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Dirty markets shouldn’t cause Lagos flooding

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Image is everything. But somehow, many places constantly challenge the image of Lagos as a cosmopolitan city. Among the challenges are the pressures of population on the little land, a seemingly innate disdain for orderliness in some parts and the ugly sight of plastic debris. To put it directly, Lagos is struggling to be clean. And as March begins to usher in the rains, Lagos has been thrown a sequential challenge, one that in recent years, have cost the state dearly – flooding. It was to be proactive that the Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment & Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello, last Tuesday, addressed journalists in Ikeja at a session dubbed ‘Year 2020 Seasonal Rainfall Predictions and Prevention of Flooding in Lagos.’ According to information provided by the state, Lagos Island is expected to witness the rains from March 19 to November 22, 2020.

“It is expected that Lagos Island will have about 252 days of rainfall and about 1,714 millimetre of rainfall over the year,” Bello was quoted in the report published by The Nation newspaper. “It can be deduced that Lagos State shall experience a rainy season of 240-270 days, while the maximum annual rainfall is predicted to be 1, 750 millimetre. “Worthy of note is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, which indicate that 2020 will likely experience days with extremely high rainfall amounts, which may result in flooding.”

Bello advised residents of the state that live in low-lying areas to move to higher grounds for the safety of their lives and property. Lagos started experiencing floods in the early 1970s. But with global warming, the weather has not only become unpredictable more times, it has become more unfavourable, with the deluge of rainfall the world is witnessing. This has seen most governments becoming more concerned about flooding.

But, most crucial was that Bello read the riot act to some markets in the state. In the report, he said that government would shut down Ladipo Spare Parts market, Oshodi Market and Mushin Market if they don’t get their acts together and clean up their environment properly. This is not the first time such warning is going out.

However, it remains pertinent that this warning is sounded. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. With the prediction that the rains will hit Lagos hard this year, the reasonable man should be prepared. Every trader at those markets ought to be made to realise the impact of indiscriminate refuse disposal. It is those little pieces of nylon, wrappers of different products, metal scraps, empty PET bottles, discarded handkerchiefs, rubber boots, clothings and all what not that constitute in blocking the drains and causing flooding and its attendant destructions. If the drains are not clogged and there is free entry and exit for the excess water, flooding would not arise. I think the warning by the Lagos State government to tackle the markets on their unsanitary behaviours is what responsible leadership is all about.

This is especially so, given that Lagos is the economic hub of Nigeria and cannot afford to be held down by challenges which can be remedied ahead of time. Hence, collaborating with various local governments, the state government has embarked on clearing, dredging and de-silting channels and drains across the state. As it is now, the best thing every Lagosian can do to support the state is to ensure that less rubbish find its way to the block or slow down the channels and drains in discharging water. A proper waste disposal culture must be embraced by everyone. If everyone keeps the environment clean, there would be less pressure on the public spaces.

While Bello reiterated that government would punish environmental offenders, he said that the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), the body charged with waste disposal in the state to tackle the waste, is stepping up activities to clear the drains. He also advised the markets on the need to collaborate with the Private Sector Participation (PSP). Even though LAWMA plays its role in disposing part of the wastes, it should be noted that government cannot do it all alone. Hence, the associations in charge of governance at the markets ought to share in the responsibility.

Lagos, a coastal state which sits on a low-lying terrain, has a land area of 3577.28 km2, of which 22% consists of lagoons and creeks. It is the smallest Nigerian state, yet it is the most populated state, with over 20 million people out of the country’s population of 200 million. And with every resident generating waste, by extrapolation, the amount of waste generated in the state will be huge. But how prepared is LAWMA for the task of managing Lagos’ waste? I will respond: “Ready but LAWMA has to be better.” And how committed are Lagosians to being responsible for the cleanliness of their environment? I can only speak for myself. But the fact that the bulk of Lagos, nay Nigeria is dirty should provide some clarity.

Markets are points of contact for many people as they go about the exchange of product and services. While 100 percent hygienic conditions cannot be expected at nearly all markets, generally, markets should not be dirty at any time. Every Thursday, markets in Lagos are shut till 10am to observe a weekly environmental exercise. But what usually happens in many markets is that many of the traders and market users have found different purposes for that time. For majority of them, the period serves as off-time, hence, they are not even around the markets. Some of those that are around can often be seen in gatherings, chatting, relaxing, eating and drinking, taking part in worship sessions, or just gallivanting. It is only few persons that actually engage in the actual ‘environmental exercise.’ This shouldn’t be the case. But, sadly, it is.

While cleaning can be routine, it should behove on the market users to ensure that the markets are clean at all times. It is doable. There are examples of markets whereby dustbins are not only strategically placed to encourage its use, personnel are on ground to ensure that the environment is kept clean every time. It is a collective responsibility to keep our environments clean. And those that default should not be treated with kid gloves. Hence, I see the threat to shut the dirty markets by the Lagos State government as wake-up call. If the traders at these markets take the matter of keeping their work environment clean and refuse-free with laxity, the wielding of the big stick to put them in order is a good thing.
Long live Lagos state, Long live Nigeria.


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Lagos FloodingTunji Bello
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