Many Nigerians have dirty habits, and there is nothing unpatriotic about this admission of fact. We throw garbage indiscriminately all around. There is no limit to what such trash could be. From food wrappings of every description, empty water sachet, plastic bottles, paper, moi-moi leaf and even diapers.
Rather than leave trash inside a vehicle, people casually fling them onto the roads. Pedestrians are not left out of this horrific behavior either. It is not uncommon to find someone who had just finished munching suya to drop the wrapping anywhere.
When it rains in certain places, people hastily drag out their trash and empty them into drainages. They hope the impromptu current will carry such trash to anywhere else. We have little sense of waste recycling. They have little understanding of separation of plastic from paper or metal wastes; urinating or even defecating on the road is hardly a taboo.
It is almost normal seeing a man alight from his pricey car to take a leak by the roadside. Physiologically, it is convenient for men to do so, needing very little privacy.
Mechanics pour waste oil just about anywhere they find. In areas where there is Government-private sector participation in waste collection, some people refuse to pay for the service. They keep dumping the trash by their gates till if forms an unbearable heap.
We are a hazard unto our environment, and our own ecological disaster waiting to happen.
Yet, we are the first to complain when we get the effect of what we have caused. The rate of unintentional living here is unbelievable. People have no sense of responsibility to the environment; so they wage war against it continually.
Nigeria as a nation is oblivious to all those talks around the world about a cleaner environment. We hardly concern ourselves with melting glaciers, carbon emissions, the use of bio-degradable materials for certain products, recycling, or all those boring talks by all those oyinbo scientists. It mainly concerns itself with consumption alone. Even at that, the least of our trouble is what to do with the wastes generated after consuming everything. Or like most people insist, ‘the government’ did not put in place cleanliness enforcement mechanisms to compel people to desist from littering the environment.
But let’s us think about it for a moment; how many government officials are there to monitor defaulters, a few hundred thousand? And how many are the rest of us who need to be whipped to the obedience of environmental laws? You guessed right, nearly two hundred million! Does it not make sense that we build a proper waste management culture from our homes?
I see those people in orange jumpsuits sweeping Lagos highways every day. That, I believe is a gesture from the Lagos State Government towards a cleaner metropolis. But no matter how efficiently those people try to keep the roads clean, the disgraceful filth remains.
One afternoon, I was sitting in the car around Ikeja High Court premises when two teenage girls walked past me. True to type, one of them threw the plastic cup she drank from on the ground right in front of my car. I called them back. ‘You are students right?’ They nodded. ‘You know you should not be throwing things on the road’ I continued, as they regarded me like I was speaking Hindi. I proceeded to give them a crash course on why we should not throw trash around. ‘Please pick that cup; I am sure you will find a trash bin nearby to put it in’. I concluded my environmental law crash course. They mumbled between them, as the culprit picked the cup up, and they went away.
I knew I did not make any point when I looked at my side mirror and saw them swinging their arms happily. I looked at the ground a few meters away, and surely the cup was back there. It was a sad realization for me that there already exists the next generation of those who will destroy our environment further. Maybe I would have made the point to those recalcitrant teenagers if I wore a uniform and held a horsewhip.
During a slow moving traffic one other time, the driver to my right bought a music CD from a vendor. I watched as he tore the plastic wrapping off it and yes, he threw it on the road. As I drew up close to him, I got more infuriated when I and realized he was Caucasian.
With nationalistic zeal and irritation for environmental abuse, I confronted him. ‘Can you do this nonsense in your country, how can you throw trash on the road?’ Assumption is when you imagine a Caucasian did not grow up in Warri. ‘Wetin concern you inside, abi na your head I throway am put?’ He responded in flawless Pidgin English, with that Ajegunle accent that convinced me he grew up in Nigeria. Too shocked for words, I just wound up and moved on.
We have poor environmental culture, yet wonder why the Island got flooded some weeks ago. Land reclamation through sand-filling the lagoon and constructing houses where water shoreline should be is standard practice to us.What is more, we further block drainage pathways to the lagoon and violate every rule in relating with the environment. And while people affected by the flood grieved the devastation of their experience, others gloated over their misery on social media. The kind of callousness we are exhibiting today to nature and one another is stifling as it is terrifying.
Anyone over 30 years of age will realize we have been experiencing unprecedented heat of late. Whether we act or not, nature will keep manifesting. And as the flooding in Niger State that same weekend proved with its fatalities, the ecological issue is not just a ‘coastal state or Lekki problem’ alone.
We can continue to attack the environment all we want while praying to God to save us from torrential rainfalls. The joke will still remain on us, as nature continues to unleash its fury in response to our provocations.
Photo Credit: Atholpady | Dreamstime