•Inside Oshodi, Ikeja, Ebute Metta toilets
The dream of turning Lagos into a megacity appears to be fast becoming a reality with significant improvements being carried out on many of the state’s existing public infrastructure and the construction of new ones. However, the current deplorable state of many of Lagos’ public toilets tells a different story, and somehow appears as the albatross of a dream. Saturday Tribune team, comprising TOLA ADENUBI, CHUKWUMA OKPARAOCHA, NEWTON-RAY UKWUOMA and ELLIOT OVADJE, writes.
Many things are currently giving way for the realisation of the megacity status of Lagos State which its government so much cherishes. Thus, shops and trading zones are currently giving way for mega bus termini as recently done at Iyana Oworo area, while houses and markets are known to have been demolished for the construction and expansion of infrastructural amenities and mega shopping complexes, among others.
However, the current state of public toilets in Lagos State, particularly the mobile ones, in recent years seems to tell a different story entirely, and as suggested in some quarters, the situation paints the picture of a city that is still light years away from attaining a true megacity status.
Some of the public toilets scattered across the state come in different sizes and shapes, but they have all been suggestively classified as the “homes of toilet infections.” Thus, from Oyingbo to Oshodi, and from Agege to Ikeja Along, these public toilets are believed to have caused many unsuspecting victims varying degrees of discomfort and medical ailments.
When Saturday Tribune visited the popular Ebute-Metta area to ascertain the condition of many of the toilets there, it was discovered that while some toilet operators still use pit toilets for their “customers,” those using the water closet type appear to care less about disinfecting their toilets daily, which, as later gathered, fetch them reasonable amount of money daily.
A visit to Arewa, a popular community in Iddo area and close to the ever busy Oyingbo, revealed a community that is littered with numerous public toilets that are in a very sorry state. Based on physical observations, the public toilets in Arewa, which is a community largely dominated by people of Hausa/Fulani extraction, reek of years of poor management and decay as evident in the abundance of maggots that could be seen wriggling their slimmy bodies in and out of various chambers of the toilets there.
When one of Saturday Tribune’s reporters pretended to want to use one of the maggot-infested facilities, all the reporter was given to clean himself with and also clean up every trace of his mess was a small bowl, no bigger than a primary school pupil’s lunch plate, with some water in it.
On getting inside the toilet and shutting the door, our reporter discovered that the toilet was a pit toilet, with maggot streaming from one end to the other. Naturally, their point of emergence was the toilet’s hole, which was merely a few inches away from its tank that was almost full of human waste. After the reporter’s phantom defecation, he was asked to pay N50 for the facilities used.
One noticeable observation revealed that after stepping out of the toilet, the operator, who is a middle-aged man merely carried a small paint bucket of water to wash the pit hole and its surroundings before another customer would step inside.
The man had no disinfectant, or any other kind of sanitary tools with him while washing the toilet, and it was later gathered that this was his job after each toilet use, where all he does is to take the small bucket, dip it into a big tank of water and walk into the toilet to clean it.
OSHODI & IKEJA TOILETS
At the popular Oshodi and Ikeja Along bus stops, both sited several metres apart on the Agege Motor Road, many mobile public toilets made of plastic materials and mostly of red and green colours, can be readily seen ‘adorning’ the ever-busy bus stops. The toilets, as observed by a Saturday Tribune reporter, might look passable and even somewhat beautiful from a distance, but drawing close or even venturing into any of them would reveal the true state of the facilities, as evident in the very bad and sickening stench they generate.
It might appear strange why people still make use of these facilities despite their state, but further findings revealed that many of the users of these toilets do so as a result of lack of other options, especially if they are seriously pressed to answer the call of nature while going about their daily activities. Although there were no maggots found streaming down any of the holes inside the toilets at the two bus stops, the stench that pervaded the toilets’ surroundings leave much to be desired and if left unchecked, could pose serious health hazards to their users and other residents as well.
A commuter seen around the facilities was accosted by Saturday Tribune reporter who asked how he felt about the state of the public convenience. He promptly pointed to the fact that since the elite and the rich would never use such toilets, nobody, not even the government, cared about their state or condition.
“The rich don’t come here to use these toilets, so there is no way the government will know what the common man, who hustles to make ends meet, is passing through on the streets of Lagos,” he stated.
REGULATION (IF ANY)
There is currently no known way with which the Lagos State government regulates or even monitors public toilets in the state.
According to findings made by Saturday Tribune, the only activity which has a semblance of regulation of public toilets by the government is merely ensuring proper disposal of the contents of all mobile toilets in the state. This is usually done at Kara area on the outskirts of Lagos State, just overlooking the Michael Otedola Estates, in Ogun State.
Similarly, there is no known regulation of permanent public toilets in the state, as the management, cleaning and provision of water at public toilets in the state are largely left in the hands of the managements of markets (where such toilets are sited) as well as local governments. Sadly, in most cases, touts and ‘Area Boys’ are known to have largely taken over the running of such toilets while the bulk of the money made is often left unaccounted for.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of the Environment, Mr Tunde Awobiyi, declined to comment on the matter, while subsequent calls put across to the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mr Saliu Adeyemi, were not answered. Also, a text message sent to his mobile line had not been replied to at the time of filing this report.
However, perhaps as a way of correcting the anomaly in the public toilet system in the state, as currently obtainable, the Lagos State, recently said it had set the ball in motion to provide new and modern toilet facilities for members of the public.
The Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Babatunde Adejare, recently revealed that the state government had concluded work on a master plan for the provision of public toilets in different parts of Lagos.
According to him, the new sets of toilets would not only be built with modern facilities which will be in line with the state’s megacity dreams, they will be well monitored, maintained and managed in a way that will ensure they remain safe health-wise for residents.
This view has since been corroborated by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, who also recently revealed that public toilet facilities in the state would soon be replaced with computerised models.
Ayorinde pointed out that the state government had concluded plans to partner private sector to deliver world-class public toilets.
A public health care expert, who begged to speak under anonymity, told Saturday Tribune that diseases such as candidacies, cholera, typhoid, malaria, gardnerella vaginalis, diarrhoea, streptococcus can be contracted by a lone visit to most public toilets in Lagos.
She said that poor facilities and uncleanliness were responsible for the debilitating health hazards of using most Lagos public toilets.
According to her, “If the toilets are properly washed with disinfectants; if they are well fitted with running water for people to wash their hands, and if the surroundings are kept clean, the chances of contracting diseases would be very negligible. But the truth is that these toilets don’t have these facilities. And because of this, all sorts of infections can be got in one visit.”
Speaking about the two common processes through which public toilet users can be infected, she said that “Every public toilet user can be exposed, either through the reproductive organ or hand to mouth. While sitting or squatting on the infested toilet, the reproductive organ can pick up such diseases as norovirus, candidiasis, staphylococcus, streptococcus and gardnerella vaginalis, among others. This viruses and bacteria are found on the seats and from the openings along the toilet chambers.
“Besides the reproductive organ getting infected either by sitting or squatting on the toilet, toilet infections can be spread from hand to mouth through the doorknobs. One can also contract water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, and typhoid, among others,” she explained.
Also according to her, if toilet users fail to wash their hands after using such toilet facilities, a faeces-contaminated hand can spread the diseases on the doorknob and any other thing they touch. “A lot of people don’t realise the importance of washing their hands before and after using the toilet. After using the toilet, especially during parties, a toilet user goes on to touch food items or shake hands with other people, and in the process he or she spreads the disease to anyone touched,” she further remarked.
The public health expert also disclosed that while hand-to-mouth infections are limited to men after a toilet use, women are more vulnerable to vaginal toilet infections.
Also reiterating the dangers of using deplorable public toilets, Dr Richard Michael, Head Physician of Brian Medical Consult, Ikeja, calls on government to remodel public toilets.
“Even if a washbasin is present in a toilet, but if there is no running water in the same toilet, the chances of disease infection is much higher. Storing water in buckets or other containers for toilet use is not healthy because such stored water is stagnant. If someone takes water from a container kept in a toilet, there is a possibility of that person leaving samples of diseases on bowls and other containers he touches, and thus spreading it from one person to another. Therefore, it is good for toilets to have running water from a tap so as to reduce to the minimal disease transition from toilet use,” he said.
“If appropriate facilities are provided, public toilets should not be discontinued. They serve a lot of good purposes. Public toilets have helped to curb many contaminations that could occur, especially when people are pressed beyond patience, such as during traffic logjams and other dire situations. Authorities must do the right things by providing important amenities. Without these facilities, the purpose of public toilets will be defeated,” Dr. Michael explains.