How Nigerian Undergraduates Live on Scavenging

As many unemployed Nigerians come face to face with the reality of high rate of unemployment, a few others have considered waste as a veritable source of income generation and employment and so, rather than gnashing their teeth, they resort to making a living out of waste management.

In most parts of the country, especially in the major cities, scavenging is a common phenomenon. Unemployed youths comb the streets in the urban areas where there is high level of waste disposal to pick what had been consigned to the bin, sell them to recycling companies and return home happy with a token usually less than N400. From what we gathered, most recycling companies pay not more than N20 for a kilogramme of rubbish in plastic or iron form.

Many of the scavengers we ecountered in Lagos who are mainly youths said, “we have to put food on the table, we have to live and care for our families.” That is the situation they found themselves.

A visit to Oke-Afa dump site reveals a sodid sight of scavengers who throng the place for garbage. In fact, they play all sorts of tricks on co-scavengers in order to outsmart one another to pick better items that will attract more money. They visit the dumpsites early enough struggling to out pick one another as though it was a market place for normal business.

One of them who identified himself as Sulaiman said, “we monitor dumps at the site and personally, I come as early as possible to see if there are items that could fetch me more money. I don’t have to tell others because they will outsmart me,” he said.

In Ikorodu, Sulaiman who has upward of five years experience in scavenging said: “I know what the recycling companies want and I don’t pick just anything. I even go to houses to ask for their dumps and sometimes buy from them. I comb the streets and call them out to bring their abandoned items such as irons, plastics, etc.

“After buying from them, I gather whatever I have bought and take them to a company which buys them at Ikorodu. This company also sells to recycling centres. They pay us N20 per kilogramme but I don’t know how they sell to recycling companies,” Sulaiman said.

He noted that he had been using the proceeds from the business to feed and take care of his wife and four children since he started the business. He maintained that, although the profit is meagre, he sometimes engages in other things to make ends meet.

A medical expert, Seyi Adebambi noted that the development could lead to typhoid, diarrhea and other ailments if those who engage in the business are not well protected. “Many patients in major hospital beds suffer from typhoid and diarrhea and other diseases associated with poor sanitation and water quality.

Do you remember the recent outbreak of cholera in parts of Lagos? These are some of the issues and we should observe safety precautions if we must do the business,” he said. (Vanguard)

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