By EBUN SESSOU
Fifty-eight-year-old Afusat, a widow is one of the street sweepers in Lagos State. Afusat was a petty trader who was struggling to make ends meet with her five children. Her youngest child is in JSS 2. Fifteen years ago after she lost her husband, she has been facing numerous challenges raising her children. Afusat told Saturday Vanguard that she was using the profit realised from her petty business to train her children.
Today, Afusat has secured a job as one of the street sweepers in Lagos metropolis. She is combining both the gains she realises from her petty trading and her salary to nurture her children. But, there seems to be no difference as the salary she earns as street sweeper is next to nothing.
Although, she was grateful to have gotten this job, she seems not to be satisfied as the challenges involved is more than the stipends she earns as salary. When she started the job, she was optimistic that it would meet her demands. But, right now, she is completely confused. Her words: “When my friend introduced me to it, she told me that, as a street sweeper, I will be able to feed my family and cater for my needs, that, I could attend to some pressing needs without necessarily going into debt but the story is different now”, she added.
She further said that, the only satisfaction she derives from the job is the opportunity it affords her to do other jobs. “The job is based on shift. We resume at 7am and close at 1pm while others resume at 1pm and close at 6pm everyday. The job is comfortable and our salaries come regularly. Some of us are traders, businessmen and women as well as students”, she disclosed.
Iyabo, a-200 level student in one of the tertiary institutions who sweeps around Ebute Metta area of Lagos also told Saturday Vanguard that she got involved in the job due to her financial constraints. “Since I started this job, I have been able to attend to some pressing needs but not all my needs. I am still struggling to pay my school fees”, she groaned.
She implored the state government to intervene and look into the possibility of increasing the salary in order to help improve their standard of living. “Our salary is N12,000 only but I know that it can be improved upon”, she noted.
On safety, she disclosed that, sweepers are trained from time to time on how to prevent accident. “We know that there are lots of danger on the job and that is why we are trained on safety precautions. We are also constantly enlightened on safety precautions, including how they should never work on the road with their backs to oncoming vehicles.
“Government also provides some safety kits, including nose covers, gloves, reflective jacket which prevent us from contracting health problems. Most commercial drivers are reckless such that they do not respect the job we do. There are cases where sweepers had been killed in Lagos”, she lamented.
An aged man (name withheld) who works on a road within Isolo area told Saturday Vanguard that when he started in 2009, he was paid N8,500 per month, and only recently it was increased to N10,000.
Another man in Ejigbo area had been on his beat and the same route for three years. He earns N12,000 as well. Others who spoke around Lagos Island said there is need for an insurance policy covering sweepers.
“Up till now, sweepers are yet to be covered with insurance policy against accidents.
“This issue of insurance has dragged on for too long and we implore the governor to assist in resolving any impediment to the insurance policy.
“Street sweepers’ medical issues should be taken seriously because we know that this has not been heeded by healthcare centres.” One common word to them was that government should improve their welfare package. The man in Isolo for instance, complained that his salary is not enough to meet his demands. He also lamented that he had not been allowed to go on leave in three years, while the one in Ejigbo calls on government to extend to sweepers seasonal gifts as accorded to other civil servants especially during festive periods.
Speaking on the issue, a motorist Hakeem made a case for these sweepers.“The fact remains that it is very difficult to pull aside the efforts of the an average Lagos street sweeper in the megacity dream by the present administration as most of them defy the danger involve in the job but work to keep Lagos clean.
“They work so hard, often in difficult and high risk areas. The question is, do they earn ‘a fair wage’ commensurate to the risk they take?Even the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola appreciates their contribution to the interpretation of his dream for the state and calls them “critical champions of change.”
However, Saturday Vanguard gathered that the scheme was introduced by the former governor of the state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; but it has been reinvigorated and expanded under the current administration.
Those who work under the Private Service Providers are paid by the state government through the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), the sum of N10,000 naira while those who were employed directly under LAWMA get N12,000 naira.
As of the middle of 2012, a total of 120 private companies had been engaged as service providers, which in turn collectively employed about 12,500 sweepers.