Ebenezer Adurokiya | Warri
He is tall and handsome but he is unhappy. His cuteness is coated in filthy, tattered clothes. Watching as he pushes his wheelbarrow of assorted domestic garbage leaves you wondering why somebody so attractive would venture into this line of business. He wears a fez cap and some mask that exposes only a small part of his forehead and eyes.
Wisdom Peter Osita told Saturday Tribune while on the job at Arubayi Street, off Ugborikoko Road, Warri, Delta State, that although he was not ashamed of his means of living, he had to cover himself up to reduce exposure to the foul-smelling rubbish, which incidentally are the articles of his trade.
Light-complexioned Osita is 40 years old. With the aid of a hired wheelbarrow, he earns a living in areas where the state government has provided no effective public or private refuse collectors. Osita scavenges, as it were, domestic wastes from the streets of the twin towns of Warri and Effurun in Warri and Uvwie local government areas. He does this for a token from his clients. Wastes so picked up after being paid for are dumped at a site behind Old Airport on the payment of a fee to the managers.
“My name is Wisdom Peter Osita from Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State. I am 40 years old. I’m married with a son, but my family is living at Udu Road in Udu Local Government Area.
“My mother is late, but my father is in Kaduna. I am the fourth child in my family and my siblings are living in different locations.
“My dump site is at the back of Old Airport. At the dump site, we pay a fee of N250 to dump our wastes. I rent a wheelbarrow for N200 because I don’t have money to buy one yet. A wheelbarrow costs about N40,000, including workmanship.”
The “workmanship” he spoke about has to do with some welding work to reinforce the wheelbarrow to be able to carry heavy loads without collapsing.
Early in the morning, Osita leaves his home at Udu Road to popular Igbudu Market in the heart of Warri to hire a wheelbarrow and begin his refuse collection job, trekking and pushing it from one point to another. According to him, his movement often begins from Igbudu, Emebiren, Effurun to Ugborikoko, across two local government areas, three days weekly.
“I do this job three days in a week. I start in the morning and close in the evening. I move to Igbudu through Emebiren and Effurun to Ugborikoko, and then to our dump site,” Osita, noted.
Armed with no scale, how does he fix his prices commensurate with the weight of collected refuse? Osita, while wiping off sweat from his face, said he engages his instincts to determine the weight and then slams his fee.
“I charge each dirt bag I carry by weight; that is if the weight of the dirt is heavy, I charge about N150 to N200,” he said, and with this primitive method, “by the grace of God, I make up to N7, 000 in a day.”
How did he come to the point of collecting refuse from households for survival at age 40 when some of his mates are engaged in much more prestigious and lucrative endeavours? His story is not different from the experience of an average, underprivileged Nigerian youth.
He said: “I finished from secondary school more than 20 years ago. The first time I wrote SSCE, the government de-recognised my school — located at Odion Road, Warri — for two years because of exam malpractice. So, I don’t have a WAEC certificate. It is from this work that I take care of my family, pay school fees, pay rent and other bills.
“I learnt painting and rock blasting, but I have not practised the latter in a long time. I do paint occasionally. Although I don’t like the work that I am doing, I don’t have any other option. I do it to survive. The country is in a mode of the survival of the toughest. I am not ashamed of this job because I am not stealing. The job is putting food on my table and meeting my needs in my little way.
“There was a time that the state government wanted to stop us, but we protested. We went to a radio station which aired our predicament and attracted public support for our cause. The masses supported us and asked the government to allow us to continue what we were doing because there were no job opportunities in the country. The issue almost resulted in the city being thrown into a crisis, but by God, we overcame.”
Amid eking out a living via refuse collection, Osita has dreams for the future, all things being equal. “I am doing this in the meantime to gather some money to get my own shop and get a keke (tricycle),” he said.
READ ALSO FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
- This couple dedicates their life to one long piece of performance art
- The Met Walks a Fine Line on Karl Lagerfeld: Judge the Clothes, Not the Man.
- Filipino artists showcase paintings, weaving and heritage collections
- 'What Was She Wearing' Solo Show By Artist Hannah Sellers Explores The Power Of Clothing
- Lil Nas X's Silver Body Makeup at the Met Gala 2023