Lagos public toilets: Harbingers of dirts, infections
Because many people use them, these facilities should always be kept in clean and pristine conditions, so as to attract the public, and serve the purpose for which they are meant. However, investigations by The Guardian revealed that in Lagos, not only are the number of available public toilets far below adequate, considering the teeming population of Lagosians, most of them are very filthy with faeces, urine, dirty water and used bits of toilet tissues strewn about carelessly.
In addition to the sickening environment, floor tiles, toilet seats, water closets and sundry fittings are more often than not, never in place. Furthermore, their decrepit looks and the unbearable stench that they emit, are usually the things that announce their presence in neighbourhoods where they are found.
With all these conditions in place, any user that is not careful in using these facilities runs a very high risk of contracting life-threatening infections from them.
This development stems from the fact that workers charged with the responsibility of cleaning the facilities only do so in the morning, after which they abscond from their duty posts and do not bother to clean again, as people use the toilets throughout the rest of the day. Sometimes, the toilets are not cleaned for days.
It is, therefore, not uncommon to see people unable to use these facilities because the toilet seats are in very bad condition, having been poorly maintained, or are just very dirty.Cases abound of tourists and visitors, who upon entering the public toilets dash out immediately because of their poor state.
A visit to some public toilets in Oshodi, Mile 2, and Idumota areas of Lagos State revealed that most of the toilets are not clean, but people are forced to use them, due to lack of alternatives, especially in the market places.
Yusuf Ayomide, a commercial bus driver at Mile 2 Motor Park, said he prefers patronising mobile public toilets, where he pays N20, than the stationary public toilets, which are often dirty. “Though the public toilets are not clean, but they still collect N50 for defecating, N50 for bathing and N20 for urinating, while I pay N20 for every service at the mobile toilet. Since this is cheaper, I prefer using it,” he explained.
Mrs. Fatima Usman, a trader in Oshodi, said she had been avoiding public toilets because of their bad conditions and offensive odour emitting from them. She has perfected a way of controlling her bowels, to the point that there is no need using the toilet, when she is away from home.
She said: “Before leaving home in the morning, I always use the toilet and avoid any food or drink that could make me go to the toilet till when market closes, late in the evening.”A resident in Idumota, Lagos, Mr. Korede Aina, said the state government should have anti open defecation team to avoid people defecating under bridges and canals in Lagos.
Aina said: “Our bridges and canals have become public toilets because many people who came from outside and within Lagos State chose to destroy this city for us. Because many of people who defecate in the canals are homeless, their toilets are on our streets. This is what I term metropolitan defecation, or shit in the city. This is not encouraging, so government should look into it and find a lasting solution to it.”
A public toilet attendant at Oshodi, said government should build more public toilets and thereafter frontally take on those who engage in open defecation in the state.He said: “Government needs to do more by enforcing the law against open defecation. It is unsightly to see people defecating in public places, including railway lines in Oshodi and other places in the state. This is not good for the health of the nation.”
The attendant advised Nigerians not to shy away from public toilets business, as it puts food on table. “I think other people than government should go into the business of providing public toilets,” he said adding, “government alone cannot do it, so individuals must contribute to provide enough public toilets for the masses. Some Nigerians would travel abroad to wash plates, clean toilets and do other odd jobs, but they would never do such jobs in Nigeria.
“Investing in public toilet business can also help to create employment for the youths, instead of them waiting endlessly for office jobs that are not forthcoming. I am a graduate, but this is what I do to feed my family, and I make up to N4, 000 or N5, 000 daily. I don’t ever regret getting into the business.”
To attract users and make this huge sum, he told The Guardian that he washes the toilet twice daily with disinfectant to prevent people from contracting diseases. He said: “I clean the toilets in the morning and in the evening with Dettol products before going home. I keep the toilets clean so, that people can patronise me. Whoever, wants to do public toilets business must have boreholes in order to have clean water and keep the toilets clean always. I do not depend on government water, as I have a borehole that water from there sustains me every day.”
He, however, explained that his major challenge is touts, who come to defecate and refuse to pay for the service.“Sometimes, I let them go without payment in order to befriend them. This is so because by the time you antagonise touts, you discover that you stand to lose so much in the end.”
Public Relations Officer (PRO), Oshodi/Isolo Local Council, Mr. Omotayo Mohammed, deny knowledge of the fact that public toilets in Oshodi in pathetic condition, even though he admitted that they were under the control of marketers.
Mohammed said: “We are not aware of some unclean toilets but if we find out some of the toilets are unclean we are going to send wole wole officers (sanitary inspectors), there to ensure the environment is clean. We are very committed to ensuring that our environments are clean in order to ensure good health for the traders and their customers. We also do our best to stop open defecations because it is not good for the health of our people and the nation at large.”
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