
“If it rains and there is intensive sunshine, the odour that comes from the site, especially in the evening, is terrible. There is nothing we can do, as we have no other place to go. Government should stop the dumping of refuse there and close the place down,” he stated.
Residents of Lanre Street, Alhaji Sekoni Way and Somoye Ogundairo Street lamented the contamination of ground water in the area by the waste, which has become liquefied, thereby making the water hazardous, as pollutants, including landfill gas and heavy metals, among other elements, have mixed up with it.
They expressed fear over the possible outbreak of cholera or related diseases in the area soon if the dumpsites are not closed or relocated, noting that water in the area could be used for flushing toilets and unsafe for consumption and toxicity in the water over time destroys the colour and quality of enamelware.
The once-busy Rosellas Amusement Park, located beside the Okofili dumpsite has been closed down and the compound overtaken by weeds, while debris of broken blocks litter the premises.
Sources around told The Guardian that the park was shut due to the dwindling patronage of the investment of over 12 years, largely as a result of stench from the dumpsite.
It was gathered that the proprietor’s ordeal began barely two years after setting up the park, when the Lagos State government opened the dumpsite and came to a head when traffic to the recreation centre trickled down.
“Business became bad following the stench from the dumpsite. Nobody came to the park anymore because of the terrible smell coming from the dumpsite to the place.
“Also, whenever it rains, the whole area is usually flooded, especially the park. When you want to relax and have a drink, the moment you open a bottle of drink, hundreds of flies will besiege it,” said Mama Samson, a pepper seller in a street nearby at Okofili bus stop.
She said the Lagos State Waste management Authority (LAWMA) in 2016 assured residents that the site would be closed down by the second quarter of last year, lamenting that over a year later, the dumpsite is booming, with more trucks and cart-pushers trooping to the dumpsite to dump refuse.
“Aside from the eyesore and stench, the sites have become dens of flies, frogs, rats, scorpions and snake. We have tried our best to call the attention of the state government to the menace, but they have ignored all appeals.
“The dumpsite has been here for over a decade and we have been experiencing the problem since then. Whenever it rains, filthy water and wastes overrun the community and the street and drainages are filled with foul water. The polluted water could also affect our little children,” she stated.
Narrating his experience, Mr. Okis Ayetor, who previously lived in the neighbourhood, said he relocated due to the stench from the dumpsites.
“It was a terrible experience. Sometimes, if you have a visitor, the person will ask what is smelling in your house. It used to be very tough, especially when the weather is hot or when it rains.
“The dumpsite should not be located within a residential area; government should move it out. Look at the general hospital, a place designated for treatment of diseases and sickness, but people are inhaling another,” he said.
Even as many complain of the poisonous odour that oozes out from the mountain of refuse, scavengers spend much of their time at refuse dumps rummaging through filth, picking, sorting and selling junk without using gloves, boots or masks.
An attempt to speak with them was rebuffed, as they went about their routine activities, oblivious or not minding the hazards the stench poses to their health.
A stitch in time, they say, saves nine. A treatment of the sites or outright closure would save the lives of residents and workers in the vicinity.