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24.01.2024 Featured ‘I Have More Than 1000 Packs’ — Laments of Styrofoam Sellers Following Lagos Govt’s Immediate Ban

Published 24th Jan, 2024

By Sodeeq Atanda

Risikat Karimu, a 42-year-old trader at Ojuwole Market in Mushin, Lagos State, studied marketing at Lagos State Polytechnic and currently deals in a variety of plastic products. On Sunday, while relaxing in her house, she came across an “unsettling” announcement from the authorities prohibiting the use and sale of Styrofoam.

The measure, recently announced by the Lagos State Government to curb environmental pollution, poses threats to Karimu’s business. She has been in the business since 2009, and a significant part of it is Styrofoam, a single-use, non-biodegradable food takeaway product. When she learned about the announcement on her Instagram feed, hundreds of Styrofoam packs were still in stock.

READ ALSO: ‘Why Not Recycle Them?’ —Nigerians React as Lagos Bans Single-Use Plastics

Ojuwole Market in Mushin. Photo Credit: Sodeeq Atanda/FIJ.

“I was just resting on Sunday, and I decided to log in to my Instagram account. I then saw a post on my timeline that the government had banned Styrofoam. It was really unsettling to me. I became restless because I still have so many packs in store,” Karimu told FIJ with a troubled voice on Tuesday.

“When did they start thinking about this? I asked myself. It caught all of us selling the products unaware. I still have deposits for the product with some of my suppliers. A supplier was supposed to deliver a full truck yesterday, but the government has terminated that. Even the companies that were supplying us had no prior information that the government was going to shut down the production of these food packs.”

What Karimu narrated is the panic sellers and producers of Styrofoam have been plunged into since the authorities pronounced the ban, which was to take effect immediately.

Tokunbo Wahab, Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, had written on his X handle on Sunday: “Following the menace which single-use plastics especially non-biodegradable Styrofoam are causing on the environment, the Lagos State government (@followlasg), through the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (@LasgMOE ), is hereby announcing a ban on the usage and distribution of Styrofoam and other single-use plastics in the state with immediate effect.

‘WE WILL SELL WHAT WE HAVE

As calm as Kemi Alabi (not real name), a plastic wholesaler around Ateere Way in Mushin, tried to sound while speaking with our reporter, the confusion brought by this ban was apparent in her voice.

“I have also heard about the order. But it is very bad. How can you say we should not sell what we have bought? Is it poison? I buy directly from manufacturers, and they have rules. If you buy their products and you notice that there are factory faults on them, you have the right to return them,” Alabi said. “But we cannot return these ones because it is not the suppliers’ fault. I currently have more than 1,000 packs in my store.”

The woman further explained that it is hard for traders to be in agreement with the government’s position. “Whether they like it or not, we must sell what we have already. A good government should be a listening one. You cannot just wake up one day and introduce a policy that can kill people and businesses. Some of us take out loans to do business. How do we repay and continue our business if we cannot sell our wares?

“A kind-hearted government would have provided a realistic timeline for us to trade off our goods. With this style of iron-fist governance, they are only making life difficult. In addition, they are encouraging us to engage in backdoor trading. We need to recoup the money we have invested in buying these packs.”

Our reporter was still interviewing Bolanle Omojeje (not real name) when her sister phoned in from Ojuwole Market, warning her in real time not to sell Styrofoam to anyone again. The said sister informed Omojeje that officials of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) had bumped into her shop and forcefully seized packs of Styrofoam from it.

While the intention behind this policy is clear, it appears only the government is happy about its abrupt implementation. The traders said that it is difficult to obey such an urgent order.

Aside from traders, petty food vendors and big restaurants that provide cheap food services in the state are also likely to incur some losses in the face of this development.

READ ALSO: ‘What Is the Point?’ — Bayelsa Residents Lament Night Ban on Tricycles

When the government wanted to ban commercial okada riders in some parts of the state, they gave them an ultimatum, which gave the affected people ample time to plan their next line of business, Karimu said. He was right. The Lagos authorities issued a prior notice before the commencement of a phased ban on commercial motorcycles in some parts of the state. Such a prior notice could have offered some relief to small and medium-scale businesses in the current circumstances.

FIJ learned that officials of KAI have commenced going to shops and companies to confiscate Styrofoam.

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Published 24th Jan, 2024

By Sodeeq Atanda

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