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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 11:36 GMT
Lagos confronts its waste problem
The community gather in the Ajegunle ghetto, BBC
Prince Baba Enowo Junior (right) speaks on behalf of the Ajegunle community
A Nigerian environmental organisation is driving a campaign to clean up the Ajegunle ghetto, a densely populated slum district in Lagos, and described by the government itself as a "plighted area".


When it comes to reaching out to the local community [LSepa] are doing nothing

Prince Baba Enowo Junior
Prince Baba Enowo Junior, who heads Clean-Up Nigeria (CUN), outlined the problems affecting the water supply in the area to the BBC World Service's Discovery programme. He also called for more help from the authorities.

"In the Lagos lagoon area, vehicles that collect sewage actually empty their contents into the lagoon," he said. "At the end of the day, what we get is sewage that has human excrement that has been left for one, maybe two years."

Poor sanitation has long been a problem in Ajegunle. More than two million people live in shanties. A lack of bathroom facilities forces them to defecate in the canal.

The water from the canal then flows back to the well where people draw water for drinking and bathing. Such dire conditions increase the risk of diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

New plant

In November 2001, it was reported that polluted water supplies led to an outbreak of cholera in Kano, Nigeria's most populous state, causing more than 600 deaths.

An open sewer, BBC
More than 600 people died from cholera in Kano
The Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LSepa) is the government department responsible for this region. It is currently seeking federal funding to help clean up industrial pollution locally.

Its general manager told of the problems facing the district and of the government's plans to tackle the water problem.

"Unfortunately we do not have a sewage treatment plant that is taking responsibility for this human waste", he explains. "Even though people know it is an offence, they will go to the obscure areas of the lagoon and dump human waste.

"Lagos Government is planning to build a central sewage treatment plant in this state. Hopefully, in 2002, the programme of constructing the plant will begin."

Action plan

LSEPA reinforces its intention to stabilise the sanitation levels in the region by adding that it is monitoring the types of companies likely to dump waste into the lagoon.

With around 60%-70% of industries in Nigeria residing in Lagos, the agency has its work cut out. "A lot of these industries are yet to put in place onsite effluent treatment plants - a prerequisite that we ask of these industries," LSepa's general manager explains.

"We have asked for an action plan to let us know when they will be able to set the ball rolling and quite a number of them have shown willing."

However, in Prince Baba Enowo Junior's opinion, this action simply is not enough. His message to the government is clear.

"You are supposed to provide toilets and gutters. You are supposed to dispose of refuse and apparently you are doing nothing."

He added: "When it comes to LSepa tackling industrial pollution, they are doing very well, but when it comes to reaching out to the local community, they are doing nothing."

Map, BBC
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BBC World Service - Discovery
"Poor sanitation has long been a problem in Ajegunle"
See also:

28 Nov 01 | Africa
Nigeria admits to cholera crisis
18 Oct 00 | Africa
Clampdown on Nigerian militants
07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nigeria
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