Lagos is a megacity with a large population that generates a lot of wastes. This was the reason the state government established the waste management authority (LAWMA) to manage the huge wastes generated daily across the state.
According to officials, over 14,000 metric tonnes (about 490 trailer loads) of solid wastes is generated within the state daily. Most of the wastes end up in different dumpsites located at Igando in Alimosho, Olusosun in Ojota and Elegbele in Ikorodu. There is also a mini dumpsite at Agboju, a community along Lagos – Badagry Expressway.
Ojota, where the Olusosun dumpsite is located, is a bubbling community with over a thousand people from different ethnic and religious groups engaging in one activity or the other. While some are dealers in refuse recycling, others like food vendors, Indian hemp dealers, commercial sex workers, local gin sellers, medicine vendors and artisans provide services to their teeming clients. It is also known as Gbola.
Managed by a Chairman simply identified as Mr. Kehinde, he is assisted by a task force which maintains law and order in the community. The task force comprises of all the ethnic groups that do businesses around the dumpsite.
Most of the dwellers are of northern extraction and whose families are resident in their home towns. Many of the community members who can’t afford a decent accommodation within Lagos metropolis live in makeshift houses around the dumpsite.
Interestingly, to be part of the community in any capacity, whether as a resident or as a trader or whatever, you need to register with the appropriate authority.
Said an official of the task force who spoke with our correspondent: “We have three main gates to this facility. And we always have members of the task force stationed at each gate.
When a new person comes in we know. Part of the measures we take to secure this facility is that anyone who works here must bring a guarantor who knows him well from his home town. Right now we are working on having identity cards for workers and traders”.
As early as 5am, young scavengers are seen searching for valuable items which they gather together and sack up in kilos. Most of them work from dawn to dusk. Unlike their male counterparts who start working as early as 5 am, female scavengers resume work in the afternoon, scouting for articles of interest under the heat of the sun.
Once a truck arrives to dispose wastes, like bees, a handful of young boys, aged 17 -21, storm the vehicle to get whatever they consider valuable.
Then the wastes are gathered in different categories: Plastics, clothes, aluminium, metals, papers and empty cans. While some of the woman-scavengers are always covered up, wearing long-sleeves, caps to protect their heads, gloves to protect their hands and boots, their male colleagues, most of the time, use bare hands to search for articles of interest.
Garbage everywhere For the local food vendors, some have stands at the dumpsite while others hawk their wares. Strategically sited around the dumpsite, food vendor business at Olusosun thrives like a goldmine in spite of the stench that oozes into the atmosphere.
Another noticeable feature of the dumpsite is a cluster of rugged and awful looking young men, occupying some of the makeshift shanties and openly smoking Indian hemp in the company of overtly bleached commercial sex workers, some of whom are also resident in the dumpsite. Their eyes probe every movement especially of first timers.
Said 24-year-old Abass who is a scavenger at the dumpsite: “I live here and work in this dumpsite. Over the years, this place has become my home.
Since I can’t afford to pay for a room in town, I squat with some other people in one of these makeshift shops. It is not comfortable but it puts a roof over my head in the night. And in the morning, I go about my business. I live here but my wife and children live in my home town.
Scavenging is not an easy work because you work under the sun and rain. I gather plastics which we put in large bags and sell to clients at N12 per kilo. When there is high demand, we sell a kilo for N15. “For instance, if I have 500 kilo worth of objects, l will sell it for N6, 000.
So the more you are able to gather, the more money you earn. On a good day I make more than N5, 000. I send money to my family in my home town from what I get. I usually wear gloves and boots to protect my hands and feet especially because when it rains, the dirty water mixes with wastes and causes infection.”