By Kemi Olatunde
Akure, the Ondo state capital might become susceptible to outbreak of infectious diseases as discreet investigation by The Hope has revealed an unhealthy habit of many market women whereby they defecate inside cellophane nylons inside their shops.
Many shop owners inside the Oja Oba’s market are guilty of this and they drop their faeces inside the waste bins placed at strategic places at the close of the day.
Our findings also revealed that the practice was not due to lack of avenues to ease themselves as there are public toilet facilities scattered all over the various shopping complexes in the market but they were not well managed, going by the stench that oozes from many of them and the dillapidated state of the facilities.
This odd practice became more evident when our reporter paid a visit to a hairdresser’s shop in the market. During the service, the hairdresser had asked to be excused so she could ease herself. Rather than go outside the shop, she slipped into a corner of her shop, pulled out a paint bucket and sat on it after pulling down her trousers.
After doing her business, she went outside to wash her hands into the basin used for watching hair.
For many of the traders in the market, it is a piece of cake for them to ease themselves in their shops. One would be baffled with a visit to the market during the rains as most of them make haste to dispose their waste especially feacal waste alongside urine into the drainage not minding the effects of such act on other residents.
One of the places you can get an irresistible meal is the market but when one is confronted with such situation, it becomes difficult for residents to be totally free from disease outbreaks as attitude of some residents breeds danger.
A trader who has her shop along the popular provision line at the Oja-Oba market who gave her name as “mummy boys” told The Hope that the complex comprises seven shops with toilet facility which she is not used to.
As gathered, she deals in assorted drinks; canned, bottled, sachet and plastic.
She explained that she doesn’t use the toilet in order to give adequate attention to her goods so that they would not be stolen by her sales boys.
She also stated another reason for not using the facility was because of hygiene.
“I don’t use it because it is a public toilet and as a woman, I don’t want to be infected and if care is not taken, I may contact infection. I use a small potty which I dispose off into the drainage that is for urine anyway but if I have to pass excreta, I manage the toilet.
“Secondly, I have a big shop and as such, my sales boys need to be monitored so that they don’t steal either my goods or money, hence, I prefer to always be closer to them so that they don’t send me to an early grave,” she explained.
A fish seller, Fasilat Mutiu said that she was always quick at visiting her friend’s toilet or public toilet to ease herself as she could not do it in the open.
Another trader in another provision shop at the back of the popular Agagu market, Mrs Lolade Awolere, noted that there are lots of toilets in the market which have been neglected by most traders due to personal reasons.
She described those involved in the dirty habit as pigs who cannot but reveal their identity irrespective of the environment they find themselves.
Her words; “I see a lot of people easing themselves inside their shops. In fact, it has become a norm especially inside Agagu market. There is a particular trader I know there that cannot do without it. In fact, she replaces her potty often.
” In the evening, they file out to dispose the waste; excreta and urine inside the drainage along the main Oba Adesida road and that is why nobody can withstand the stench from it(drainage). There was a day I was returning home and I passed through Agagu market and I saw a mother sending her son to dispose the day’s pile up urine into the drainage. Haven heard their conversation, I quickly wanted to pave way for the boy but he outsmarted me as he hit my bag with the big bowl which housed the urine. I almost gave him a slap but I refrained. I threw the bag away after that day to avoid infection.
“I don’t use my shop but public toilet with water which I use to clean myself up in order not to be infected.
“How can you urinate in the shop that brings you money; a shop where you earn a living? They are shameless. Women are the culprits here, a woman is expected to have an atom of shame but these people are nothing but pigs. They switch off the light especially those inside the Agagu market and pass it out.”
She called on government to take drastic action in punishing the offenders as they are violating environmental laws.
Another trader popularly called Pastor explained that there is no proper hygiene in some of the toilets in the market, calling for a change in that regards.
He said; “When you enter some toilets, you will be destabilised throughout the day as they could best be described as an eyesores.
Government should put in place mobile toilets, in conducive environment in the markets for the use of all.”
Mrs Akintade, a trader along bookshop area in Akure told The Hope that the habit isn’t peculiar to those in the vicinity, stating that most of the toilets are taken care of by men.
Her words; “It is rare to find anyone defecate anyhow in this area as our toilets facilities are second to none. You enter a toilet and feel relaxed. They are neat and well maintained.
Vice President, Provision line traders, Mrs Amuda Oloko stated that there are enough toilet facilities in the market, noting that it is not ideal for anyone to replace the toilet with his/her shop.
“Complexes have toilets and there are also private ones where we pay N20 to urinate and N50 to defecate. Those who use their shops are dirty as it is not out of place for them to visit the toilet to ease themselves,” she said.
A resident, Mrs Kemisola Adefehinti noted that the idea of visiting the markets especially during the rains doesn’t go down well with her due to the level of dirt visible in the flood within the market.
“Most times, I normally have this weird feelings about the market. I will not forget the day it rained and I was shopping, I could see the way the traders poured all manner of waste in the drains. Then, the drainage was blocked as the water didn’t move fast and as such, most of them diverted to the road. I waited till there was no water before I could leave the market. They should be educated on the dangers of their act.”
A fashion designer, Mrs Tayese Joy said that it has become a practice to most traders, stating that she has encountered it twice.
“On about two or more occasions, I have witnessed it. There was a time I needed to purchase something from a woman which should be in her late 50s and she just told me that she needed to ease herself and before I knew it, she brought out a small paint bucket which she sat on. I was dumbfounded and later left her shop for another one.
“Also, there was a time too I was in the market and rain was drizzling and the trader actually bent down beside the drainage with a wrapper to cover herself to ease herself. This is not ideal in a sane society,” she said.
Reacting, General Manager, Ondo State Waste Management Authority, Mr Fola Omowole explained that factors including availability and accessibility among others are responsible for the act.
Omowole who berated the act called for need for enlightenment.
His words; “There are factors responsible; availability that is are toilets available and if yes, how many?
“Another factor is accessibility; are they accessible in terms of barrier? There can be a barrier in the market in terms of payment. There may be physical, socio-cultural or financial barrier.
“There is also acceptability issue: Are the toilets acceptable by traders? If they are dirty, they won’t use it. Is it well located? Their location is critical as it determine their acceptability. If it is poorly located, it won’t be acceptable. If the charge is not affordable, it won’t be used, hence, creating barrier in its usage.
“There is need for hygiene education among traders as regards their inability to make use of toilet facilities in the market. It boils down to the level of exposure of traders to embrace such act.”
While speaking further, he explained that the Authority has a responsibility on sanitation, noting that personnel at the Local Government, the Environmental Health Officers are expected to know the sanitation situation of any building, group in the society saying ”it is their responsibility to address such matter.”
“Ondo State Waste Management Authority is a coordinating Agency which has been put in place to set standard and monitor it to ensure appropriate compliance.”
Omowole while calling on Environmental Health Officers to be alive to their duties stressed the need for the formation of market sanitation committee which according to him will encourage self regulation.
His words; “market sanitation committee should see it as antisocial regulation, set rules and enforce it to ensure discipline among traders and offenders should be punished and exposed so as to serve as deterrent to others.”
Good personal hygiene is one of the best ways to protect yourself from infectious diseases especially flu. Maintaining good personal hygiene will also help prevent you from spreading diseases to other people.
Practicing good hygiene benefits your overall physical and mental health and is more than just being clean.
It is important to know that bacteria breeds in unclean environments leading to food contamination and that is why it is shocking to know that some traders are in the habit of easing themselves right inside the shop where goods are being displayed for innocent citizen’s patronage. This is the situation in Akure markets as it has become a norm which has come to stay.
Findings revealed that infectious diseases associated with water or food were responsible for over 400 million illnesses and 300,000 deaths in 2010 (WHO 2015). Diarrheal and infectious disease agents are among the leading causes of food borne illnesses, with the highest disease burden reported in the African region (WHO 2015).
Findings revealed that markets have been shown to be important in cholera epidemic. Outbreaks of respiratory disease have also been linked to markets. Poor personal hygiene of food handlers and the lack of environmental hygiene in food markets are commonly reported causes of disease outbreaks.