Refuse Dump Turns Market

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The saying that one man’s food is another man’s poison still holds water, as in the case of the waste dump-turned -market along Isheri/Igando road, Lagos State, southwest Nigeria.

The refuse dump, which spreads over one acre of land, was provided by the Lagos State government to serve as dump site for some parts of Alimosho Local Government Area.

The Lagos State waste Management Authority LAWMA, collects waste from residents and dumps them on the site, but some people have turned the site into a market place, where they scavenge useful things like objects made of steel, clothes, shoes, bags, discarded toys, refrigerators and even matresses and offer such for sale. And the surprise? Buyers exist for these item!

P.M.NEWS gathered that what others regard as useless and discard are picked by the scavengers who clean them up and sell to customers who value them. Some of the selected goods, especially clothes are packaged and transported to the far North, like Sokoto and Kano for sale.

Mr. Micheal Olaniyan, a supervisor at the site told P.M.NEWS that the dump site is open to young people who are jobless and do not want to engage in robbery or beg for alms on the street.

“The boys you see here come from different parts of Lagos. Some come from Agege, Idi Araba, Alaba Rago and other places to scavenge for useful items to sell,’’ he said.

He further explained that the boys look for different items; some of them pick iron, nylon, clothes, plastic, shoes, discarded electronics and so on, from this refuse dump. They all have customers that patronize them and they make sales because there are people who need these items,’’ he added.

Responding to a question, a trader, Bello Manah, stated that trading on the dump site has been very difficult, adding that it is not an easy way of survival.

Bello who spoke in Hausa said, “we come here to trade on week days, its not the best kind of business to do, because the money we realise from here is very little. Sometimes I go home with N600 and the environment is dirty; a comfortable person cannot do what we do,” he said.

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Another trader, Abubakar who also spoke in Hausa, said the stench of the refuse dump is enough to drive them away but they have no option as they had to survive.

“There is nothing for us to do out there and we don’t want to beg people for money before we feed. If you look around, you will see that doing business on the refuse dump is painful and undignifying but we don’t want to steal or engage in criminal activity to survive,” he explained.

Mrs. Ayo Bamidele, one of the patrons, told P.M.NEWS that she comes to buy plastic containers at a cheaper rate at the site. “Sometimes, when I come here, I see other good items like clothes or shoes, and I buy for myself and my children.

“The smell from this waste dump is terrible, but we get good things here and they are very cheap too. Sometimes I buy to re-sell to people in my area,” she said.

Despite the harsh environmental conditions experienced by the traders, some are very happy that they do not pay tax for trading on the refuse dump, like in other markets.

“We operate here free, nobody collects money from us as tax, so whatever we get goes into our pocket and we are not harassed by anybody. We eat and drink here but we don’t sleep here. Once it is 6pm, we are asked to leave” said Abu, a trader who comes from Agege to do his business.

To other traders in the market, it is business as usual; they resume as early as 6 am, to pick and clean items that will fetch them money for the day, while some who already have items for sale wait patiently for their customers to arrive.

—Kashimana Beba

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