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Date Published: 05/04/10

BEST PAID POLITICIANS PITY BRAVE SURVIVALS OF DUMPS AND DESERT By Farouk Martins Aresa 

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Those of us that have been asked to explain so much poverty in the land of milk, honey and oil the black gold, cannot pretend we are not aware that after all our resources have been used to pay for benefits awarded to politicians, there is little left for the most of us. Nowhere in this world is greed so blatantly displayed by politicians who keep on taking more as their fellow citizens struggle hard, including those wallowing in squalor.   

We need not be ashamed of those trying to eke out a living out of the dumps when we know that the alternative for them and their families is to starve. They must be praised for their resourcefulness when backed to the wall. Many Nigerians created ways out of suffering in war, in need, in desperation, in humiliation and in subjugation of modern slavery. They turned garbage into survival, yet the rich and their cronies deny they exist.   

It was from the same scrap metal dump that Muhammad Abdullahi was able to build his helicopter. From polluted environmental degradation, some Niger Delta boys separated oil from water to make refined petrol business. These are entrepreneurs that need encouragement not condemnations. They shun militias, armed robbery and prostitution to be able to make a living from what most of us will never touch.  

If we had caring governments not denials, those dump sites should have been regulated and organized for safety in line with international standard for sorting of refuse. These people actually created jobs for themselves. Many had come out of good homes, none of whom would have worked in dumps near towns and villages where they can be easily identified. It is another testimony that Nigerians are not lazy and are willing to work, even at their own risk. Where is the reward for making something out of nothing? 

Apart from the disgrace and shame that awakened the Country, sorting of refuse and dumps are done all over the world. The sites are fed by the local governments’ garbage trunks. The difference is how these dumps are regulated so that workers there are not exploited by middlemen. So workers on the sites are left to regulate themselves. BBC has labeled them “wildcat” and “free-style” just as plastic free style pickers exist in their own country. Though dump sorters and homeless are kept in factories and shelters.  

These are not glamorous jobs anybody prays for but for decades, Nigerians used to come to Lagos to carry human waste, went to London to wash dead bodies and went to USA and Fernando Po to risk their lives in unsafe factories and mines, too dangerous to count. The wise ones had managed to make it a temporary part of their lives, gotten an education before they brought the golden fleece back home to their loved ones.  

BBC post: developed nations could have called for sanctions for any cause of abuse but not obscene benefit. When lion share of Nigeria’s incomes are paid to politicians in benefits for unproductive wheels of government regardless of the percentage of money left for others in the same country, we are bound to have dislocation of classes leading to high crimes, prostitution and wasted abilities into undesirable endeavors. No country pays administrators more than 10 to 20% to manage except poor corrupt countries?  

It does not take a brainer to make the choice between going for the highest paid jobs in the world as politicians or as hustlers in one of Nigeria’s dumps and getting lost across the desert. The task involved in each is very dangerous and you can end up losing your life. That is why most Nigerians do not risk their lives except in politics. Many times it is a matter of choice and in other cases that of being in the wrong place at the right time.  

Watch indifferent Nigerians argue: they still do not believe that most of us are poor on subsistence edge. They blame the victims, while praise singers encourage politicians and bankers for their outrageous salaries, benefits, contract to one another and selves. That is why politicians will do just about anything to retain the money flow into their pockets, including but not limited to selling out our gas for the next 20 years and borrowing from Paris Club members again since our foreign reserve and excess crude account are lower. 

Dumps may be better than the desert, being used as drug courier or 419. Many of the robbers have decided on how they are going to die. It is a dangerous game when young men and women would rather die of bullets quickly stealing than die slowly of hunger. Those who decide on drugs and 419, postpone violent ends which their activities can also lead to. It is the shame of poverty, stealing, 419 and drugs that force other Nigerians into the dumps and desert knowing full well that they are risking their lives.  

Lagos, Abuja and other state capitals present certain opportunities to make fast money that are not available in towns and villages. For politicians, it is an opportunity to legally make obscene salaries and award contracts to themselves or their cronies. Once other Nigerians leave their towns or villages, going back without making it is usually the last option. When people have no reasonable means of making money they fall into dire situations to make it by do or die.  

 Crumbs in other countries, are the ravages of the powerful politicians and their cronies in Nigeria sorted out in the dump sites by our children for materials that can be recycled and used. In addition, they trade by barter in an underground economy and build shacks on water, sands and garbage to avoid exorbitant rent. The rest of us that are not cronies are neither rich nor so poor, just living from day to day and pay check to pay checks, that is, if paid at all or in half. Salary delay was started by government. 

Unfortunately, it is this fear that make politics very attractive to desperados making it a do or die profession, at least in Nigeria. It is the least of all the above evils and the most rewarding in the world. By some estimate, over 80 percent of the money Nigeria makes go on salaries to all levels of governments. Each successive leader including that of OBJ, while promising change, failed and gained from it. A president that tried to cut the benefits of politicians to conform to realities at home is threatened with impeachment. 

There is no doubt that working in the dump for a living and crossing the desert has become an embarrassment to the Government only because it was publicized outside the Country. It has also shocked many Nigerians that are unaware of it into sense of guilt. Many of us knew about it, have seen them, talked to them but never counted them as one of our families. Studies and articles have been published about children working in dumps all over Nigeria without any move by any level of government. 

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