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Nigeria's 'Spiderman' on a mission to protect the environment

Nigeria Spiderman (Jonathan Olanlokun) cleaning streets of Osogbo, in Osun state (south west), on April 21, 2023.   -  
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Cleared / AP


In the streets of Osogbo, Osun State, Jonathan Olanlokun is a superhero with no super-power except his determination to to make a difference in his community.

In Nigeria, environmental waste poses a major challenge, especially in urban regions.

Olanlokun dresses as Spiderman on a regular basis, and goes out litter picking.

The costume gets him noticed and draws attention to the problem of litter on the streets. He started his work as an an environmental activist in 2004.

"I clean up the streets, I tell people about how they can keep their environment clean but more people still don’t take me serious and I feel sad about this but that wouldn’t stop me from doing my good work. 

"I kept doing it until 2021, I started wearing the spider man costume and I started having positive results, people started taking me serious and am happy about this, there’s joy in me, people are now more concerned about their environment than before," he says all smiles.

Towards a waste free world

One major challenge facing waste management in Nigeria is a lack of adequate infrastructure and resources for waste collection and disposal.

Many local authorities struggle to provide basic waste management services, leading to uncollected rubbish piling up in streets, open spaces, and drainage channels.

"What I do is so important because [...] I want to see a society that is free of waste," says Olanlokun.

Environmentalist Anthony Adejuwon says Olanlokun is setting an example for others and the government.

"I'm so glad when I hear and see him do his own thing, in his own little way. And for me, this is commendable. We cannot all wait until governments, you know, do something for us, we should begin to even teach the government the right thing by ensuring that we take that step that government itself can now emulate."

Olanlokun's work has also gone down well with locals.

"When our house is dirty and our road is dirty, it shows we are dirty people but when our homes are clean and our surroundings are dirty, we are still dirty because it’s where we work and use regularly is not supposed to be dirty," a retired civil servant tells.

"I thank this man because of what he’s doing. He’s making our surroundings clean," says Jimoh Oyelade."

A number of initiatives are under way in Nigeria to help sort out its waste management issues.

Every year, the United Nations estimates that approximately 11.2 billion tons of solid waste are gathered worldwide. It presents significant threats to ecosystems and humans, while also accounting for about 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

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