Friday, January 18, 2008

Lagos roads: Night operators of a useful kind


Lagos roads: Night operators of a useful kind
By Akinpelu Dada
Published: Friday, 18 Jan 2008

Mathew Popoola typifies the resolve of some Nigerians survive on little resources, no matter the odds.



LAWMA ON DUTY

When many are sleeping soundly in their homes, Popoola and his colleagues are in the cold, dark night battling the elements and the risk of being knocked down by careless and drunken drivers to clean up the Lagos metropolis, which has the reputation of being among the dirtiest in the world.

They are equally at the mercy of street urchins popularly called ‘area boys’ and armed robbers, who sometimes mistake them for security agents. Yet, they are undaunted by the many risks.

An Ordinary National Diploma certificate holder, Popoola carries out his job with a bright face. Every evening at around 8.00pm, he and his other colleagues gather at a designated point to be briefed by their manager on how the night’s operation would be conducted.

Usually, about four men are attached to a truck and their routine involves going through all the streets in a designated neighbourhood to evacuate wastes dropped by the residents. After completing the evacuation, they will then transport the load to the landfill site. All these take place before the early risers hit the roads.

Popoola seems unfazed by people’s perception of his job, noting that his monthly salary of about N20,000 is just enough to meet his immediate needs, though he could do with better remuneration.

He said, “I opted for this job because there are no other things to do. The economic situation in the country has made it difficult for one to get better jobs.

“I am okay with the salary because it is better than staying at home and not getting anything. I was working in a bakery for my OND. When I came back, the owner of the bakery couldn’t employ me again. So, I was jobless for a while until I got this offer from the Lagos State Waste Management Authority.”

One of the major challenges being faced by the workers, according to him, is the condition of the roads leading into the dumpsites, especially during the rainy season.

While others stayed indoors and enjoyed the sumptuous meals associated with the Eid-el-Kabir and Christmas celebrations, he was busy with his colleagues busy during the period doing what they knew best.

Throughout the festive period, regular and ad-hoc staff of the LAWMA were busy carting away heaps of refuse from households and road medians for onward transportation to waste dumps and landfill sites.

While it is not unusual to see street sweepers, Private Sector Participants in waste management and LAWMA operatives carting away refuse during the day time, many residents had wondered what some refuse workers were doing at night.

The Manager in charge of Surulere Zone of LAWMA, Mr. Essien Nsuabia, said that his job was to supervise, coordinate and manage resources at his disposal to ensure the cleanliness of the local government and its appealing aesthetics.

Night operations, according to him, effectively begin at around 10.00pm when the workers are sent out. But before then, the workers are first assembled and properly briefed before being allocated to trucks, whose routes have been pre-determined.

On why the agency carries out waste evacuation at night, Nsuabia says, “The rate and volume of refuse generation is so high that you can’t effectively handle the evacuation during daytime alone.

“At night, however, there is less traffic and most of the markets that generate high volume of wastes would have closed for the day. We attach five or six people and a supervisor to a truck to comb their allotted streets and evacuate all garbage, and we use Dino bins that two people can easily operate.”

The Managing Director, LAWMA, Mr. Ola Oresanya, said that some unsavoury incidents had happened to his men on night operations, noting that some serious accidents had been reported with drunken drivers running into the workers.

He said that a gang of armed robbers once attacked a LAWMA team in Ojota area in the night, seized their truck and took their uniforms with which they disguised to escape being stopped at a police checkpoint.

Oresanya, however, that the agency had put in place measures to minimise and mitigate the risks that the workers on night operations were exposed to. Those include the provision of reflective jackets and security cover by operatives of the Rapid Response Squad.

Other incentives, according to him, include payment of relatively wages and provision of insurance covers as well as free medical treatment and health insurance for the workers.

Oresanya said that each sweeper takes home between N10,000 and N15,000 monthly, while modest drivers and their supervisors take home between N25,000 and N40,000 every month including risk allowance of N2,000 monthly. They are also entitled to free breakfast and a monthly supply of beverages.

The agency recruited about 420 unemployed youths for the exercise with the number expected to reach about 1,000 soon.

1 comment:

Fausset said...

i think it is unfair that they pay these workers minimal pays...but at the same time he can network while on job , save some money and get a better job, or even start his own construction company. i mean some of the richest men in the world where cab drivers...nevertheless i think the government should pay more.

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