By Rasheed Sobowale
“Find your way to Agboyi Road at Alapere, Ketu, Lagos State. Follow the road down. Take a boat to Agboyi 2”, reads the direction given to locate this Lagos community.
Anybody scared of water might not like here. While those interested in a sea tour might find it interesting at first, they will be disgusted when filled in on the number of defecations passed into the river by residents of the surrounding community.
The community, Agboyi 2, Agboyi-Odo Community, Agboyi Ketu CDA, Lagos State is a residence of peaceful Nigerians who predominantly fish for a living.
This happy set of people, however, are not indeed living a happy life considering things they lack.
A kudos to the state government. Throughout the documentation of this report, there was constant power supply which the residents also testified to its consistency.
Although the total headcount in the community cannot be ascertained, residents claimed the population is more than 10,000.
Agboyi is divided into three settlements: Agboyi 1, Agboyi 2 and Agboyi 3. The three communities share one primary school and one government hospital. If the functioning of these facilities were up to par, of course, there should not be any need to complain.
Are they? Let Agboyi 2 community residents tell you their story.
Lack of Water Supply
Agboyi community, surrounded by water is expected to have potable and washing water readily available, but the case was a reverse.
Residents of the community buy water to drink, wash and cook.
A 25-litre keg of water according to them cost N50 and each family uses at least 100 litres (4×25 litres) per day ― meaning they spend about N200 buying water per day; N6,000 in a month and N72,000 per annum.
Mr Afeez Oduseye who is an indigene of the community prompted the needs of the community.
“I am an indigene of Agboyi 2 but for some time now, I travel and return here just as you are seeing me now,” he said.
“The main thing I will say this community need is WATER. For many years now, more than 20 years, we don’t have water here.
“The water surrounding us is not potable; and not only that, we cannot cook or wash with it,” he added.
“Everybody here buys water. There is a man that ferries water from Lagos main town to sell here.”
Some few metres walk from the entrance to the community, there is evidence of some pipes construction which were observed to have no-fault.
When the residents were questioned on its functionals, Mrs Falilat Olabanji, a member of Onikoro family in the community said, “I was born and bred in this town. The pipe you are seeing supplied us water for some time and stopped.
“There are rumours it was blocked by the state’s water corporations but we couldn’t ascertain that.
“It may have even been blocked by people selling water to us. But we can’t testify who and why the water suddenly stopped running.”
The pipe was laid to conduct water from areas outside the community (Ketu main town) since Agboyi surrounding water is not safe for drinking and cooking.
Mrs Olabanji said the water pipeline was constructed some time ago in 1983 when Mr Arobieke was the Chairman of Ketu Local Government Area of the Lagos State which oversees the community and its affairs.
“We use to buy one keg of ororo [water jerry can] for N50. I can use 4 kegs in a day if I want to watch cloth.”
Another resident and family to “Asipa”, one of the community chiefs, Mrs Adetutu Mustapha, who is a small-scale business owner, in a separate interview expressed her discontent at the lack of water in the community.
“About 7 or 8 years ago, the pipes you saw were functioning but suddenly stopped. For now, we only have well water.
“The water in the well is not clean. We buy water, and personally, I use between two to three kegs [25-litres] of water per day
“We bathe, cook and wash with it. But I don’t drink it.”
The water surrounding Agboyi community from a mere look is not clean and likewise the water from the wells. This forfeited the alternative means of getting water for the community which would have been to dig a borehole or well.
A group of male indigenes at a Lotto shop were also interviewed to confirm if the situation was exaggerated or not by the previously interviewed women in the community.
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The group of six consisted of two chiefs and the youth leader of the community.
Giving his assertion, the youth leader “Olori Odo” of the community, Adeleke, said the pipe stopped conveying water many years back.
Another resident also said: “You can see that the water you ferried on, from appearance, is not potable. We wash our plates with the water thou but for safety purpose, we rinse them afterwards with sachet water.
“All of these laid pipes were not well constructed. We were unable to use the water from it. The construction was done about 15 years ago.
“The time the water was running, it wasn’t that drinkable because it has some salty taste. It only functioned for about one or two years.”
Vanguard correspondent asked Agboyi 2 residents if the government of the state is aware of their needs and they replied in affirmation.
“Government officials during elections usually come around to ask for what we need. They say if my people can vote for them, they will do all we requested.
“And the issue of water is always one of the things at the top of our list but just as always, they never fulfil their promise,” Mrs Olabanji said.
When asked if they have ever contacted a government official such as their Ward Councilor on the matter, she said; “We don’t have a good councillor in our ward. This is ward F.”
To buttress her claim that the community does not have a “good councillor”, Mrs Olabanji said, “during the flood time for instance, when water filled up the community; after the water volume reduced, there were some holes retaining water. We beckoned the councillor to come and supervise and get rid of the water.
“He came walking around, roaming about and left without doing anything.”
“He doesn’t stay in the community. His residence is far away from here. He lives at Ikorodu.”
When asked if they did not observe any of the alleged nonchalant characters prior to voting the councillor, she said; “the problem is that we don’t have good leaders. Instead of them to nominate competent people especially indigenes, they are selfish!
“Our councillor is not an indigene of Agboyi 2. He is from Ilaje, Ondo.”
Mrs Mustapha said, “We have complained and complain. In fact, during the last election campaign, we still complained to them to help us with this issue of water.”
The community “Iya Abiye” (traditional obstetrician), said, “During election time, they will be promising us they will give us water, none of them ever fulfilled their promises!”
“You can ask our councillor and chairman, they are not ignorant of this problem we are facing. I am ready to defend everything I am saying today,
“We don’t have access to potable water here. We survive by buying water. They will go and buy tanker. It is that tanker they will now be selling to us.
“The water business is run by an indigene of this community. We buy one yellow keg for N50. Since I sell food, I use up to eight (8) kegs in a day.”
Agboyi community voted massively for the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party in Lagos State. The population of Peoples Democratic Party supporters in the community is next to nothing according to the residents.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the opposition party in the state and has never won the governorship election.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu (APC), defeated his PDP rival, Jimi Agbaje by 533,304 votes margin in the 2019 guber election.
Sanwo-Olu’s predecessor, Akinwunmi Ambode (APC), polled 811,994 votes to defeat the same Jimi Agbaje of PDP with a margin of 152,206 in 2015.
The state government under the leadership of Ambode for instance budgeted N812.998bn for the fiscal year of 2017 out of which N20.082 billion was allocated for water provision and maintenance in the state.
Agboyi 2 community is not only plagued by the lack of water supply; it also lacks proper “ile-igbonse” which translates “toilet”.
The Ministry of Water Resources in October 2019 disclosed Nigeria ranks number one in the world for open defecation.
A community like Agboyi 2 is in no doubt one of the major contributors to this success of beating India to such feat.
A female resident, Mrs Mariam, who explicitly explained how they defecate said; “we cover our body while lowering ourselves in the middle of the water such that everybody sailing across the sea at such time will be seeing us.”
Our correspondent saw a resident doing the same thing while travelling to the community for this report.
“Likewise if we want to bath. We do that very early in the morning ― for those of us ashamed of being seen. But others do same anytime they prefer,” Mrs Mariam continued.
“We lower ourselves deep into the water while we bathe too.”
– Defecation at the cost of a meal –
A male resident, Mr Olabanji, in his own account said; “There is no toilet. But there is one constructed by a Rotary Group but no one is using it.”
When asked why, the six Agboyi residents encountered at the Lotto shop answered in unison, “we are being asked to pay for using it.”
But on further explanation, it was revealed that the Rotary Group demanded they pay for the use of the toilet so that the money generated can be used in the maintenance of the toilet.
This may look like a good idea but on careful analysis, it is not a solution for the community. The money charged per usage according to some was N30 while others said N50.
This means anyone using the toilet twice per day would spend no lesser than N60 and N420 per week; N1,800 per month.
In October 2019 during a press conference to mark the 2019 World Food Day, the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono noted; “Food in Nigeria is fairly cheap compared to other countries.
“In Kano, for instance, you can eat N30 worth of food and be satisfied. So, we should be thankful that we can feed ourselves and we have relatively cheap food in this country,”
Considering the feasibility of feeding at such cost, then it is right to say the people of Agboyi 2 community will be spending the cost of a meal in paying for defecating.
The African Development Bank had also reported in February 2018 that about 152 million Nigerians live on less than $2 (about N700) per day.
Mrs Mariam jokingly narrated instances of someone suffering from “jedijedi” (translates “pile”); “How much would I pay if I am suffering from pile and would need to visit the toilet many times in the day.
“So, after paying for the first use and I walked out to discover I need to use the toilet again; that means I will need to pay again oooo”.
The Onikantan (a young chief) of Agboyi 2 community noted the method of defecation by the male residents is depositing it inside nylon or any other container, then throw it into the river.
“That is how we have been doing it since we were born, even our fore-fathers.”
On the issue of why each household could not construct a toilet for themselves just as it is with typical households in the main city, Agboyi 2 residents stated such might be dangerous for their building since they are in a riverine area.
According to Mrs Olabanji’s account, the Agboyi-Ketu Local Government Chairman during the campaign for the last general election gave the community councillor some fund to carry out projects on the needs of the people.
She said that was when a toilet was built around here. “When we complained that the way it was constructed is not okay, he replied to us, that his all he can do.”
The toilet constructed using pans is designed in such a way that an elderly person would be advised not to go near. Accounts from the residents revealed there have been instances of people falling while walking within the toilet due to its delicate construction.
Also considering the distance of the toilet from individual houses location, the toilet is far, such that carrying water from an individual’s household to the location proves tedious.
Open defecation saves them the stress since they are in a riverine area and being already used to this kind of defecation, the people of Agboyi 2 community and its environs will need a more comfortable toilet to dissuade them from open defecation.
The Iya Abiye, when questioned on the shortcoming of the toilet construction, said the engine installed to power the drilled borehole is not working.
Based on her narration, this is a huge factor discouraging people from using the toilet since they will need to carry water along to the toilet to wash and flush.
Need for bridge
Being a riverine area, transportation from the community is by motor canoe. During transportation to the community, many canoes can be seen collecting water from the canoe because the woods have some perforations that allow slight inflow of water.
Boatmen charge residents N50 for transporting them from the community to the shore. They then find their way to anywhere they might be going.
The need for a bridge to the community was first raised by an elderly woman who was nearby when Mrs Mustapha (a relative of a chief in the community) was being interviewed.
“Birigi la nidi!” She exclaimed. The elderly woman meant the community needs a “bridge for easy transportation”.
“We don’t even need all of this one you people are saying. If we have a bridge, it will be easier to solve all of these problems,” she claimed.
“They said they do toilet, a toilet that is useless. The water they did too cannot even be used to wash.
“Look here, that bridge is the main thing we need here in Agboyi 2 community.”
A chief in the community said; “We need a bridge that will allow movement of cars into and outside the community.”
A trader in the community who also concurred on the need for bridge said she spends between N1,000 to N1,500 to ferry her goods from the harbour to the community ― a typical trip without the goods cost N50.
The distance from the harbour to the community entrance however on evaluation should not cost her more than N200 with her goods based on the rate charged on similar distances in the main city of Lagos.
When asked if the canoe peddlers work at night, the residents answered in affirmative; only that the price will be increased from N50 to N100 and in some instances especially if the person has some loads to transport along, she/he may need to pay more.
Agboyi 2 community in spite of these challenges is safe without any issue of robbery or kidnap according to the residents’ account.
The Lagos State government in December 2019 passed a budget of N1.168 trillion into law after approval by the State’s House of Assembly.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state government has in May slashed the budget by 21 per cent; now N920.5 billion.
The residents in their words said; “Sanwo-Olu has promised to do the bridge for us and we hope he does not disappoint, just like others before him.
“We are told it is already in the budget and we trust him on that even though that is what his predecessors have been saying too.”
A male resident, Mr Alani, describing how popular the community is in Lagos said; “We are well known in Lagos. Our community is under Kosofe Local Government. This is Agboyi Ketu LCDA. We have two wards here and our councillor controls Agboyi 2 and 3,
“He is aware of all this but we hope the new government will just help us with the bridge.”
Whether this promise by the state government will be fulfilled, is yet to be known.
One Hundred and Fifteen billion naira (N115 billion) was earmarked for physical infrastructure by the Lagos State Government in 2020 (based on the approved budget in December 2019)
No Secondary School
Vanguard had earlier reported the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education to have said that Nigeria’s illiteracy in 2018 was 38 per cent.
The Chief of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in October 2019 stated that there are more than 10.5 million children out of school in Nigeria.
Agboyi Community as a whole (Agboyi 1,2 and 3) has a single primary school located in two different parts of the community.
The primary 1-3 classes were built-in Agboyi 2 while the Primary 4-6 classes were built in Agboyi 1 ― another community, about 5-10 minutes travel by canoe.
All Agboyi pupils willing to further their education after completion of their primary school education will need to enrol in one of the schools located in Lagos main town.
Most of them enrol in schools at Ojota, Ogudu, Mile 12 and Alapere Bustop. They spend between N200 to N300 on transport daily.
This means that aside from feedings and basic educational materials expenses such as school uniform and bags, parents of the students from Agboyi 2 and other surrounding communities need to budget for transport. The expenses for parents with more than one childe embarking on such daily voyage is another story on its own.
The residents said this does not discourage the children from going to school.
“Most of the children you are seeing around now all school in the town. The cost of transport will be reduced if we have a secondary school around here. At least one for the whole community,” Mrs Mustapha said.
The youth Leader, Mr Adeleke, lamented the population of the students in the schools they attend.
“You will see about 120 plus students in one class and we have lots of students from here schooling there.
“Let them give us a secondary school building. We all voted for APC here, and we should enjoy our loyalty to this government.”
The government-owned health centre in the community is sited at the Agboyi 1 community.
Residents of Agboyi 2 claimed the distance is no more than 5 to 10 minutes from their location.
Lamenting the poor state of the health centre, a female resident said there is no adequate drug supply in the health centre.
Whenever there is a critical case the nurses cannot handle, they direct the residents to another hospital in Lagos, Mascara.
Mascara Primary Health Centre (PHC) is located at Agboyi Ketu, Lagos State.
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Agboyi residents will need to first ferry themselves across the river after which they will find a means of travelling to the hospital.
The “Iya Abiye”, traditional obstetrician of the community while commenting on the state of the health centre said; “we are trying our best in the traditional way but we need competent doctors’ assistance,
“There is a doctor in the primary health centre located in Agboyi 1, but most of the time, they would have gone home at night when most women put to bed,
“Truth be told, the nurses are trying their best, but such cannot be compared with the proficiency of a good doctor
“When we have a critical condition, we put the women in a canoe and transport them to the main town.”
She also noted there are instances the women will not make it across the river.
“There have been instances of cases like this. This is why we need a competent doctor here in Agboyi community health centre.”
All efforts to get a comment from the chairman of Agboyi-Ketu Local Government Development Area, Mayor Dele Oshinowo, were unsuccessful as he did not reply to Facebook and text messages sent to him.