By Rose Moses
Not until I drove through the vicinity, Monday, did I get to have a clearer picture of the magnitude of danger posed by the fire incident at the Olusosun dumpsite in Ojota area of Lagos State to residents in the neighbourhood and environs. It is one toxic situation, really, that is obviously killing the victims by installment.
Prior to this physical presence, I had noticed the very thick cloud from some place in Ogudu area of Lagos, last week Wednesday and had attributed it to a sudden change of weather, perhaps ushering in some rainfall.
By the time I looked out the window again after a while, it dawned on me it wasn’t just a thick cloud but a thick dark smoke billowing and hovering round the sky.
When a fire outbreak was eventually confirmed at the dump site, first thing that came to mind was that it must be major, going by how much of the sky was covered in smoke.
And so when I drove through the area, last Monday, almost one week after I had forgotten the development, I was shocked to realize the fire was still burning. I came face-to-face with the very toxic situation and wondered how those residing in the area have been coping with the choking and poisonous environment for almost one week.
And it was so obvious that these Nigerians are being killed by installment.
In addition to the toxic air, visibility was near zero in the area. Driving along the express, hundreds of metres away from the dump site was as terrifying as it was dreadful.
Cars had to slow down for their drivers to do some mental calculations, perhaps, on how the road looked like so as not to veer off or hit another since the thick smoke practically made visibility so difficult.
Even the car air-conditioning system couldn’t keep the sickening and choking fumes out of the car. I had to drive some hundreds of metres away before I could recover from the horrible experience by winding down my glasses and allowing some fresh air to drive away the poisonous one that got into the car, even when the window glasses were fully wound up.
And to think some people have had to live with the deadly development for almost a week, and still counting, leaves one wondering if and why we have any government in place.
From what I gathered, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was completely locked down the first day of the incident as residents panicked and officials of the Lagos State Fire Service and Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) battled to put out the fire.
Unfortunately and almost one week later, the place was still covered in smoke. What a country!
The outbreak, which started with pockets of fire, is said to have been caused by gases from chemical substances at the dump site that later snowballed out of control.
Although no life was lost, seven of LAGBUS buses allegedly got burnt beyond repairs in the process. That is only expected considering that the LAGBUS yard shares a fence with the dump site.
Though this was not the first time such fumes would be oozing out from that dumpsite, this particular incident took a different dimension. The thick and poisonous smoke continued unabated many days after, thus exposing the lives of residents to grave danger from the highly toxic fumes.
Worst part is that most of those so exposed, which include residents of Ketu-Mile 12, Magodo, Shagisha, Olusosun, Ogudu and some parts of Ojota, are unaware of the danger they are being exposed to. But an examination may reveal large doses of toxicity in their respiratory systems as a result that could lead to diseases as grave as cancer.
In saner climes, where state of health of citizens matter, a dumpsite of such magnitude can never be located at a city centre.
And where an incident like that of Olusosun happens, it can never be allowed to linger for so long. It won’t be out of place therefore to say that such government’s negligence is also responsible for the prevalence, these days in our society, of such dreaded diseases.
The location of the Olusosan dumpsite has never been healthy for trading and living. Aside from the negative health implication it poses, the structure of the facility is so risky and susceptible to all forms of hazards.
Moreover, the stench that oozes out of that site, which incidentally is located at the gateway to the state that prides itself as centre of excellence, is enough to drive away any clean visitor, figuratively.
With the unfortunate incident at Olusosun, one is bound to ask what are the measures in place are by government to prevent future reoccurrence, even if the site is relocated to any other part of the state.
That and other questions that I put across to the Lagos state commissioner for Information, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, via his Facebook page, are yet to be responded to at the time of writing this report.