By Dafieta Ighohwo, Ahmed Faidat, Adeshina Tawakalitu, Adekunle Olarenwaju, Adams Esther, Eyide Sharon, Ogunneye Kehinde and Dabiri-Adejobi Oluwatomisin
It would seem as though residents of Somolu have resigned themselves to fate as most of them are unfazed by the deplorable condition of the canal that runs through their community.
The community of Ayoade-Shodimu in Somolu was agog with activities, residents were going about their usual hustling and bustling not minding the odious smell in the air, the dirt piled high in the surroundings and the disgusting sight of the canal when reporters from UNILAGSun visited them on Friday morning. Submitting that they have come to accept this anomaly as part of their living conditions would not be an untruth.
Mr. Olawale Gbesan, a clergyman and resident of Somolu, stated in Yoruba, “There’s nothing we can do about it. You know we are in Nigeria so we’ve gotten used to it. We cannot run away from the city…” This tone of resignation and helplessness was quite evident in similar responses given by five other residents that were interviewed.
The canal which was built as a traversing water channel stretching from MFM headquarters through Iwaya, Abule – Ijesha, Somolu, Bajulaiye and Gbagada communities, is now home to commercial waste, stagnant water, spirogyra, weed and even stray animals. It is disheartening that what should have been a prominent landmark in the community is now an eyesore contributing to environmental and atmospheric pollution.
Residing in Somolu are a mix of Yorubas and a few northerners who are majorly low-income earners with little or no formal education and having occupations such as carpentry, welding, animal husbandry, trading, mechanics and handcart refuse collectors. The noticeable low rate of literacy among residents is probably one factor sponsoring their nonchalant attitude towards the state of the canal.
When asked about recurring diseases in the community, residents were quick to normalize malaria as a common health condition independent of the canal’s unhygienic condition.
Mr Suraju Ayomide, another resident of Ayoade, Somolu, stated, “We don’t really know if it’s the canal that is causing it, because, in Nigeria, malaria is our normal sickness.“ Interestingly, Mrs Mariam Salam, a trader who has been in the area for 8 years, claimed there has been no record of illnesses arising from constant exposure to the dirty canal.
Speaking on how the waste in the canal keeps accumulating, Mrs Ojo Oluwaseun, a petty trader, complained that people keep disposing their refuse into the canal at odd hours of the night and even in the mornings. She added that there was usually an influx of waste in the canal after heavy rainfall. She, however, agreed that the rain would not be able to move waste into the canal if the surrounding itself was clean.
Mr Shola Bolaji explained how people living in the area contribute to dumping refuse in the canal. “At times, someone might be walking along and throw dirt in the canal. It continues like that till it piles up and clogs the canal. At times, scavengers come to scatter dirt all in the name of picking recycling bottles.” He revealed.
He equally noted that the role of the mass media in creating awareness about the unhealthy situation of the canal has been reduced only to occasional radio announcements usually after a heavy downpour that culminates in flooded streets.
Although some residents claimed members of the community participated in environmental sanitation every Thursday, it was evident this was not extended to the canal. One reason given for this by Mr Dayo Balogun, a dispatch rider and a resident, was that the Thursday environmental sanitation was not general sanitation of the environment, unlike the monthly last Saturday sanitation which was scrapped in 2016. In a counterclaim, Mr Suraju Ayomide opined that people found it difficult to participate in cleaning the environment because they do not clean their homes. “That law is not that effective because even these people have not even done sanitation in their houses. How do you expect them to do the sanitation here?” He went on “They are hungry. Is it someone that is hungry that will leave his or her house to come and do environmental sanitation in the canal?”
However, government’s efforts to sanitize the canal, an exercise that occurs once a year, has not yielded much difference, if any, and can be likened to dropping a pin in the vast ocean.
All residents agreed on measures to be taken to ensure proper maintenance of the canal. Some of these measures were round-the-clock monitoring, setting up iron barricades to prevent access to the canal area except for sanitation purposes, erecting notice boards to warn residents about dumping waste into the canal and fine imposition on violators.
It should be recalled that the Lagos state environmental sanitation law prohibits the careless dumping of domestic, industrial or commercial garbage along highways, roads, channels, gorges, vacant land spaces, drainage systems and water courses. Violation of the above law usually attracts attendant consequences like health threats and flooding thereby thwarting the government’s efforts at ensuring a safe, clean and healthy environment for Lagos citizens, especially children.