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Re: Refuse collection: A case for handcarts

By Helen Ovbiagele
IN spite of the fact that living in a dirty environment, and jostling for right of way on our roads with refuse heaps, seem a permanent fixture in our lives, we got many lively responses to the piece we put out refuse collection in the country.

The subject has been thrashed so many times by the media, yet, no government so far, has been able to eliminate or even reduce the problem. It’s encouraging that many citizens still feel concerned enough about it to write in to express their views. Some readers can swear by the efficacy of using handcart boys in the disposal of our waste; especially in small towns where the local government council is not involved in collecting refuse.

For a fee, the boys ensure you’re not wallowing in your household and garden filth, as they come regularly to empty your bins.

Those who don’t want to use them because of the cost involved, go to dispose of their refuse in the bushes around, or, they burn or bury it. They have that option. In cities and big towns, there are no ready bushes or ‘free’ waste lands for refuse dumping, as these belong to families or the government. You put your life on the line if you turn someone’s piece of land into a refuse tip.

This is the reason why refuse is dumped on the streets in the night. Some people feel it’s very insensitive of the government to ban handcarts when the government is very aware that it cannot cope with refuse collection, either directly or using approved collectors.

Disgraceful sight

However, a few readers feel that cart boys are bad news in this day and age; just like the ‘disgraceful’ sight of water sellers pushing their handcarts of containers about in Victoria Island and Ikoyi! What would visitors to the country think of the ‘giant of Africa’ when they see refuse being disposed of in hand carts?

Well, they may have a point there, but surely it’s better to risk uncomplimentary remarks about the use of cart boys from visitors, than to have them fall sick on us while they’re here, due to refuse-related epidemic. We thank all those who wrote in.

‘Madam, the PSP vans come very irregularly during the dry season, and then the handlers expect us to empty our drums of trash into their vans ourselves. If we don’t do this, they go away without taking our refuse. During the rainy season, we don’t see them at all. It’s only the handcart boys that help take our refuse in Okokomaiko, Lagos, where I live. From Onu.’

‘Re: Refuse Collection Story: I live in Benin City and we had the same problem with government approved collectors. I simply refused to pay the government contracted collector even if heaven falls.   Learn to fight for your rights!’ ‘Madam, you hit the problem on the head when you said that the government should approve handcart boys’ collection of household refuse.   I live in a suburb of Lagos where we’re gradually being swallowed up by refuse.

On environment sanitation Saturdays, locals duly come out to clean around them and leave the refuse by the road side for the government collection lorries to come pick up, as instructed.

Most months these vehicles don’t show up. What are we expected to do with the refuse? Dump them back on our premises? From time to time residents on our street would mobilize cart boys to clear the refuse for us. The government should stop being selfish and allow these useful service to be available to us. Nigeria will be a cleaner place.’

‘Mrs. Helen, you don’t know what you’re asking for when you say that cart boys should be allowed to operate in the collection of refuse in the country. Do you know that they compound the problem of poor sanitation because they dump refuse anywhere?

You don’t follow them to where they off-load their carts, in order to ensure that they do the right thing and dispose of the refuse collected properly, so, when they’re out of sight, they engage in illegal dumping. It wouldn’t be wise to allow them operate.

The thing to do is for the government to ensure that there’s serious refuse collection every week by the operators that have been given licence to collect refuse. Thanks. Pa Tunde, Mushin, Lagos.’

‘The shoddy manner in which government appointed refuse collectors do their job, is typical of the average Nigerian’s attitude to work. Irresponsible! A painful aspect of the whole thing is that there’s no monitoring party to ensure that they perform well.

Why would there be? Palms may have been greased before the appointment to collect refuse, so, the collectors feel they should do what they like. They’ve bought the conscience of those who should monitor their performance. Even if money didn’t change hands for the permit, the collectors know that they would get their money whether they perform or not, because government is there to enforce it.

Let’s do away with the government contractors and let residents of each ward appoint collectors themselves. That way, residents would have the power to sack for non-performance.’

‘Before we talk of handcart boys, let’s ask ourselves if, after paying taxes, tenement rates, etc. to federal, state and local governments, we should pay for refuse collection. It doesn’t make sense. Do these bodies feel that we’re to be milked to the bone?

What do they use these forcibly collected rates for when there are no services under their control that are working? No water, no electricity, no security of lives and property! Roads are death-trap! No qualitative health and educational system. All these people want is grab, grab, grab! It’s my belief that the government should clear refuse. Period! They shouldn’t bother us with the bills for any reason. Our problem is that we don’t stand up for our rights.’ Derek, Lagos Mainland.

‘What the government doesn’t understand is that allowing cart boys to clear our refuse is providing employment for them. Like you said, Madam Helen, they should be organized for efficient performance.

If possible, the local government can assist them in the purchase of the carts, and give them areas where they’re to collect refuse. A half day orientation course would train them for responsible performance, so that they can separate the various types of refuse and put the recyclable ones aside.

Then, they can be encouraged to enrol for adult education so that they can train for a vocation. Using lorries to collect refuse has not been successful over the years, since the government began to take an interest in the selection of the collectors.

When they had to go get the job from the community, the service was better, because they knew that if they didn’t deliver and clear the refuse on time, they wouldn’t get customers.’

‘Madam Helen, I support the establishment of a refuse dump in every ward in the entire country. Show us where to go dump refuse and the country will be a cleaner place.’


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