..Ajegunle’s suburb where 5,500 people use one toilet
“I have been living in this community for over 30 years. The situation has remained the same.” These were the words of one of the oldest residents of Dustbin Estate, sometimes called Ghetto city.
With faeces and wastes littering everywhere, nothing describes this estate better than its name.
The Point, however, found out during a trip to the estate that residents, who seemingly pass through worse conditions than animals, no longer have noses for smell. They go about their daily activities unrestricted, regardless of the filth and offensive odour.
One Toilet, 550,000 People
In the whole of the Dustbin Estate, there is only one public toilet for a population of about 550,000 people. A first-timer here, therefore, almost collapses with the stinking air around the ghetto city.
Residents told The Point that the Federal and state governments have totally abandoned them to suffer the consequences of an environment as bad as theirs.
There would have been no single toilet in the community but for the United Nations Children’s Fund, which built the existing one as part of its corporate social responsibility to the community, they said.
Houses Without Toilet
Experts have faulted the relevant authorities for allowing people to live in such conditions. Though most of the houses in the estate are built with planks, a sociologist, Prof. Adewale Oloyi, said every house, no matter how small, should have a toilet.
“Everyone should not wait for Government to provide even the air they breathe. However, the Government is guilty of leaving the community the way it is without proper regulation and intervention,” he noted.
It was, however, observed that the entire Dustbin Estate is a marshy area, making it impossible for residents to build their own toilets. Besides, there are no conduits for effluents to flow away, thus converging to pose both dangers of sundry accidents and health hazards.
The wetland can also barely take any heavy building, making residents to live in wooden apartments called Pako Houses. Only three houses were seen to have been built with blocks in sections with tolerable soil texture.
A widow, who simply gave her name as Ramatu, said, “I have been living here all my life but just relocated to this border line, near the canal. Life has been hellish for me after the demise of my husband and I have to survive with eight children inside this squalor.”
She said, for instance, that she rented a Pako house for N2,500 per month, where she and her children manage.
“We defecate and put the waste in cellophane bags and then throw them into the canal. But as you can see, the canal is already blocked and just stagnant. There is even no water to wash off the faeces. And for the odour here, it is just God that is saving us,” she lamented.
Food vs Filth
Ramatu sells fried fish and garri, a local foodstuff, but she says the environment is not hygienic enough for her to continue such business.
The Point’s findings also show that some of the kitchens in the community were situated right in front of the makeshift zinc bathrooms where they still have to pay N20 before they can access them. These zinc bathrooms have padlocks on them, meaning that when the respective owners are not around, the others would have to wait.
“The water system toilet built by UNICEF is about 1000 meters away from my house; how do I walk down to that place and return? Before I get there, I would have messed up myself on the road. So it is still better to do it ‘the normal’ way (cellophane bags),” Ramatu said.
Community Leader Not Left Out
The Chairman of the community, Mr. Rafiu Olaiya, whose house is one of the three houses built with blocks, said, “This is my personal house, I built it through my personal effort and yet I still don’t have toilets here so it is still the normal way.”
According to him, if anyone is looking for convenience in the restroom, that person would have to walk as far as 1kilometer from his abode to use the only water closet built in the community.
From Grass To Grace
There have been many efforts by the authorities in the past to wipe the estate out with bulldozers but it has endured.
Despite the pitiable situation of residents of this dustbin community, it is famed for the array of footballers, musicians and other artistes that started out from there. Ex-Super Eagles player and one of the national coaches, Samson Siasia, could trace his background to Ajegunle, of which Dustbin is part. Also, other top footballers like Taribo West, and Emmanuel Amuneke also started out from the Dustbin fringes.
Popular musicians such as Daddy Showkey, Baba Fryo and African China are also popularly known as Ájegunle boys.’
Cry For Help
“We are tired of hearing that government is coming to do something. They have never kept the promise. At the end of the day, they will gather the information, take pictures and leave never to return again,” another resident, Mr Shamsudeen Abdul, said.
According to him, whenever the government is about to do certain things for the community, “a few persons always block it from reaching the grassroots.”
He said, “Oftentimes, we hear of the amount sent to each local government and yet nothing is done to alleviate the suffering of the people of the Dustbin Estate.
“Not minding the fact that the pako houses built in the estate are on faeces and rubbish, we are very happy and content because we are living in a world of our own,” he said.
We Can’t Be Everywhere
Reacting, the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation said it had been carrying out sensitisation programmes that catered for the welfare of children as well as women who were handicapped in Lagos State. “The government cannot be everywhere, but we still try our best to see that we meet the welfare of such vulnerable and handicapped persons in the state, whenever we have the information,” one of the directors in the ministry, Mrs. Alaba Fadairo, who spoke with The Point, said.