A health officer who is stationed at Iba Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Akande, has said that fear of being prosecuted has deterred violators of the Thursday sanitation rule for market people in Lagos. The officer said that there had been a satisfactory level of compliance to the rules because there has been commitment to prosecuting offenders in court. He added that the existence of courts made it possible to prosecute offenders.
Every Thursday, market people in Lagos and the rest of Nigeria delay the opening of their shops and malls until 10:00 AM as opposed to opening even as early as 6 or 7 AM. This gap is meant to allow them to sanitize the surroundings of their domain and put it in order. Sometimes, shop owners take care of their premises, but customers and passersby drop litters such as nylon, paper, and plastic bottles. Regardless of who does that, the litter becomes the responsibility of the shop owner.
There is 75 to 85 percent compliance because of the magistrate’s courts.
Alhaji Akande, says that there is at least 75 to 85 percent compliance because the Chief Judge of Lagos State has allowed the magistrate’s courts to hear environmental matters. Before, environmental matters were referred to and geared at Badagry, a place quite far from Iba. This situation applies to Ojo, Oto Awori, Iba, and their environs. The distance factor in prosecuting offenders had weakened the morale of enforcers and emboldened violators. However, with the re-assignment of environmental matters to the magistrate’s courts, violators now know that prosecuting them has become easier.
He said, “At present, we have been able to control the various areas under our jurisdiction as the law permits us, and I can say there is at least 75 to 85 percent compliance. I am happy about the steps taken by the Chief Judge of Lagos State to allow magistrate courts to hear environmental matters. Environmental matters around Ojo, Oto Awori, Iba and their environs are heard at Badagry but recently, we received a letter directing that our matters should also be heard at the Ojo Magistrates’ Court. Prosecuting environmental matters has now been made easy.”
The Lagos Saturday sanitation curfew has been challenged in court.
In 2015, human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, challenged the Inspector-General of Police and the Lagos State Government in court on the restriction of human movements on the last Saturday of every month, for the purpose of observing environmental sanitation. The last Saturday of every month, Lagos residents were restricted to their homes from 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM to give them time to sanitize their environment. This rule is similar to that of market people, which is observed every Thursday.
Adegboruwa argued at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos that that law contradicted the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which grants all citizens freedom of movement under the fundamental human rights. Hence, federal laws superseded state laws. The court which was presided over by Justice Muhammed Idris, upheld Adegboruwa’s argument and declared that the restriction of citizens’ movement during the monthly Lagos environmental sanitation exercise was unlawful. The justice therefore voided the power of the Lagos State Government and its agents to arrest any citizen found moving between 7:00 AM and 10:00 AM on the last Saturday of every month when the sanitation exercise is observed.
Lagos now among the dirtiest cities in the world.
Despite all these rules and regulations, many tourists and observers have deemed the city of Lagos one of the dirtiest cities in the world. The first reason that this may have occurred is that the rules are just treatment of the symptoms such as dirty environment, clogged drainages, etc. The real problem may be with the attitude of the residents to cleaning their environment and ensuring that it stays clean. This attitude also reflects in their waste disposal methods, consistency in recycling (if any), and avoiding littering the streets.