• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

How carelessness of some Lagos road sweepers expose them to accidents

20240331_131037_0000

In December 2023, a car owner who was alleged to be running away from arrest crushed to death two highway sweepers of the Lagos Waste Management Authority, (LAWMA) at Gbagada area of Lagos State.

An eyewitness had narrated that the car owner was on top speed, while trying to evade arrest allegedly by officials of the Lagos State Environmental Task Force, when the unfortunate incident happened.

Read also: ‘Perching on death’ to keep Lagos clean – Street sweepers tell their story

Over the years, in line with the city of excellence mantra, successive administrations and governments have ensured that the city of Lagos is clean, including the roads.

For this reason, employment has been provided for thousands of indigenes and residents to keep the streets and the major roads clean.

The job, however, exposes these workers to accidents and sometimes, death.

Usually clad in orange or lemon jumpsuit, streets or highway sweepers are seen from dawn across Lagos.

In their quest to keep the city clean, they are faced with all sorts of hazards.

Although, some people would say that every job has its peculiar hazards, the degree of hazards varies from one job to another. The volume of vehicles on Lagos roads and the recklessness of many drivers make street sweeping a very risky job.

Apart from the accidents that occur as a result of the recklessness of drivers and other road users, it has been observed lately that many of the sweepers themselves are being very careless and carefree while doing their job on the road. By so doing, they expose themselves to more danger.

“What I see on the roads these days give me serious concern. I thought the road sweepers should have known better the degree of danger they are daily being exposed, but they seem not to be aware of anything. As I drive on the road these days, I see many of them that just stick their backsides dangerously to the road without any display of signs to alert drivers. Some of them bury their heads on the ground without looking up to see on-coming vehicles. A lot of things I see they do give me concern. I appeal to the LAWMA Authorities to please organize orientation sessions for the sweepers,” a banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said

Lagos’s population is growing rapidly, although the actual population has remained a matter of guess work. People post all manner of figures.

According to Statista, less than a million people lived in Lagos in 1960. By 1990, it reached four million and just over 12 million by 2015.

With thousands of people flocking every year to the city, searching for job opportunities and a better life, by 2023, 24.4 million might be dwelling in the city, experts say.

Lagos still remains the most burgeoning city in Nigeria and also in Sub-Saharan Africa, hence, its waste problem.

The state generates 13,000 metric tons of waste daily. In 2018, the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, popularly known as Public Private Participation, said Lagos State had become one of the dirtiest cities in the world.

But despite their obvious importance, sweepers in Lagos are treated disdainfully by residents and reckless road users who ill-treat them.

Many of the sweepers say they would rather manage to survive the hardship, because they had nothing else to do.

Hundreds of them are bread winners of their families and have to feed with the meagre salary they are paid. For some, although the salary may be small, it is more honourable than begging.

Increasing exposure to risk

Many of the sweepers, who spoke to BusinessDay Sunday, said they were no longer displaying security sign posts on the road while on duty, because LAWMA was no longer giving them.

The cleaners noted that even the smaller ones given to them some years ago, were usually easily stuck under vehicles resulting in the security sign post being driven away.

The complaints come amid growing concerns about the dangers associated with the job and inability of many street sweepers to sufficiently take safety measures in the course of their duty.

The sweepers, however, refuted that they were no longer cautious, aware of the risk associated with the job. They said they love their lives, which was the reason they had decided to start work from 7am or 6-30am daily, instead of the mandatory 6am instructed by LAWMA, so that it would be visible for upcoming vehicle to see them and they can also see the vehicle to check accident.

“I don’t have a security sign post; I even prefer the big one because the small ones are usually stuck under vehicles and they drive them away. When the commercial vehicle wants to give customers change, they don’t look, or they drive with one hand.

“We are doing our best to take precaution; for me, I start sweeping around 7am, instead of the 6am they told us, because I want an upcoming vehicle to see me and I can see the vehicle to check accident,” Suliat Amode, a cleaner in Ikoyi, said.

Another sweeper, Maria David, lamented the inability of LAWMA to provide safety equipment to them, even uniform and broom, noting that they buy them with the meagre salary they are paid.

“They don’t give us brooms or parkers; I buy them with my salary, even this uniform when I bent down to sweep it got torn. Some people talk about insurance, I never heard of such a thing, a lot of colleagues got into accidents. It was their families that treated them,” David said.

She recalled that a commercial vehicle knocked her down last year, resulting in severe injury on her hand in the course of performing her job.

“I had an accident last year, this hand is still in pain, it was God that saved me, I treated myself,” she added.

“I have four children, although two are married, but my husband is barely managing. He is a businessman and sometimes business may not move,” Bola Ogundimu, 55, sweeper said.

“I’m managing, I have two children to take care of, my husband is late, the salary is very poor and you can even die in the process, but what can I do?” Elizabeth Ukuwa, a sweeper said.

Similarly, another sweeper, Adetokunbo Samuel, said that he narrowly survived an accident in the course of his duty recently, appealing that there was the need for the Lagos State government to review their salary.

“The salary is very poor and they don’t pay us on time; you can’t even buy half a bag of rice now with N30, 000.

“It is just that after leaving here I go and do a security job elsewhere; how will I cope with my family?

“Please help us talk to the government to review this salary, I don’t stay around, I spend N300 to work every day,” she said.

Meanwhile, an official in charge of the sweepers said they were aware of the poor salary of the sweepers and had made a complaint to the government.

He noted that the poor salary could be the reason why they are always in debt before the end of the month.

In view of the enormous work and the risk the sweepers take to keep the state clean, many Lagosians urge the government to provide the necessary materials to make their work easier, and also enhance their take home pay in line with the state’s minimum wage.