While I was in Ibadan, waste collectors came to our compounds to pick up our refuse. Then, what we used to do was that every compound had a barrel at its front, where the occupants threw in their wastes. These collectors come every Tuesdays and Thursdays, or Mondays and Fridays, depending on their schedules, to empty these barrels (whether filled or not). They come in their big trucks, lift up these barrels (they preferred plastics) and pour their contents into the trucks. In those days, you don’t see dirt lying about in Bodija because these waste collectors were good at their jobs. They even come with brooms to gather refuse in case some drop on the floor.
But then, I think why there was this kind of arrangement was because these waste collectors were from private companies. I can’t really say but I think Oyo State Government gave licence to private individuals to collect and dispose of wastes. So all we had to do was “subscribe” to one of these companies and have our wastes removed right from the front of our house.
When I left Ibadan for Koroduma, one of the towns in Nasarawa State that shares a border with FCT, I didn’t see private waste collectors with big trucks. Then, people have two, or rather three, options for refuse disposal. It is either they take their wastes to the “government” dumpsites, which originally contained government’s dumpsters, or they throw them into the river or gutters when rain falls. But the option that was most convenient for us then was that of engaging the services of small private waste collectors, known as “Mai Shara”. They come in their wheelbarrows and collect waste directly from people’s door steps. They don’t do theirs compound by compound and you don’t subscribe to them. If you have refuse, keep them somewhere rats will not access them and then wait for Mai Shara to pass. This wasn’t the best option but it was convenient.
Then coming down to Enugu, I saw something entirely different. Permit me to express my disappointment at not seeing well established private waste collectors here. You may also be surprised to hear that people look at me as if I’ve developed horns anytime I tell them that the Enugu State Government should give out licence to private individuals to oversee the collection and disposal of wastes from households and business arenas. People are comfortable with the way things are, which should not be like that at all.
Let me give you a little glimpse into the situation of things in Enugu.
Here in Enugu, a government agency known as ESWAMA, which is an acronym for Enugu State Waste Management Agency, takes care of waste disposal (and not collection). What this agency does is that it mounts few dumpsters for waste collection and then empties them when they are filled. I can’t tell how often they do this but they try anyway. However, these dumpsites, even the ones in front of people’s compounds, are gagging sites. You can’t pass them without holding your breath. This wouldn’t have been the case if the Oyo State method was adopted.
People that live in Enugu may feel comfortable with how things are with their waste disposal method because they have not tasted the convenience of not loading their cars with decayed matters in their bid to locate a dumpster. People here may not really believe that it is possible that they can have dustbins in front of their compound and the place will not be turned into dumpsites later (this was an argument someone gave me). Some people even said it was impossible that people can conveniently have their trash cans emptied by private contractors. Well, I don’t really blame them; I blame the government that left its regulatory job and decided to source for income.
Well, it is not too late to make changes. All Enugu State Government, and other state governments that maintain this practice, have to partner with private individuals to get this job done. This will even generate more income for the government, which is better than the way ESWAMA uses task forces to collect revenue. If this job is given to private individuals, they will only remove the wastes of their subscribers. Those that didn’t pay will have to find ways of handling their wastes. Of course, it is not possible for people to throw their refuse into another person’s dustbin because the person that is paying will guard his property very well.
This essay is just a call for the privatisation of waste collection, not just in Enugu, but in every part of the country.