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Inside world of people who live in dump sites

…•Their joys and pains
…‘Dirty business pays’—they say

By BENJAMIN NJOKU,  SIMEON NDAJI & EBUN BABALOLA

Refuse dump is a place where unwanted wastes are dumped, from human faeces to decomposing bodies of animals and foul smelling leftovers. The stench oozing out from such a place is such that passers- by hurriedly walk past holding their hands to their noses. Ordinarily, only those who have lost control of their minds are found on the refuse dump. But when normal people go to the dump sites not to throw away rubbish things but to find a means of survival and even live there, then these are indeed not normal times.

Vestiges of poverty, feeding from the waste dump

At various dump sites in the Lagos metropolis, one finds residents rummaging through the refuse, digging for things with which to make ends meet. There are others who have decided to have their home right on the dump site. They work and live there and even raise their families at the dump site. One is therefore curious to know what kind of life these people are living on the refuse dump. Are they even normal human beings!

At Oke-Afa in Ejigbo Local Council Development Area of Lagos state, the mountain of dump site that exudes offensive smells provides a living for hundreds of people who eat, sleep and wake up there. It is simply a neighbourhood of people who live and survive in such an unfriendly environment. At the dump site, a lot of activities go on there. While some are busy sifting through the garbage in search of articles that can be recycled, there are others who are into gambling. There are also makeshift eatery and beer joints where residents relax after the day’s work. There also you find a cattle market.

Dump site offers a better life than begging

When  Saturday Vanguard  visited the dump site, on a rainy Thursday morning, it was an eyesore. The residents are mainly scavengers, re-cyclists and street urchins among other people of no means who are surviving in a dirty environment. The place does not only stink but emits offensive odours. When it rains, you dare not visit the place because you wouldn’t see anywhere to put your foot while the residents have no other choice than to remain in their makeshift huts. But despite this deplorable condition, the kind of lifestyle that goes in the rubbish dump will amaze you. It confirms the saying that “one person’s rubbish really is another person’s livelihood.”

38-year-old re-cyclist, Samson Azeez, who shared his story with  Saturday Vanguard  said, the dump site is like his second home because it offers him a life better than begging on the streets.

Azeez was a commercial bus driver, before he ventured into the business about two years after he had understudied some of his friends who were into recycling business. He is one of the people operating in the dump site which is now known as Oba Osolo International Market, Isolo.

Sharing his experience as a re-cyclist, Azeez said he specialized in recycling of scrapped plastics of all kinds which are used to manufacture new materials. He said,”I bought the machine which is a local fabrication at the rate of N700,000 two years ago. It is a bit different from the modern one.    We produce more than one ton per day which is about 1000kg. I open the shop as early as 6am and close late at night. The commission is based on the amount of kilograms each person does which depends on the thickness of the material.

Asked how he ventured into the business, he said, “I was a commercial driver for seven years driving those who were into recycling of these materials and I considered it a better means livelihood. We sell per kilogram depending on the kilograms. In a day, we can realize about N25,000. There are 10 different materials that we recycle in this shop namely PP, APS, PS, BLOW,GP tanks among others and we buy all these materials as scraps from the truck pushers per kilogram.

“I have more than six workers and I have also trained about three people who are doing their own business now. This is where I earn my daily bread. I have four children and a wife. My children are living well.”

Azeez, however, advised the Nigerian youths to be industrious, saying “If you are not lazy, you will get what you what”.

According to him,  dirty business  pays. He mentioned lack of electricity supply as part of the challenges they are facing in the dump site. Since I started the business, I have bought more than four generators.”

Madam Monsurat Alani, another successful trader in the dump site, was a thrift collector who ventured into the business in 2003. According to him, “I was selling telephone recharge cards before I ventured into this business. I started the business when I realized that most of the people who live here do not like to patronize bank. So, I seized the opportunity. Before, some of them used to give me money to keep for them but when I thought of the business angle, I decided to venture into the business.

“Some of them saved more than N15,000 per month after they have taken care of their immediate needs. These people are industrious and I thank God that I got this opportunity. From this business, I have established another business and also used it to support my husband. These people wake up early. I keep the money for them and give them back whenever they demand for it. Some of them who are educated go to the bank themselves.

Also, narrating his own story, Isa Jimoh, Chairman Arewa Isolo zone who is popularly known as Bodija said, he came to Lagos in 1991. “I hail from Borno State,    my first place of settlement was Ajegunle, in Boundary market where I was carrying load for people in the market. I was 30 years of age then.”

“Later, I relocated to Oke-Afa dump site where I engaged in scrapped iron business. I am into buying and selling of scrapped iron. Some companies come from Ikorodu to patronize us. The business was not much that time, I could sell the scrapped iron at N14,000 per ton.

“But, today, a ton is sold for N70,000. I started the business as a young man but today    I am married with children. My children are doing well, I have my own cars and house in Borno State. Scrap business is real business. The people who are working here are good people, they are not thieves. This place is well secured and controlled by the King of Isolo, HRM Alhaji Kabiru Adelaja as well as other security agents. We cooperate with all the security agents and they are always on the ground.”

Oke-Afa is not the only dump site in Lagos, where people make a living from the rubbish. In Ojota, there is a mountain of dump site that will startle you. But Nigerians have turned the waste into a lucrative business.

Olusosin, Ojota dump site

Olusosin, Ojota dump site, come rain, come shine is ever bubbling with trucks driving in and out of the dump site to discharge garbage while individuals saunter in and out to transact one business or another. Poor individuals with little money for small scale businesses are accommodated as well as the rich for large scale venture

The main focus of the business going on there are discarded assorted plastic cans, empty bags of cement, rice bags and assorted sacks. Different sizes and colours of nylons, pieces of metals, iron rods among others are hidden ‘treasures’ in refuse dumps which scavenger painstakingly endeavour to un-earth and convert to business venture at the dump site.

A 38-year old man who is popularly known as Lacasera and deals in buying and selling of scraps at Ojota dump site said “If you have one ton or more, that can fetch you some good money. Many people who are doing this business make big money within six months. If you

have bags or sacks or any unwanted items in large quantity, up to one or more tons, just

come and ask for Lacasera, and I will arrange for a vehicle.  Oga, if you    do this business,

small time you don make big  money.”

Meanwhile, it’s beyond what you see as people who live and survive in dump sites are not poor and hopeless as many perceive them to be. Though they have to find clothes, shoes, anything to sell among the trash, they do not less life than those that lives in glass houses.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.