Connect with us


BN Photo Stories: Waste, Wealth and the Burden of a City



It’s 5:30AM and you can’t help, but slam your alarm clock on the umpteenth snooze. You hurry past the heap of rubbish at the entrance of your street. You have to cover your nose with a big face towel as you approach the main street entrance. Then, your neighbour’s maid’s week-old response floats, “The waste disposal people nefa come as far back to two weeks ago o!” You shrug and, in your mind, blame the nonchalant neighbours, the government and the Landlords and Landladies association for the mess. Half-an-hour later, you struggle to secure a seat on the public bus and Ojota treats you to a brief, unique smell of rotten tomato, pepper, and all that is rubbish. You choke. Your noisy co-commuters hiss and throw out their empty Gala packets, chin chin wrappers, and La Casera bottles through the window, at every major stop, whether at Onipanu or on third mainland bridge. Obalende welcomes you into much more repugnance, and the water body at C.M.S. can’t stop stinking. You cannot wait to alight from the ‘incubator’ and dash into the lift and up to your seventh-floor office on Broad Street. The flooded streets make you feel sick already.

Next Monday, the world’s population will hit seven billion. This figure is projected to rise above ten billion by the end of the century. Nigeria is already Africa’s most populous country with over 160 million inhabitants. With an estimated population of 15 million, and growing at an annual rate of 6%, Lagos, Nigeria, is set to topple Cairo soon as Africa’s largest city. Considering that the rest of the country grows from between 2 percent to 3.2 percent per annum, Lagos is a city bursting at the seams. With increased, largely unchecked, informal economic activities, emerge gigantic challenges associated with waste management and environmental pollution control.

Over the last two decades, various administrations have initiated different programmes to curb the menace of improper waste disposal, a major source of environmental pollution in Lagos. Every last Saturday of the month is set aside by the government for residents to attend to environmental sanitation. This is in addition to mandatory weekly sanitation exercises carried out in most markets across the state. Despite the magnificent strides by the current government to address this critical issue, this post is a clarion call to all and sundry to take cleanliness as a personal and collective responsibility. While the government should further reinforce ongoing efforts at creating awareness, providing adequate and proper structure for safe waste disposal and recycling, as well as punishing errant citizens, we ought keep our watch and be sure to speak out against all untoward acts and attitudes of individuals, including those who turn small waste receptacles meant for pedestrians into a haven for domestic waste, and those who urinate and defecate in un-authorised places, thereby contaminating the water body and raising a lot of health questions. Healthy people are those who consciously create a healthy and safe environment for everyone to live in. Remember: a clean environment is a collective responsibility.



Bayo Omoboriowo is a freelance photographer and photo artiste. A double-finalist (Still Life & Lifestyle) at the maiden edition of the Nigeria Photography Awards in July 2011, his works have appeared on,, and in Y! Magazine. He loves documentary photography, though he also dabbles into events and portrait.
Twitter: @BayoOmoboriowo | Blog: | Facebook Page: Bayo Omoboriowo

Jide Odukoya, a graphic designer and (front-end) web designer, decided to build a career in photography barely a year ago after purchasing a Canon 550D with which he had experimented for a while. A Photoshop faithful, he dabbles into several kinds of photography, the top three being documentary, street, and wedding photography, in that order.
Twitter: @jideodukoya | Blog: | Facebook Page: Jide Odukoya Photography

Gbenga Awomodu is an Editorial Assistant at Bainstone Ltd./ When he is not reading or writing, Gbenga is listening to good music or playing the piano. He believes in the inspirational power of words and pictures, which he explores in helping to make the world a better place. He writes from Makurdi, Benue State, where he is presently on the national youth service programme.

Twitter: @gbengaawomodu | Blog: | Facebook Page: Gbenga Awomodu


  1. Layo

    October 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    first.yay!!!!!!!…well this is TYPICAL las-GIDI for you….messed up….!

  2. Darkvixen

    October 28, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Comapre and contrast.

  3. Biodun

    October 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Meehn looks like the more they try to clean up the worse it gets… we have a looong way to go in this country. #rightbloodymess

  4. agy

    October 28, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Oh my God!!!!. nice write up though and photos too. God help us sometimes its not just the goverment’s fault we need discipline and education as individuals.

  5. Jane

    October 28, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    well spoken. i hope we all abide by cleanliness

  6. Bee!

    October 28, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I think the Lagos State Government is actually doing a good job with their various initiatives, but I think the problem is that majority of Lagosians are non-chalant when it comes to waste management/disposal. With the number of religious people around, I always wonder if they skip the part in the bible where it is written “cleanliness is next to Godliness”. Not meaning to bash anyone, just wondering.
    I also think pure water sachets should be banned, the plastic is not recyclable, so it ends up blocking gutters and waterways, this won’t solve our problem all at once, but it’ll be a step.
    Just my two cents!

    • A.k

      October 29, 2011 at 5:13 am

      that is actually not in the Bible! but i get your point

    • Tomi

      October 29, 2011 at 7:58 am

      Perhaps you could direct us to the verse in the Bible where it states that ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’.

    • rosellar

      October 29, 2011 at 10:25 am

      I agree with you Bee, Lagosians really need to key into having an attitude of cleanliness. Until this happens, all d governor’s efforts would appear futile

    • nonie

      October 29, 2011 at 7:07 pm

      Erm many Lagosians are not Godly so how can you expect them to be clean (the dirty ones I mean). That quote is not in the Bible either.

      We have a long way to go but nothing will change until the people do rich and poor. The mindset has to change and that will not be anytime soon.

    • Yeah

      October 30, 2011 at 8:46 am

      Before you ban pure water provide an alternative.

    • Written

      October 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      There’s one effective way to stop littering and actually a lot of the bad habits we have in Nigeria. On the spot penalties. If you effect penalties which range from on the spot fines to criminal prosecutions (for more serious cases like mis-managing waste by companies) you’ll get a drastic reduction in littering. This is what is done elsewhere but most notably Singapore. In Singapore, they’ll actually make you clean the streets if you are a repeat offender or you feel like you could ‘just’ pay fines as you get them.

      Of course you can only implement this can of system when you have made enough provision for the citizens to get rid of their waste and I suspect this is where Lagos may have difficulties.

  7. Luchie

    October 28, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Great piece of writing. The issue of waste in Nigeria has been something I’ve written about in school. I actually think that the government can only do as much. The question is when will us Nigerians begin to take responsibility for our environment. Everyone is waiting on the government to clear the gutters, but we still dump refuse in them. Because LAWMA clears trash everyday, we still feel very comfortable throwing things outside our cars. This habit has become engrained in us and it might take some discipline for us to cultivate and practice cleanliness towards our environment.

  8. lily

    October 28, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    i luv dis piece….finally important issues r gettn discussed

  9. iTawa

    October 28, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    true story…I’m first! first time ever…wow!

    • Nkem

      October 29, 2011 at 5:59 am

      Sorry, but no.

  10. Demmy

    October 28, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Seriously, people are going to harm themselves if they don’t stop pollution. It kills me when people try to help but the public don’t listen When I was in Year 4 I went on a campaign to stop pollution and I ended up wasting my time. I’m in Year 9 now and the story hasn’t changed. People are going to die due to pollution one day.Great post

    • Igbo Fille

      October 31, 2011 at 11:15 am

      which one be year 4 and year 9 again. Which school be that and which course you dey read? I wish you quick graduation o.

    • Deiz

      October 31, 2011 at 3:37 pm


  11. Ikenna11

    October 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    How much does a street sweeping machine cost? I have been to countries where they use things attached to the back of tractors just to make sure that streets are kept clean. What do state ministries of works do in Nigeria? Nothing, apart from budgeting money every year. Na crime if Naija buy those inexpensive sweepers that could be coupled to tractors? No one is saying they should buy the more expensive vacuum cleaners.

    • POintOf Correction

      October 30, 2011 at 12:35 am

      Seriously…where did you fly out from?Is it the “expensive equipment” thats the problem or the ethical consideration we citizens have???!!!!…Seriously!!!!!YOU need to wake,we need to wake up!Whats the point of buying hundreds of thousand worth equipment, when the minute it cleans up,another pile of dirt comes up??….We should seriously wake up, and stop blaming the government!
      Charity begins at HOME!If we as a people cant start from our rooms,houses,premises,neighborhood to consciously evoke change, we will therefore remain STATIC, which is a resultant effect of nemesis.
      This change is possible….here is what it is:
      I schooled in Ghana, (a country which you all know we share common similarities with) and me coming from Nigeria, did things the “NIGERIAN WAY” will always throw things out of the window of a car or if im walking, on the streets. Sometimes when i threw the rubbish out of the car, the driver will show his dissatisfaction, POLITELY. Although it pinched me then, but would repeat that move probably cos i wasnt use to it and would immediatly remember when i see it out the window!
      Owell, my time came! I repeated that move on one and the very last occassion. I had thrown an empty crisp bag out the window.You wouldnt believe what happened!…The taxi driver pulled over, ran, picked up the empty bag and brought it back to the car since there was no rubbish bin around.I was ashamed of myself.i had asked him why he cleared (trying to form vexing) and he simply and politely told me its not decent throwing rubbish on the streets and he will throw it in the next available bin when he has the time.
      Since that day, even when i leave a restuarant with tissue in my hand, i just tuck it into my bag until i see a bin.Sometimes i even have an empty spring water bottle in my bag..waiting for a bin.
      Yes Ive seen and currently live in a country were they have the machines cleaning up the streets.Do you also know they still have people who pick up little pieces. We are crying UNEMPLOYMENT ON ONE HAND,but have we also looked at the effects of having an over-mechanised society!??….are we not also following the Fordistic movt. in the 21st century? These are menial jobs.Why should we introduce robots in place of this??When we as a people cant be ethical about situations?

      I apologise for any typo-error.
      TRUTH BE TOLD: until you fix the mind, you cant fix the surrounding.

  12. Melissa

    October 29, 2011 at 12:36 am

    No matter what…. I love my country still!

  13. True talk

    October 29, 2011 at 1:48 am

    Na wa o!

  14. Sulaiman Dave Bola-Babs

    October 29, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Great documentary on the environmental challenge of a mega-city and its attendant health and aesthetic challenges. Quite picturesque. All hands must definitely be on deck.

  15. Tunmi

    October 29, 2011 at 4:52 am

    I absolutely love these photo diaries. It’s a perfect depection of the state Lagos is in. It would be nice if this project could be extended to other states as well. Well done!

  16. sakara

    October 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    until they place a price on refuse per household, Nigerians wl not appreciate & know how to be clean….tell each household ‘if u gather d most refuse every week, u get N1000 per house’ see how people wl be stealing other’s refuse…and voila LAGOS WL BE CLEAN AGAIN

  17. Ginika

    October 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Waste management is a hugggggggggggggggge problem in Nigeria and that sector needs more vendors. Instead of everyone entering the music industry or hoping to work for an oil company, enter this sector and you’ll make millions.

  18. Ginika

    October 29, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I dont see a problem, I see a business opportunity.

  19. I love the pics… Especially the ones at the top, which I assume were taken with a Nikon… What’s up with putting campaign posters on trash dumps? Why would I want to think of trash when I think of a political candidate, oh wait, it’s Nigeria, isn’t it…

  20. @AfricanLaReina

    October 29, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Lol @ ‘bros abeg make u flush eh’ great write up and pictures

  21. Purpleicious Babe

    October 29, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    My first question:

    Is there a recycling company in Nigeria?? If there is none, this is a potential market… I rest my case there.

    Now to the point of cleaning, I think it is everyone DUTY…

    Personally, I do not like messing places up, I am not comfortable with chucking things on the floor or littering places up.

    We should treat the streets like OUR HOME…… KEEP IT CLEAN..

    HAVE A REFUSE BAG IN CAR to chuck refuse in..


    I hate it when we complain and do nothing…

  22. NNENNE

    October 30, 2011 at 4:24 am

    Heaven alone knows how many people that die yearly in Nigeria due to pollution.The introduction of plastics and other non-degradeable materials in our society, is the beginning of our end. Something has to be done and fast too!

  23. Adiya

    October 30, 2011 at 9:00 am

    These photographs are amazing! Great write-up. I remember watching Idiocracy and the world had heaps and heaps of rubbish dumps. So horrible. We need to start investing in Waste-to-Energy plants in Nigeria. There is serious money in garbage, just that its really capital intensive

  24. Omozo

    October 30, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Excellent write-up and pictures. I was driving behind a bus owned by Lagos environment department or so the sign said. The driver proceeded to throw out a wrapper just before passing a LAWMA worker. I honked my horn as loud as I could but he sped off. I think he thought I was asking him to speed up. *sigh* We will get there!

  25. Pingback: Nigeria: Waste, Wealth and the Burden of a City · Global Voices

  26. Gidi

    October 30, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    forget it.
    Dirt and filth is one thing that has no class barrier in Lagos.
    the filthiness of Lagosians is a spiritual matter.
    Take a drive through Orile road, the one where the train station is being built.See how dirty Lagosians can be evwn on an uncompleted road project.the drainages of that uncompleted road is filled with debris,half of the road has been taken over by filth.When the floods come we will start praying and calling govt all sorts of names.

  27. Gidi

    October 30, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    sorry for the typo in the first line.

  28. BLADE

    October 30, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Our towns can be likened to our sitting rooms at home; what we make of our streets and environment is only a direct pointer to what on the average transpires indoors in most nigerian homes.
    Guys, lets face it; on the average, PERSONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL HYGEINE is still lost on us.

    • fairangel

      October 31, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      Na True you talk! If we can not litter our apartment with the waste, why leave on the street.

  29. Orobotobad

    October 31, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    @BLADE, you did cut through jare. some of us lives with filth. a clean Nigeria starts from our very homes. Good read!

  30. coco

    October 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    great write up..
    the next topic i think should be men’s very dirty habit of peeing on lagos roads!! whether a danfo driver or a well groomed guy in suit, most men in lagos have one time or the other jumped out of their vehicle to have a quick pee at the side of the roads not minding who is watching or the hazards of this barbaric act. please arrest these animals

  31. Aibee

    October 31, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Dirt and Death. The link is a lot more direct than we know. We the people must be the change we need.

  32. kemi

    October 31, 2011 at 10:43 pm


    I honestly love the point of arresting men who pee on the roads. I was a little girl when I saw a young man pee on the side of the road in Nigeria. His dick was showing and I was so ashamed to see it. God have mercy on the level of corruption kids see today. The Nigerian guy had no shame and just exposed it to everyone to see…SHAME!

  33. niyoola

    November 1, 2011 at 10:03 am

    All these other states should do something about improving the ‘economy’ of their states. The burden on Lagos state is too much; skilled and unskilled labour!!!!!
    Everyone just comes to Lagos, even if they have no place/use in the state.

    • Jovie Onyema

      November 18, 2011 at 3:22 pm

      Na true jare. Lagos is working. let others reduce the burden on this country too!

  34. Pingback: نيجيريا: مدينة غنية مع ما تعانيه من المدينة من متاعب ومشاكل نفايات · Global Voices الأصوات العالمية

  35. Pingback: Lagos Na Wa « Expressions

  36. Dolly p.

    November 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    In summary, health is wealth GBAM!!!!!!

  37. chinnygurl

    November 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    its so appalling. its so bad dat wen u are walking on d street, u get to see piles of faeces. as u pass by, d stench from it will choke u to death. najia na wa.


    February 3, 2012 at 9:59 am

    wow ! There has really been a great change with the way Lagos looks. Fashola is really doing a good job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Star Features