Pest control providers and hawkers are laughing all the way to the bank following the recent outbreak of Lassa fever in the country, BUKOLA ADEBAYO writes
The outbreak of Lassa fever has opened new vistas of business opportunities for fumigators, hawkers and other pest control providers in the country. Indeed, calls by experts and government officials urging Nigerians to take precautionary measures to ensure that rats, the major host of the Lassa virus, do not enter their homes, are gaining momentum and acceptance.
For the Managing Director, PestOFF, Lekki, Lagos, Mr. Tunde Aderinto, it is a boom time for the pest control outfit as no less than 10 companies have, in the past three days, contracted the firm to fumigate their facilities and offices.
According to Aderinto, the news of the outbreak of the virus as well as the accompanying commentaries has resulted in increased business for his firm.
“Before, if we submitted 20 proposals to organisations seeking to fumigate their offices, maybe only one will respond. In fact, at a time in 2014, we offered fumigation services free just to sensitise the citizens.
“But in the last three days, more than 10 companies have sent their officials to us, requesting the fumigation of their offices and facilities. I have had to sublet some jobs to my other colleagues because I am running out of chemicals to meet people’s demands,” he told our correspondent on Tuesday.
Beyond the awareness, Aderinto noted that many pest control firms in the country were currently laughing all the way to the bank. For instance, he stated that the fumigation of a plot of land, which hitherto was N20,000, had increased to N30, 000 because of high demand and cost of the chemicals.
Aderinto is however not alone in reaping the “benefits” of the Lassa fever syndrome.
Another pest control expert, Mr. Olumide Lawal, confirmed to our correspondent that demand for fumigation services had tripled.
Lawal, whose business is based in Ikeja, Lagos, said he worked on weekends to meet the demands of some his clients.
He said, “I did not rest this week because we were fumigating some hotels and offices. Many of the firms needed the exercise done before work started on Monday and so this got us all engaged. The Lassa fever outbreak has raised Nigerians’ consciousness concerning the importance of a rodent-free environment.
“Sales go up during Lassa fever outbreak but this time, the demand has tripled. It has been a blessing for my company. But, I don’t think people should wait for another outbreak before they take pest control seriously. Communities should come together to keep their environment clean.
“If I fumigate my house and my neighbour’s house has rats, they will return and invade my house. The business of keeping an environment rodent-free demands communal efforts. We need to dispose your refuse quickly and neatly. We also need to block holes and keep our drainage channels covered.”
He also warned Nigerians to be wary of fake pest control practitioners, who might seek to exploit the increasing demand by offering sub-standard services.
Lawal said, “There is a concentration of chemicals we must use for the cleansing exercise to be effective. If we go lower than that quantity, it will not be effective. It is just like spraying some air freshener or deodorants around the home.
“Again, if we go beyond the specification, it will be poisonous to the residents, who may be exposed to some respiratory diseases.”
Aside from the perspective of experts, hawkers of pesticides, especially rat killers, are having a good time. A petty trader in the Abule-Oja area of Yaba, told our correspondent on Monday that he ordered more local rat traps due to increasing requests from his customers.
“I sell at least 50 pieces of rat poison each day since last week compared to 20 I sold the previous week. What I used to sell for N50 per sachet is now N100. Customers now request the big traps for rats and they are willing to pay double, especially when I create the impression that the products came from the village.
“Before now, it was the chemical rat poison that was in demand but now, you can recommend anything that kills rats and customers will buy it without hesitation. They will only ask if it works.”
Schools, hospitals and establishments are also rolling out environmental sanitation programmes to keep rats out of their environments.
So far, more than 40 persons have died of Lassa fever, a hemorrhagic viral disease since its recent outbreak in the country.
More than 500 Nigerians are currently under observation for the disease.