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Lagos: Long history of unenviable romance with refuse

*Government versus PSP refuse collectors: Much ado over introduction of new waste collection policy

The first instalment of this report was published last Friday

LAGOS State has had a long history with refuse with successive administrations having experimented and adopted different processes to manage the huge waste being generated on a daily basis. The reason for this is not far to seek. To the dismay and embarrassment of residents and all who identify with Lagos, it was rated as one of the dirtiest cities in the world just immediately after the Festival of Black and Arts and Culture, FESTAC, in the year 1977, thus exposing Lagos to global ridicule.

PSP operators evacuating refuse in Lagos

Sequel to this, the state government at the time decided to set up the Lagos State Refuse Disposal Board saddled with the responsibilities for environmental sanitation and domestic refuse collection and disposal. But after several failed attempts by government to manage the monumental waste being generated in Lagos, it became apparent that private sector involvement was necessary.

Prior to 1999, indeed during the era of  Colonel Mohammed Buba Marwa as military governor, the private sector was engaged in waste evacuation under a pilot scheme in two local government areas. This scheme was still in its infant stage when a civilian government was sworn into office in 1999 under the leadership of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

By this time, the state had almost been completely taken over by waste as heaps of refuse littered and turned most parts of the city to slums. The government toyed with the idea of hiring a foreign firm to handle the State’s waste management. Sadly, the foreign firm engaged to do the job for N7billion monthly failed woefully to the bewilderment of the governor who retraced his step and threw the challenge at the people, asking: ‘If my people cannot clean their city, what can they do?’ He decided there and then that the solution may well lie in the full involvement of the private sector in the cleaning of the city.

So, by January 2000, Tinubu launched a war against filth under a  project to be driven by the Private Sector Participation, PSP, refuse collectors. The PSP operators were expected to take over from the state-owned Lagos State Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, the assiduous task of clearing the mounting heaps that had virtually taken over the entire city. That was how the PSP Waste operators came into being.

Initially, it was run locally and the process lingered until the birth of modern waste management in the year 2007 under the leadership of Mr. Ola Oresanya who was saddled with the responsibility of steering  LAWMA, which oversee the activities of managers of refuse in Lagos. LAWMA had different sections handling resource recovery and recycling, collection of bins (both commercial and domestic), street sweeping, dump sites and  so on. All these services were interwoven and some aspects of these were being managed by the PSP, while LAWMA acted as the supervisor.

Initially, the private sector operators were made to handle collection of bin from house to house under the supervision of LAWMA. Then, the PSP operators enjoyed a form of intervention fund for their services; with this they could service their vehicles, machineries and offset the overhead costs which have kept them in the business of keeping Lagos cleaning.

The situation, however, took an unfavourable twist when the economy went into a recession, resulting in a meltdown that affected every form of business. But the situation was not such that waste management was seriously affected as dump sites and transfer loading stations like Olusosun located within Ikeja local government, Ikorodu, Simpson on Lagos Island continued to function. Same with others located in Epe, Agege and Oshodi.

Services continued without much interruption until January 2017 when the Lagos State government rolled out a new policy tagged Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, believed by the PSP operators to be a fallout of the prevailing recession and was intended to drive revenue generation.

 

 

 

 


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