By Adepoju Kowiyat ― It was a sunny afternoon in April when a middle-aged man who simply identified himself as Tony, a farmer in Agbadu Community went to fetch water from the stream to drink when he noticed how waste is being flushed up into the stream as he fetches the water. The stream being the only source of water available for residents in the community, he had no choice but to fetch and drink.
Moments after a few gulping the water, Mr. Tony began to experience stomach disorder coupled with a reaction of throwing up which later developed into constant stooling.
“I noticed that whenever I take the water, I feel like vomiting and it also gives me stomach upset making me go to the toilet. It has affected me before that I had to stop drinking the water. I had to trek a long distance to fetch clean water but when the stress was too much, I had to stop and go back to the stream water since I cannot afford to buy sachet water every day. But I boil it before drinking.
“It was with the help of local herbs that I took that I was able to return to normal and return to my work after I had visited the restroom for times without number,” he said.
Indiscriminate waste disposal has been a major challenge in society as it poses a lot of dangers to people, and not only does it cause health hazards but as well causes death when not properly managed.
Agbada is a densely populated remote community situated in Obafemi Owode Local government, a community sharing boundary of about 1 km with Moshood Abiola Polytechnic.
Despite sharing a boundary with the school, Agbadu lacks basic amenities such as pipe-borne water, electricity, hospitals, schools, and good toilet facilities. More so, a proper waste disposal system poses a bigger challenge to them.
Many residents lamented that indiscriminate waste products are affecting the only source of water in the community and lack of toilet facilities in the community also makes them resort to open defecation, a situation that is polluting their only source of water.
Our reporter understands that the inhabitants keep their wastes in their houses for days before moving them to a central dumpsite within the community where it’s being buried and sometimes burnt.
Consequently, during heavy rainfall, the rainwater flushes the waste from the dumpsite to the stream, polluting the water and making it unsafe for consumption.
The Baale of the community, Micheal Bamgbose spoke about how the stream is linked to Odo Ogun in Lafenwa and how waste is carried to the stream during rainy seasons.
“The stream is very deep as it is linked to Odo Ogun in Lafenwa where sometimes water carries waste from there down to our stream but since we do not have any means of getting water, we have no choice but to drink it,” he said.
The Baale added that “we do not have any toilets, we use erekiti ninu igbo (shot put) whenever nature calls.”
The chairman of the community, Abbey Abiodun also explained that he had to relocate to another town when he got married as his wife could not cope in a community without toilet facilities.
“There’s no way, during rainy seasons, wastes from the shot put scene are sometimes not flushed to the stream as there are no toilets in the village but it is only during summer that you notice that the water is a bit cleaner.
“Visitors do not drink the water whenever they come visiting as they have complained that whenever their children drink the water, they start to stool and even some adults too. I stayed there before I got married, not until my wife started complaining then I relocated,” he noted.
Speaking with one of the residents of the community, Fidelis Odu, from Benue State told the reporter that he has been living in Agbadu for three years now, and he has no choice but to drink from the stream as the community has no other sources of water supply.
“That is the water we have been drinking with my family since we moved to the village,” he said. “Despite the colour and look of the water, we still manage it like that. We are pleading with the government to help us with a good water supply.”
Mr. Fidelis also spoke about how the water reacts in their bodies, sometimes causing some sort of dark spot in their body. He equally mentioned how some farmers who are not residents of the community also stopped drinking the water as it causes some kind of reaction in their bodies.
“The way God has created us is different, the way our body reacts to things differs also while some residents have complained that the water reacts in their bodies, some don’t,” he said.
On the other hand, Alice Shogbeyinde, a farmer, said the water has not affected her and her children because they add alum to it before drinking, adding that they have no other alternative but to drink from the stream.
Asked if there was any attempt made by them to get pipe-borne water, Bamgbose, the baale said, the school in which the community was located gave them water but the facility was spoiled and later removed due to a land disagreement between the community and Moshood Abiola Polytechnic.
The spokesperson of the polytechnic, Yemi Ajibola, however, said the pipe-borne water was not done for the community but for a woman who sells food to the school to ease her stress of fetching water. He added that the community only took advantage of the opportunity to fetch from the pipe.
Speaking with an environmental expert, Abideen Olasupo told our reporter that a lot of elements contribute to water pollution.
“Research has shown that water pollution is one of the worst causes of waterborne disease in Nigeria, especially in the grassroots community. The element of water pollution – improper disposal of sewage, industrial waste – and you know improper disposal of sewage is one of the major things that caused it, and industrial waste from different corporate organisations as well. Then, not only that as well, but lack of cleanliness in the environment also contributes to water pollution.
“If you look at it, one of the health implications is that it causes diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and you know, issues around polio,” he said.
He equally talked about the local means to purify the water – by buying alum or planting.
“I think there’s a plant which they can use to purify water. Governments and individuals possibly need to do well, even the creation of a borehole will not solve the problem. The government needs to look inward and create a sustainable way of solving the problem of water. It is the responsibility of the government to ameliorate the suffering of individuals or corporate organisations.
“There is a need for us to support people because clean water is part of sustainable development goals and if you don’t want to be at this stage by 2030 lamenting about issues of water – poor water or talking about water pollution or waterborne disease – there is a need for us to all to rally around, collaborate, and team up together to solve this problem,” he added.
When contacted, Ogun State Commissioner for Rural Development, Oludotun Taiwo told our reporter “the state government will act swiftly because we will not want the outbreak of any epidemic in the state.”
On his part, the Special Adviser to the State Governor on Environment, Ola Oresanya, said there has been publicity on radio, television, and newspapers sensitising and warning people from dumping refuse in drainage or on the road instead of employing the service of PSP.
“We make noise on television, radio and newspapers that people should not dump refuse inside drainage but give their refuse to PSP. We have people who are collecting refuse house to house and it must be paid for,” he noted.
He also emphasised the need of the people to stop burning and burying their waste as it destroys and affects the water.
“When you bury waste, the waste will decay and destroy the same water you want to take,” the noted. “When we tell our people, don’t do this, don’t do that, it’s like the government is hard on them. Government is there to protect everybody, to make sure that you don’t do things that will destroy your well-being.”
Mr. Oresanya promised to deploy his officers to the community to do a comprehensive inspection of the whole community, to take the problem holistically to prevent any form of pollution.
“Our job in government is to protect lives and properties and we educate them as they may be doing it out of ignorance. So we have to help them, our job is to assist them. They voted the government in power to help them and we will help them to give a little holistic solution to the entire environmental problem in the area,” he promised.