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Lagos public toilets: Paying to get infected?

Public Toilet2  

Many public toilets in Lagos are unhygienic, as many of them are decrepit and neglected, reports SAMUEL AWOYINFA

Have you been pressed and you had to make use of a public toilet in CMS bus stop or Agege area of Lagos? If your answer is yes, then you must have noticed the unhygienic condition you had to contend with.

Our correspondent visited not less than 10 of such toilets on Tuesday and the experience was not too palatable. The toilets on both the island and mainland Lagos could be divided into two categories: There are some that can be described as ‘latrines,’ while there are some that are modern, but have become dysfunctional.

The two latrines visited at CMS bus stop, Marina, Lagos, painted pictures of vagaries of old age and neglect.

The one located in the area very close to where Lekki-Ajah buses pick their passengers is being operated by an elderly woman who sits on a platform at the entrance into the compound, and superintends what goes on there.

As soon as our correspondent stepped into the premises, she asked in Yoruba: Ki ni e fe se? meaning, “What do you want to do?” “I am pressed and I need to make use of the public toilet here,” our correspondent replied.

The elderly woman said it costs N50 to do the ‘big job’, and that to urinate only, costs N20. Like what obtains in all the public toilets SUNDAY PUNCH visited, it was ‘pay before service.’

As soon as she collected the money, she pointed to a container filled with water and a stack of plastic bowls of different sizes and colours in a corner, with some blackened with age and use, from where each visitor could pick and fill with water, and proceed to the latrine.

The putrid odour of bodily waste matter coming from the direction one was headed was potent. As our correspondent stepped into the area where the row of latrines, five in number, was located, the picture of neglect showed up.

The plates, which serve as inlets into the pits, some are darkened with age, while some of the wooden doors which provide privacy for users have given way. Some of the doors have no lock and users may need to either leave them ajar while inside or look for one that has a lock.

Our correspondent was unlucky to have been directed to one without a lock, while the next slot to it had its wooden door already damaged. It was just placed by the entrance – as a sad reminder of its former existence in good shape.

Here, there is no platform of any kind on which the user of the toilet could put the bowl of water to clean up after use. The user has to place the water container on the bare ground, and risk any possible health hazard in the process.

As soon as the user finishes, he takes the plastic outside, to replace in the stack placed at a corner. Another user comes and picks among them and the cycle continues.

Another public toilet located under the bridge adjacent to the General Post Office, Marina, is manned by a middle-aged man who was playing a game of cards with some people when our correspondent visited on Tuesday. Some of them were seen puffing away on marijuana, and the entire immediate environment was saturated with the smell of the weeds.

Here, the fee is slightly different. To make use of the latrine for whatever purpose, SUNDAY PUNCH paid only N30.

Again, it seems it is a tradition in public toilets for users to scoop water from the containers, not only for personal clean-up, but also for washing away faecal matter on the porcelain toilet.

As our correspondent announced that he was pressed and wanted to make use of the latrine, the attendant, after collecting his fee, pointed to containers of water by the entrance, and also a stack of small plastic bowls of different sizes and colours nearby.

All sorts of junks litter the environment housing the rows of latrines, five on each side. Even the little attempt at tidying up the environment meets with stiff failure, what with the pile of dirt stacked somewhere in the open premises and flying around, constituting environmental nuisance.

Here, the doors are so low that a new user coming into the arena could have a glimpse of others in their own cubicles.

As in others, there is low regard for hygiene and cleanliness, in addition to users having to put their bowls of water on the dirty and dingy latrine floor. Some of the doors have also given way, while the latrine covers are darkened with dirt and age.

Another one in this category is the one situated in Iyana Ipaja, by Government College, Agege, Lagos. Managed by a middle-aged woman, the four-room facility which looks decrepit and neglected, does not present any better picture. Again, here, you pay N50 to use the facility. Sunday Punch found out that one could hardly find a space to put one’s leg due to the darkness that envelopes the rooms. Here, users have a choice of using a plastic kettle or a small bowl to fetch water for cleaning up. The facility also features wooden doors that have seen good days.

At our next port of call, the toilet is situated at a taxi park at Abule Egba. Though modern, the water closets are missing. A woman attendant manages it and she combines it with hawking sweets and other snacks. Here, to use the toilet you pay N50, and if you only want to urinate, you pay N20.

In the wing visited by our correspondent, a row of five toilets were there. SUNDAY PUNCH discovered that the user must also use a small plastic bowl of water to clean up after use, and there is another medium-sized plastic placed under the running tap to supply water for flushing after use. The tap runs rather slowly, and the consequence is for an impatient user to leave without cleaning up his mess. The floor is perpetually wet, as no one cleans up after a user leaves.

SUNDAY PUNCH also visited one of the public toilets built by the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, situated very close to the popular Sunday Market at Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos.

With the signboard of the ministry conspicuously placed outside the gate, a commercial motorcycle repairer operates a workshop in front of it. Though it boasts of four rooms of toilets with water closets and one bathroom, the place is dirty probably because it lacks water supply.

The water containers are placed by the right hand corner of the facility, while, like others, small plastic bowls and medium-sized ones are available for users.

One of the toilets which our correspondent examined still had splatters of faecal waste on the toilet seat, with the water closets covered with dust. The handle of the flushing arm was not functioning as it hung loose.

Our correspondent observed that at the CMS and Marina Motor Park, there was an uncompleted modern toilet, which unconfirmed reports say was being built by the state government inside the park.

Many public toilets located inside some markets and motor parks at Agege and Ikeja, among others, being operated by individuals, also have their sore points. A market woman who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that there was a public toilet inside the Ile-Epo market in Agbado/Oke Odo Local Council Development Area, which needed hygiene and cleanliness.

The total disregard for hygiene was noticed in all the public toilets visited, as none of them made provision for toilet rolls, which is more hygienic. And there was no liquid soap or any soap at all for users to wash their hands with after visiting the facilities. Again, no disinfectant was seen. Essentially, the operators/attendants seem to be more interested in commercial gains than any hygienic consideration.

What are the likely infections that can be contracted in such public toilets? A microbiologist and a lecturer at the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, Mrs. Bolanle Opere, said that there were many health implications, According to her, most of the disease-causing organisms that may emanate from there will be first, from the water, whose source the user does not know.

Mentioning another cause for concern, she said the fact that the latrines and toilets were not covered makes them breeding ground for flies.

“If these houseflies, after leaving the toilets, perch on food, such food becomes unwholesome to the body,” she said.

Continuing, she said, “The kinds of diseases from public toilets are mainly food- and water- borne. The kinds of bacteria found in such toilets are Shigella, which are causative agents of a disease called Shigellosis, which is characterised by diarrhoea and dysentery.

“A person suffering from diarrhoea or dysentery who has used the toilet and dropped the organisms, in the unhygienic situation scenario you had painted earlier, it is easy for another user to contract the infection.”

Opere however advised visitors to public toilets to wash their hands with soap and water whose source they could trust or from a running tap.

When contacted on the telephone on Friday, the Director, Public Relations, Ministry of the Environment, Mr. Fola Adeyemi, said maintenance of public toilets was not under the control of the ministry. He said: “The Ministry of the Environment does not handle public toilets; it is under the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.”

The Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Mr. Oluwaferanmi Akinmuliya, when also contacted on the telephone said he was not permitted by civil service rule to talk to journalists.

He however told our correspondent that it was only the permanent secretary or the director in charge of matters relating to public toilets who could comment. He promised to get in touch with the permanent secretary, and revert to SUNDAY PUNCH.

However, our correspondent gathered that the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation built some of the public toilets and handed them over to private individuals to manage, as a sort of poverty alleviation stimulus by the state government. Again, some of the public toilets were reportedly built and operated by private individuals, while local governments also manage some in their respective domains.

The source who pleaded anonymity said, “Definitely, the ministry does not own all the public toilets in Lagos. I know they built some across the city and handed them over to private individuals to manage as poverty alleviation empowerment stimulus.”

-Punch

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Posted by on Jan 22 2012. Filed under Lagos, State News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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