Major cities in Nigeria are contending with absence or insufficient infrastructure to make living worthwhile for dwellers. Many houses in some cities lack as basic things as conveniences, and because it is natural for people to want to use toilets after they had eaten food, many are forced to do it at wrong places, constituting environmental hazards for dwellers in such places.
In cities where the situation described above is the case, commuters are daily treated with unfriendly odour along major roads as they meander through excruciating gridlocks. For instance, Apapa in Lagos has become notorious for gridlocks, but the plight of commuters has been compounded by the stench from urine and excreta that litter the roads.
To underscore the dangers open defecation poses, one gram of faeces is said to contain about 10,000,000 viruses, 1,000,000 bacteria, 1,000 parasitic cysts, 100 parasitic eggs. Though it could be projected as just ‘wastes’ by the culprit, but from a perspective of public health, the risk lies in the pathogens in the shit!
With the absence of public toilets, Apapa roads have been turned into open urinary and toilet for anyone to empty his bladder and bowels in response to the call of nature.
This environmental-degrading act, BDSUNDAY learns, is mostly perpetrated by tanker drivers who spend weeks on the roads; security officials, and sometimes street urchins, who have no known address, but live under the bridges.
Most truck and tanker drivers spend weeks in long queues trying to get their goods from the ports or to get the petroleum products from the ubiquitous tank farms in Apapa, as the case may be. So, whenever nature calls, they defecate or urinate by the roadside, and under their trucks, to avoid prying eyes. Sometimes, the faeces are splattered along the road!
This situation is more pronounced on the stretch of road from Iponri (Breweries) to Ijora, where it is usual to see some of the motor boys toileting in the full glare of passers-by. It is always an ordeal passing through the area as a result of the offensive smell. Commuters are always seen covering their nostrils as they pass through.
Ayiba Sadiq from Kano, a tanker driver, confirms that the roads, dumpsites and cornered areas serve as toilets for them. He explains that it is risky to leave one’s vehicle unmonitored in search of where to ease oneself. “We do it near the motor because you can’t leave your motor alone”, Sadiq said with a smirk on his face.
The 38-year-old driver with about four trucks under his supervision at the time he spoke with our reporter, said he would like the government to provide public toilets in Apapa since they spend more time seeking to go in and out of the port.
“Some truck drivers piss and shit on the roads if they don’t have money to use the public toilet. There is a public toilet at Marina, under the bridge. But drivers who cannot afford it use the roads,” another truck driver from Jigawa said on condition of anonymity.
It costs between N50 and N100 to use a public toilet, but multiple sources, all of whom were tanker operators, complained about not having enough money to feed, not to talk of spending on toilets. But those who are willing to spend cannot find toilets.
“We would like to have public toilets because as tanker drivers, we can’t ease ourselves by the roads as the container drivers do,” another source said, suggesting that container drivers are mostly the perpetrators.
“All the human waste you see on the roads from Marine Bridge are from the container drivers,” he said emphatically as if each lump of excreta was tagged.
Open defecation is the human practise of defecating outside rather than into a toilet. People may choose fields, bushes, forests, ditches, streets, canals or other open spaces for defecation.
In Apapa, Nigeria’s port hub with a population of 217,362, drainages and used food packs are also defecated into.
A security worker within the area, Chukwuka (surname withheld), who spoke with BDSUNDAY lamented that “truck drivers have messed up everywhere in Apapa”.
He alleged that when they park their trucks, they go out to have fun and when nature calls, “they do it anywhere.”
“I see a lot of faeces on the roads,” he said. “They do it in take-away packs, on the roads, in the gutters, under trucks. They make the whole place smell.”
Nigeria has the second-highest prevalence rate of open defecation with 24 percent (47 million) of its population engaging in the act according to a 2018 national survey.
Currently, only 13 of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria are open defecation-free, UNICEF said. These 13 local government areas are from four states- Cross River, Benue, Jigawa, and Bauchi.
This clearly shows that Lagos State is a major contributor to Nigeria’s status as the second country with the highest rate of open defecation after India, yet, efforts to stem the problem appear minimal.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says open defecation pollutes the environment and causes health problems, linking it to the high prevalence of water-borne infectious diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, and hepatitis A, among others.
Similarly, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its advisory campaign said open defecation was one of the major causes of cholera in the country.
Every year, more than 70,000 children under five die in Nigeria from diarrhoea as a result of unsafe water and poor sanitation conditions. To underscore the dangers open defecation poses, one gram of faeces is said to contain about 10,000,000 viruses, 1,000,000 bacteria, 1,000 parasitic cysts, 100 parasitic eggs. Though it could be projected as just ‘wastes’ by the culprit, but from a perspective of public health, the risk lies in the pathogens in the shit!
Experts say that inappropriate human waste disposal also increases the risk of exposure to these pathogens and it can cause significant health risks to the human population.
Lagos State, Nigeria’s putative centre of excellence, has an open defecation problem.
An investigation conducted by environnewsnigeria listed worst-hit areas to include Badagary, Ijora, Iganmu, Flyover near the National Theatre, Iganmu, Orile to Mile 2 Bus Stop, Alakija Bridge, Trade Fair Bridge, Abule-Ado, Iyan-Iba, Maza Maza and Agboju Bus Stop.
But the practice, which is mostly carried out at nights, is endangering the health of residents as they are prone to transmitted diseases, especially diarrhoea and cholera.
In a phone conversation, the Chairman of Drivers Association, Apapa Ward D, Saheed Olowolagba acknowledged the growing nuisance in the area, stating that he is making plans to provide mobile toilets in the area, but he is yet to get approval from the local government.
Explaining what it takes to provide a public/mobile toilet and the efforts he has made so far to that effect, Olowolagba said:
“Before a person can put a public toilet around that place, he’s supposed to go and meet the local government to approve it. You will write a letter for the approval of mobile toilets in Apapa and they will give it to you. I’ve already spoken to the man.”
He intends to fix the problem single-handedly because, according to him, the local government cannot provide public toilets.
“There’s no plan for it,” he said.
Recall that the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, pledged $100million (N36billion) to improve water access, sanitation and the eradication of open defecation in Lagos by 2025, at Global Citizen Festival last year in New York.
But how much has been put to use is unknown.