Leave Trash For LAWMA

“Stop, stop,” I urged the Uber driver.

He obliged and I came out of the cab with my phone to take a photo of the signpost. 

refuse disposal

“Why did they put up the sign,” I asked the driver, shaking my head as I returned to the car and put on my seat belt. “Do you think people will obey?”

“The first problem,” he said, “is that the people that it’s supposed for can’t even read it. When they see it, they will think it’s about 419.”

I nodded recalling the caveat emptor signs commonly seen on buildings and plots of land: This Property is Not For Sale; Beware of 419.

But, I was not sure if he had correctly estimated the literacy level in Lagos, Nigeria, because I was using the people in my circle, who can all read and write, as a gauge for the rest of society.

“Hmmm do you think it is fair for God to dirty their lives if they can’t read the sign?” I chuckled at the image in my mind of an angry God with smoking nostrils, waiting to rain trash on dissidents.

“I don’t know why they have to bring God into this matter. This thing is simple.” He went on to describe the current system of refuse collection initiated by the local government authorities.

“See,” he slowed down and pointed to a refuse heap, “they can throw their rubbish here . . . but only those who have paid, those that have cards.”

I have written about voluntary compliance before, marveling that Nigerians need the brutal arms of uniformed men to coerce compliance out of us like malu congo, yama yama congo—a derogatory chant that I cried out as a girl. It was aimed at cows being driven with a stick by a herdsman intent on the cows doing his bidding.

But as the driver and I exchanged ideas about efficient systems of refuse disposal and the role of government and religion, I observed that humans in general, were wild at heart, bucking at authority and searching for short cuts. That if law and order seemed to prevail in the western world, it wasn’t so much the result of “civilization”, but the result of sophisticated systems of policing—a speed camera mounted on a busy street ensured compliance without invoking the wrath of God.

I asked the driver what he thought people who aren’t able to pay the fee for refuse collection should do with their garbage.

“I don’t know o. Na wa! Only God can save this country!”

He had come full circle and now embraced a premise he had earlier rejected, why bring God into this matter? He (and I), had done more thinking about a social problem than we normally would have and that was not a bad start.

He brought me back to the present by interrupting my thoughts with a double entendre.

Madam, abeg leave trash for LAWMA!”


©Timi Yeseibo 2016


LAWMA- Lagos State Waste Management Authority.

Abeg leave trash for LAWMA– ordinarily, in this context, Pidgin English for: please allow Lagos State Waste Management Authority do their job.

(Abeg) leave trash for LAWMA– a hashtag on Twitter, the result of feuding between two Nigerian music producers. It has morphed into a slang that means (among other things), please talk about something else.


©Timi Yeseibo 2016


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37 thoughts on “Leave Trash For LAWMA

  1. Wooow you know something that struck me, how we think other nations are more civilized when it really can be attributed to better policing. So so so true. Because as lawless as we claim to be, we behave just fine when we travel

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Timi,

    Nigerians have a way of finding comedy in every situation both light-hearted and serious.

    We have this uncanny skill of extracting buzz words /phrases that become souvenirs of these memorable incidents.

    Some that come to mind are – “Oga at the top” a souvenir of the gaffe made by the Civil Defence officer and “Diaris God o”, Patience Jonathan’s emotional display at the meeting with the school teachers of the missing Chibok girls. Now leave thrash for LAWMA. XD

    Indeed, Nigerians can only relate with coerced obedience, I recall the battle to get us to wear seatbelts until a fine was attached to non-compliance. We had to be forced to protect our own lives. Lol

    At the end of the day, Nigerian’s fear the wrath of God more than anything, the enforcement officers can be persuaded to look the other way with a a few squeezed Naira notes. We don’t have God’s bank account yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, I wish I had looked inside the fenced plot to see if the sign, the fear of God, was effective.
      Lol, you never know, some people may have God’s bank account number! 🙂

      I enjoy the humour, our mild satires. I’m smiling as I remember oga at the top, etc. But I want us to move beyond laughter and ‘rebel’ against the status quo.

      Thanks Nedu.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. At the start of the tenure of the new government in Lagos, it seemed Lastma officials had been given orders to be less harsh in dealing with drivers and commuters. The result: chaos. Now they’re back to their former difficult selves and things seem a bit better. And, re: Uju’s comments, the KAI officials are back on the roads arresting people who cross the express in places where there are pedestrian bridges. Malu congo!

    Until a time when the systems you speak of find their way to Lagos, and a Lastma guy cannot be made to look away with two Azikiwe heads, we’ll need God to do our scaring and policing and dirtying for us—like he doesn’t have better things to do.

    As for waste management, it’s a problem that Lagos is dealing with even better than other states. A trip to Ibadan on a Thursday morning will have anyone grateful we can leave trash for Lawma. But that act in itself is still not sustainable. Presently, the government subsidises refuse collection because many won’t pay to have their refuse disposed. It’s a dilemma: If the government doesn’t collect it, they’ll be the ones to have to deal with public health issues, yet so much money can’t be spent on trash collection. There are a couple of recycling facilities in a lagos, but not enough to make leaving trash for Lawma a profitable business for government. My talk is becoming plenty, the koko of the matter is, who will pay for the trash to be disposed? There’s no answer to that yet.

    Had no idea you were in Naija. Welcome (that’s if you are not gone again sef), hope the motherland has been good to you?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ife, thanks for shedding light on LAWMA and other issues. The ‘Nigerian’ God is a most interesting concept… we ‘fear’ God selectively! Funds are limited and fear and coercion aren’t really working. People are slow to change. Creative solutions are needed- I guess someone will point at the sign board!

      Nigeria, Lagos, is a wonderful place … the sights, the sounds, the smells… inspiration for blogging 🙂 Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. @Uju’s example, I hear that at least one pedestrian is knocked down daily while attempting to run across the highway. This fact is obviously not a strong deterrent. We just like shortcuts!


  4. What a fascinating sign and I loved that contradicting realities, the humor, and the poignancy of it all. I have had similar encounters in the Philippines where I was born-where God plays a very big part in the culture. Also- the irony of systems that can be so inefficient.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you that we humans often search for shortcuts. I’ve seen people throwing trash out of their cars. Sadly, people leave their trash in the foyer of my apartment building.
    I hadn’t realized the literacy rate among Nigerians. Sad. What’s 419?


    1. I just saw a man tearing a piece of paper and littering a well-kept lawn with the pieces. I had hoped the neatness and beauty of the place would deter him, would render the place sacred ….

      419 is a popular term that Nigerians use to refer to advance fee fraud and other crimes of a similar nature. It is also commonly used to refer to fraud of various kinds, even on a minor scale.


  6. I think the question should be: Why would some people just not want to pay Lawma levies? Is it that the fees are exorbitant and unaffordable for some? Or is there another reason we r missing
    But shouldn’t sanitation fees be binding on all citizens? Does it make sense to say: if u don’t pay Lawma fees, you can’t dump ur refuse here. Where would he dispose them finally?

    For the God matter, that’s something u get used to in this country; if ur lecturer is threatening u, pray to God; the government is doing nothing, call God; ur spouse is cheating, pray to God to change his/her heart; u are unemployed, God can change that; u are corrupt & EFCC is after u, call onto God. I don’t blame people shaa, the situation of things looks so hopeless that they believe only a higher power can bring about a change

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point. I don’t know how much the levies are. Even people who can afford to pay, may look for short cuts… that’s human nature …

      Yes o. God is woven into the fabric of society… and yet our actions are contrary to His precepts. God has become the religious salve that “heals” all wounds. *sigh*


  7. Haha. One of friends once marvelled at why in thinking of any Nigerian situation and possible solutions, most seem to always cycle back to ‘May God save us in this country’.

    Hmmm. Religion, ‘God’ and the Nigerian situation. So many thoughts.

    Interesting statement on the sophisticated means of policing. I wanted to shout ‘yes!’, but then did they always have it that way?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! I have nothing against God. I do feel that He would like us to use the brains He gave us though …

      @sophisticated means of policing, no, they didn’t start out with speed cameras, for example. But over 50 years after independence, in the 21st century, one would have hoped Nigeria and Nigerians would be further along …


  8. Good piece! Now I see you are in Nigeria. A land of constant live pieces dramas here and there. And to say the truth… I’ll even refer to them as free comedy shows.
    And I was going to ask… I hope it wasn’t you that paid the extra baggage cost o@ Flight to Lagos. 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I can’t recall ever having such an interesting conversations with a cab driver as yours, Timi.:)
    Growing up in the 70’s, I remember it wasn’t uncommon to see people throw trash out of their car windows. Recently I witnessed someone throwing out a fast foot bag and I was stunned. It’d been so long since I’d seen that, it really made me sick. Unfortunately I couldn’t see the license plate because he/she was speeding as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I like Karma. I doubt seriously that God is going to dump on the folks. There is a book by Carl Haissen, a Florida writer, who sees folks in a convertible throwing trash into a lagoon. He gets a dump truck and dumps a whole load of garbage into the convertible. Now that is my kind of Karma. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aha, gotcha! XD

      A friend once left a stack of paper trash outside the paper bin in Den Haag (The Netherlands), because it was full. She was fined by the municipality. When she protested, they brought her attention to the sign that advised citizens not to leave trash outside the bin if it was full, but to call the authorities instead. When she asked them how they knew the paper garbage was hers, they said they went through it and saw several letters, periodicals, etc, with her address. I thought the municipality was a little mean! 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  11. interesting information The part about God trashing lives reminded me of a true story I like. a family grew a flower garden and threw all the weeds they pulled out onto the empty lot next to them. Several years later, they bought the lot to create a much needed vegetable garden and of course had to clear it of all the weeds they had thrown there for years. I THINK GOD PROBABLY CHUCKLED

    Liked by 2 people

  12. A bigger problem is watching people cross the highway even when… especially when there’s a bridge overhead. Makes zero sense really and yet we ask what the government uses our taxes for. Err they build bridges duh, but then, they also have to force compliance with safety rules by installing KAI officials at the foot bridges too so people don’t attempt suicide.
    How paradoxical is that hmm?

    Liked by 4 people

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