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Oja ’ba Market: Where You Can’t Find Good Toilet When Pressed
Environment, at the instance of a concerned individual, was invited to Oja-Oba, the heart of the indigenous section of Ibadan, Oyo State, believed to have been originally occupied by war refugees in the 19th century, to behold the bad state of facilities in the ancient market. Ebenezer Adurokiya, Olapeju Ibrahim and Opeyemi Oyelola report the situation.
History has it that Oja Oba or Oja’ba was repopulated around 1820 by warriors comprising Egbas, Ijebus, Ifes and the Oyos. Maye Okunade, from Ife, became the Baale and was assisted by Labosinde as Baba-Isale and Lakanle as leader of the Oyo group.
Famous Oja’ba (King’s Market) is a massive market of small stalls, sprawling with commodities emanating from all nooks and crannies of the nation. The famous market adjourning Orita Merin Market spreads from Mapo Hill which hosts the gigantic municipal city hall. Ranking among the biggest foodstuff markets in Ibadan, Oja’ba plays host to largely market women, young and aged load carriers, able-bodied and destitute beggars, truck pushers and transporters.
Generally, markets are patronised by individuals for one thing or the other; essentially to buy and sell. In markets, substantial hours are spent on transactions during which one may receive the call of nature. At this embarrassing juncture, to avoid contracting diseases, many would naturally seek to return home to answer the call of nature given the fact that in this part of the world, accessing a public toilet, let alone a hygienic one can be far-fetched. This is because private toilets are not common in homes in the ancient city, not to talk of public ones.
However in the case of Oja’ba, located in Ibadan South West Local Government of Oyo State, the available toilet facility was constructed for the comfort of the people in 1992 with Ibadan Development Appeal Fund collected in 1986. Characteristic of the Nigerian system of poor maintenance culture, 20 years after the commissioning, the facility has become a shadow of its former self, despite regular collection of tolls from users.
With the look of things around the market, Environment gathered that the state of the only toilet facility leaves much to be desired. On-the-spot-assessment showed that the toilet facility, being manned by one Mr Wasiu Sekoni Fatade, emits stench of great magnitude that is unbecoming of the status of the market which is situated directly opposite the palace of the Olubadan of Ibadan. Subsequently, that an outbreak of epidemic may be in the offing is to say the least. According to Mr Fatade, the toilet has suffered a lack of maintenance, saying that he collects N50 each from individuals who intend to use the facility, despite its state of disrepair.
Mr Fatade, who has been in care of the public toilet at Oja Oba for over 11 years, stated that the sorry state of the toilet originated from changes in government in the state.
Environment learnt that some years back, there was zero maintenance of the comfort station by the previous cleaners which has resulted in its bad shape. It was observed that the roof, ceiling, windows and doors of the facility have all given way to decadence. At the back of the toilet is a stench-emitting open cesspit where pressed individuals urinate and throw faeces wrapped in black nylons into the thick bush in the surroundings. This is because the hitherto rest room and water closet has not only turned black, but drooping and subsequently abandoned. Dirty plastic kettles and buckets meant for washing after defecation were seen littering a corner of the floor of the facility.
But when asked why the neglect has not received attention from authorities in charge, the man in charge of keeping the toilet clean, Mr Fatade, said “Government had promised to renovate it for us, but we are yet to see them. The little money we make from customers daily is usually used to buy chemicals such as disinfectants which we use in cleaning the toilet and its surroundings. We also use part of the money for our up-keep because it is where you work that you eat,” Mr Fatade stated.
According to him, traders are still waiting for government to come to their rescue as regards renovating the deplorable building. Failure to move fast to salvage the situation by either the local government or the state government’s Ministry of Environment and Habitat, may result in systemic outbreak of the obvious diseases making waves around us.
Environment also met the “Baba Oloja” of Oja-Oba, Chief Muide Olabamiji, who said that the people of Oja Oba needed a good toilet and a better place where refuse could be dumped. He stated that traders, who have waste to dump, always have to cover a long distance to Oke Mapo to throw their waste into the skip bins provided by the state government.
Chief Olabamiji frowned on what is happening around the abandoned sole public and unhygienic toilet in the market. The chief said that in spite of the fact that the local government collects remmitance from its agent manning the facility, it has never deemed it fit to plough the proceeds back to maintain it.
“The government appointed a man to be in charge of the place, but it has never looked back to renovate it. We used to pay N30 to answer the call of nature, but now, it’s N50 and there is no sign of change ever since we have been paying,” Chief Olabamiji lamented.
Speaking on his role as the Baba Oloja of the market, Chief Olabamiji said that as the male head of the market, “my impacts toward a clean and healthy environment in the market is to monitor each trader during environmental sanitation exercise with my aides and ensure that each trader cleans his/her surrounding and the refuse collected is well-monitored by dumping them into the skip bins for onward evacuation by government waste trucks,” which he said, were often scarce to come by.
He stated that the Ibadan South-West Local Government Area has a sub-office around the market, where revenue is being collected daily.
Environment also spoke with some market women (traders) concerning the environmental challenges being faced in the market. Mrs Taiye Mukaila, an onion seller, stated that during the weekly sanitation exercise on Thursdays, Baba Oloja usually supervises the market stalls before the arrival of sanitary inspectors who usually come for check-up everywhere.
She noted that, unlike other female traders, she does not patronise the toilet for obvious reasons. She requested the government to build a modern toilet facility with good water system.
Other traders, who spoke with Environment decried, the sorry state of the toilet facility. While some traders at Alagolo stall, specifically derided the lack of water, poor state of the toilet, waste bin, and payment of N70 monthly due they pay, which according to them, does not rub off on facilities available in the market.
The duo of Iya Oloja of Alagolo, Alhaja Fadilat Oladapo and Iya Afin Iyabode Adesoke, observed that coupled with the bad state of the market is low sales experienced in the market of recent.
Traders are also faced with short water supply. To alleviate the sufferings of traders in the market, Environment was told that a borehole was constructed by one Honourable Taoheed Abiola, a member of the Oyo State House of Assembly two years ago. Water is fetched from the borehole for a fee.
Alhaja Oladapo is not comfortable with the paying-for-water situation. So, she said “We need a standard toilet with good water facility, more waste bins, a good borehole water system which will be enough for the people to use and not a private one that before you fetch water, you must part with money,” she said.
Frowning on alleged extortion in parts of the market, the Baba Oloja said “I want Ibadan South-West to take over the monthly collection of N50 by some set of individuals in Akere market of Oja Oba. These people collect the money in view of doing something good in the market, but to no avail. Ibadan South-West should try and appoint people to Akere market in order to fetch out the culprits and put an end to extortion. What they use the money for should also be verified because there has been no development so far. In short, the government should please take over the monthly environmental collection in Oja Oba market in Ibadan South-West, Ibadan Oyo State,” she begged.
Caretaker Chairman of the Ibadan South West Local Government, Mr Taoheed Adeleke, could not be reached for comment as his GSM number did not go through and when a text message was sent to him on Thursday morning, it was not responded to.
Like every other ancient markets in other cities, nay Ibadan, descrepit buildings and obsolete stalls must give way to urban renewal.