Sir: Very common in Lagos are street urchins positioned virtually everywhere on major roads.
Immediately a vehicle breaks down, some unscrupulous and suspicious elements surround the broken down car owner who might be busy trying to fix it or making attempts to get a repairman. One will see these hooligans appearing one by one until they form a ‘team’ with a uniform mission and target. These thugs shamelessly and confidently demand money from the vehicle owner at the exact place where the vehicle breaks down. No matter how deserted that road is, with no pedestrians or passersby except moving vehicles, they will still show up from nowhere. It’s as if they are strategically positioned and scattered all around.
The unsuspecting car owner may be dispossessed of his belongings once these touts see he is not ready to wilfully give them money for the space his broken down car occupies by the roadside. They claim they are entitled to it for securing the area as ‘area fathers’. These area thugs may number up to 10 and the longer one stays, the higher the risk of being waylaid or attacked. For a smart and wise person, the side windows of his car should be wound up, his phones and other personal belongings must be kept in a safe place as long as these miscreants are still around.
It is these hoodlums who are always on standby to take advantage of any disagreement between two parties at open places. They are always looking forward to violence-erupting situations to cause pandemonium. They would hijack any potentially explosive misunderstanding between different tribes, religions, parties, or interest groups to make it degenerate into chaos. These ‘standby hoodlums’ are always busy causing riots in order to loot shops and steal from innocent people. These thugs have made some areas in Lagos to be labelled as notorious and unsafe to pass at night at times.
In addition to what may also call for worry and concern to many Lagosians is the outbreak of a disease that appears to have killed more people in Nigeria than COVID-19. Some states in Nigeria are already grappling with the outbreak of cholera. With hundreds dead and many infected, we cannot afford to lose guard when it comes to hygiene and sanitation are given the nature of the disease. Cholera is a water-borne disease and can be contracted from polluted water that may result from open defecation. Why then should preventable diseases be allowed to wreak havoc? We may all be playing the ostrich if we fold arms doing nothing about open defecation and just wishing cholera, a preventable disease, away.
Defecating openly has health, economic and social impacts on the defecator and people around as well because the diseases that result from such acts are capable of infecting those who inhale the stench that oozes out of the excreta. Even in this era, where mobile toilets are seen virtually at busy bus stops in Lagos, it becomes worrisome and disturbing that people still defecate openly.
For our mind and soul to be at rest and the body in healthy form, a special mechanism to checkmate the rising threats of these menaces must quickly come on board. Peace and sound health would be guaranteed if miscreants and open defecation are ridden off in Lagos.
• Kayode Ojewale is of the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA.