By Ishiaq Salami
Standing at corner beside the Conoil Filling Station, located along Agege Road, in Agege Local Government Area, Lagos is a hand-washing station. The machine, which is one of many deployed across the metropolis, comprises a rubber tank, sink, and two pedals that dispenses water or soap. The stations are part of the initiatives taken by the Lagos State Government in curtailing the spread of the novel Coronavirus, (COVID-19).
Speaking in July, while receiving the machines donated by a private organisation, Obafemi Hamzat, the Lagos State deputy governor, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has made hand washing facilities more critical than ever”.
He also stressed hand-washing campaign as critical to “our framework for COVID-19 prevention and eradication.”
However, the state of the machine leaves much to be desired– dirty, with neither water nor soap for public users.
Olushola Kayode, an attendant at the petrol station nearby, said the machine has not been used since it was installed. “It was brought here at night someday in June,” he said, “but it has never worked.” Few feet away from the forlorn machine is a large rabbit cage.
Christiana Sonde, a middle-aged woman, is the seller of the bunnies. Sonde wondered whether the idea was properly thought-out before government rolled out the machines. Her surprise is why the government is unable to make the machine work despite the public health crisis in the country. “But I will be happy to see it work, because health is wealth,” Sonde stated.
The condition of the machine at Agege replicated itself at the Iyana-Ipaja axis of the state, as this reporter moved further. The facility, conspicuously located at Alaguntan Bus Stop, in desnsely-populated Alimosho LGA is also filthy and without its essentials. Similarly, it is also unused.
Six kilometres away, one cannot miss the sight of another hand-washing machine placed at the feet of the Berger pedestrian flyover, in Ikeja LGA. Known for its huge pedestrian traffic the bridge area is indeed an ideal location for the campaign. Despite, the hand-washing station there seems an emblematic display, just like another at Aguda Bus Stop, Ogba, also in Ikeja Local Government Area.
In society where citizens hardly take ownership of public amenities, Kamoru Ishola, a park toll collector, proved an exception.
According to him, he initially ensured the tank had water and provided soap too. Nonetheless, Ishola claimed he abandoned the task afterward.“… As I no see any support na, me sef kuku leave am”, said the dark-hued Ishola, with beads of perspiration forming around his thick furrows. “Government wey put am(pointing at the tank) there never for one day put water”; “Ordinary water o. Dem just dey take Coro lie lie for people,” he summed.
It is surprising many, like Ishola, think the pandemic not as severe as people were made to believe. So much that several people ignore the COVID-19 hazard and fail to comply with non-pharmaceutical advisory for curtailing its transmission.
Moreover, government’s inattention to earlier-mentioned hand-washing stations again announced itself in Surulere, in Surulere Local Government Area. Two of the hand washing stations, as at when visited, stood like mere exhibition dummies.
Surprisingly, a different scenario awaited the reporter at the Oando Filling Station, in Maryland, in Onigbongbo Local Council Development Area, (LCDA). Not only was the hand-washing machine operational, the location was also tidy. Equally, similar station at the busy Oshodi Isale, in Oshodi/Isolo LCDA, was also active with water and soap supply.
The Gazelle News.com sought Lagos State Government’s comment for the story. Speaking, Princess Aderemi Adebowale, the Special Adviser on Civic Engagement to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, blamed the neglect on local government chairmen where the affected machines are.
“The hand-washing machines were handed over to local government chairmen, who are supposed to be maintaining them, in their various areas,” she said.
She explained that bar and liquid soaps were equally handed the chairpersons, who were encouraged to own and make the machines operational.
Adebowale said her office had decided to go out and ascertain the conditions of the stations. “We are going to write Conference 57 (group of local councils chairmen), through their Publicity Secretary, Sesan Daini (Chairman, Igbogbo/Baiyeku LCDA) and beg them to own the hand-washing stations.”
Since COVID-19 announced its arrival in Nigeria through an Italian national, Lagos has been the epicentre of the contagion in the country. According to official records from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), there currently 47, 743 cases of Coronavirus infection in Nigeria. Of the number, Lagos State has the unviable record of 15, 355 infected persons, successfully treated 2,160, and have had 192 fatalities.
Contributions from , Dare Ojelade and Nurudeen Yisa.