By Babatunde Ayedoju
Located in the coastal belt of Nigeria, Ondo State is one of the states in Nigeria blessed with a substantial amount of rainfall yearly. Every year, two categories of people in Ondo, like several other coastal states in Nigeria, look forward expectanctly to the coming of rains. The first category is made up of farmers who need the rains to cultivate their crops and rear them to maturity, while the second category compromises people who live in waterlogged areas either as landlords or as tenants.
It is no longer news that the coming of rain brings a lot of nightmares to the people of Ondo State almost every year. More than a few residents of the sunshine state have lost properties to flood and some have had to relocate, and there are occasions when lives have been lost. Experience shows that majority, if not all victims of flood, live in waterlogged areas and some of them were actually aware of the attendant risks before deciding to pitch their tents in such places.
Another factor that has been fingered among the causes of flood is improper and indiscriminate waste disposal. It is common to see people throw refuse inside the drainage canal whenever rain is falling, believing that the rain will push the refuse away. Unfortunately, most of the time, the refuse only blocks the canal, thereby hindering the free flow of water. The result in most cases is flood. Aside regularly warning the residents of Ondo and some other concerned states about imminent flood, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has also in the past sought to enlighten the public about flood and how to prevent it.
For example, during a recent sensitisation exercise, the NEMA Head of Operation for Ondo, Osun and Ekiti States, Mr Kadiri Olarewaju, addressed some market women in Akure on the danger inherent in dumping refuse indiscriminately. While speaking in Oja Oba and Isolo in Akure, Olarewaju noted that if drains were blocked, water would always find another route, leading to flood.
He said that building houses and dumping refuse along waterways could cause flood, warning that Ondo was one of the flood-prone states. Precisely, according to NEMA, flood-prone areas in the sunshine state include Akure, Idanre, Ifon, Iju, Ita-Ogbolu, Ogbese, Owo and Owena. So far this year, Akure, Ileoluji-Oke Igbo, Ala, Ore, Igbobini and Ilu Agbo (the last two in Ese-Odo Local Government Area) have experienced devastating flood. A classic case took place June this year in Bethel Estate, Graceland Estate and three other adjoining communities located at Eyin-Ala, Oba-Ile, where two fishermen reportedly lost their lives in a flood Reports collated by The Hope showed that property worth millions of naira were lost to the flood caused by an 18-hour non stop torrential rainfall.
The reports also indicated that many landlords and tenants were sacked from their homes as the ravaging flood took over without any warning. The flood which took many by surprise followed a heavy rainfall which lasted for two days and affected many houses in the neighbourhood early in August, NEMA issued another warning to residents of Ondo State, among other states, that more floods should be expected in the days to come. Unfortunately, residents of Ondo State, especially Akure, have been found to continue engaging in indiscriminate dumping of refuse along waterways and drainage canals even during rainfall, despite knowing that such a practice leads to flood.
According to Paul Isah, an agriculturist, the major reason people have continued to dump refuse indiscriminately is that the government has not provided adequate means of refuse disposal. He noted that government only made a law against indiscriminate waste disposal but not all citizens could afford the cost of refuse disposal. He, therefore, recommended that, beyond providing disposal trucks, government should make the cost of collecting refuse from citizens more affordable. While admonishing the government to create continuous awareness on the consequences of indiscriminate refuse disposal, he added that government could encourage more refuse disposing companies to take over that sphere, but regulate their activities to avoid exploitation of citizens. In the words of Odun Ofere, a teacher, “We live everyday producing all sorts of wastes.
This is paramount to existence. Now, when people have gathered a lot of wastes without anywhere to dispose of them, especially when the waste management team is nowhere to be found, they have no choice but to drop them wherever they see. “Some even go as far as dropping them in gutters when it rains; some on the express road, all because their environments don’t give room for dropping wastes,” he added. Talking about the way out, Ofere said that people could build incinerators where they would burn their wastes in their houses. He equally said that the waste management team should be up and doing by making sure they move from house to house to help empty the garbage bins, also saying that “One sure way to encourage the team to do this effectively is for the government to constantly pay them their dues as and when due.” Funmi Akintade, a voiceover artist, opined that both government and the people have contributed to the problem. She said, “On the side of the people, whether there are laws, enabling environment, and strategies or not, people will still decide whether they want to do what is right or not. There are people who don’t see that their actions affect others and even the society.
Therefore, they sometimes simply do whatever suits them, and it could be because they have equally seen other people and even leaders do wrong things with impunity. “On the part of the government, they have made rules and carried out sensitisation, but what effective alternative have they provided? There was a time government had refuse collectors but all of a sudden they stopped,” she added. While noting that not everybody is civil, she said that government could do more to control this menace by deliberately enforcing laws that have been made. “Government should also create easily assessible alternatives that will not cost the public too much. That will make it easy for those who still have conscience to do what is right,” she said. According to Adebola Akinlabi, a banker, “People dump refuse indiscriminately due to ignorance about personal hygiene. Also, our environmental health workers are only going out to neighbourhoods once in a week, which is wrong.
When they go out on a daily basis to educate people practically about personal hygiene and living in a neat environment, people will change gradually.” Akinlabi who suggested that government should partner with community leaders and landlords to sensitise their fellow residents on proper waste disposal said, “Another point is that the trucks that collect refuse should be many, to enable them cover many places on a daily basis, and their charges should be pocket friendly so that everyone can be able to pay.” Olajumoke Ogundaisi, a nurse, blamed the continuous trend of dumping refuse in canals on ignorance of its consequences, especially in rural areas, alongside insufficient storage facilities and ineffective waste management.
She equally faulted the nonchallant attitude of members of the public towards waste disposal and environment cleaning, and lack of funds to pay for waste management monthly. Talking about the solution, she said, “Members of the public in both rural and urban areas should be educated on the negative impact of improper disposal of waste. Government should provide waste bins in strategic places and more vehicles for waste collection from houses.” Prosper Olumo, a student, suggested that government should provide a big waste bin for each household and make the collection of the refuse free initially. He said that after people have gotten used to proper waste disposal, government can now introduce a fee and reward households that cooperate.