One striking feature of a capital city in any developed country is cleanliness. Most of the capital cities are very clean and this announces to visitors that they are in a capital city. No heap of refuse, no abandoned broken down vehicles, no abandoned bloated dead bodies on the road and no suicide beggars competing with moving vehicles and almost threatening to harm a motorist who fails to give out alms.
Unfortunately, this could not be said of Lagos which used to be the nation’s capital and which remains the capital of Lagos state that international visitors must see on arrival in Nigeria after landing at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
Other International capital cities such as London, Washington, Oslo, Dublin, Paris etc are a beauty to behold because of their sparkling clean environment. The question then remains, how did these capital cities attain their cleanliness? The answer is simply that governments in those countries pay attention to personal hygiene and have a very effective waste disposal system right from individual households.
While the efforts of the past and present administrations in Lagos state to keep Lagos clean in accordance with internal best practices in waste disposal should not be lost, much still needed to be done to attain the level of cleanliness as obtained in other developed capital cities across the world. There is no gain saying the fact that the Ambode administration in Lagos state has made giant strides in achieving the Lagos of our dream, in terms of a cleaner megacity that is not only environmentally clean, but a commercial hub that offers prosperity to everyone. It is in this sense that the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) was established as an extensive and sustainable waste management system for Lagos.
This new waste management regime, (CLI) will create about 45,000 new jobs. The new waste management policy apart from creating the enabling environment for the private sector to harness international best practices, will also address the existing challenges in solid waste management in the state. The CLI will engage about 25,000 community sanitation workers who will work as street sweepers and they will reside in their wards so that they won’t have to spend so much money on transport to and from work.
Besides, they will be well trained with an attractive welfare package. The sanitation workers will be well kitted with decent uniforms, gloves, boots, pickers, brushes, carts as well as mobile phones with which to communicate with the control centre and they will be well remunerated. This is no doubt a mass employment scheme that would take many unemployed youths off the street and with the propensity to generate additional indirect 500,000 jobs from it’s value chain. This will also be a boost on the economy of Lagos state.
CLI is well tailored towards maximizing the state’s potential in solid waste management that would provide permanent solution to waste recycling, recovery and waste reduction challenges that have dimmed the shine of the state for decades, and offer innovative approach to liquid waste management, drainage management and waste water treatment in the State.
It is therefore obvious that this new sanitation policy if properly executed, will most likely achieve in one year, what the cancelled monthly environmental sanitation could not achieve in the last 30 years. The new sanitation workers will take cleaning as a serious business such that residents would only take care of their abodes and surroundings as a complementary service. It is going to be a departure from the cancelled monthly environmental sanitation which many Lagosians saw as forced labour.
The Cleaner Lagos Initiative scheme was informed by the need to correct the flaws in existing waste management system and to introduce modern technology into the management of solid waste. A new law to back the current waste management regime is in the offing and this will allow big time players in the waste management sector to do business with the government.
Residents will still pay what they are paying presently to Private Sector Partnership (PSP) on waste management with the new name of (Public Utility Levy) part of which goes into an Environment Trust Fund. The difference is that they will get more value for their money in terms of effective waste management system that would ensure government’s objective of a cleaner Lagos. The scope of the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) shall be expanded to enable it enforce, regulate and generate revenue from the waste management process while the new policy will protect the environment, human health and social living standards of Lagos residents.
Also, the need for the new initiative is a confirmation that the current waste management system has failed due to many obstacles which goes to show that it is high time the government re-strategised to ensure a cleaner Lagos which make the new environmental sanitation policy a welcome idea.
The new sanitation policy will address the current problem of irregular waste collection which leads to irregular and poor payments, bin placement, transfer loading stations, and other supporting infrastructure have been ignored and undue attention placed on waste collection only. In addition, LAWMA in its role as regulator/operator is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of having to coordinate the activities of 350 individual companies and still carry out its own collection services. The billing system is unduly complicated due to the differences and inconsistencies in charges and collection routes, therefore leaving the billing system open to manipulation and fraud while many individual operators have failed to fulfil their obligations on the trucks.
One cheering news is that the current poor waste management situation shall be addressed holistically using modern technology. For example, apart from the transformation of the existing Transfer Loading Station (TLS) and the introduction of no less that 25 Material Revolving Facility (MRF) where wastes will be sorted, 600 new compactor vehicles will be acquired, and waste dumpsites will be closed and replaced with engineered sanitary landfill sites.
The planned shutdown of dumpsites such as the Ojota and Solus dumpsites which has become an eyesore and a threat to health of residents of those areas is a big relief. Dumpsites are dangerous to health and the environment. The leachate and gas to be recovered from the proposed sanitary landfills will be put to good use.
In the plan, Olusosun dumpsite will be regenerated and turned into a park, where intercity buses will end their journey and would no longer be allowed to enter into the city. Passengers will from there take taxis and intra-city buses to their destinations in town. Emphasis will henceforth be on zero-dumping, recycling and generation of power from wastes. To achieve this, government will carry out a re-certification of all the 350 PSP operators, re-license them and audit the state of their compactors and there will be a control room where the tracked compactors shall be monitored.
It also pertinent at this juncture to ally the fears of the present PSP operators that government has no intention of sending them away, but will only re-certify their vehicles and make them comply with the new rules and regulation towards ensuring cleaner Lagos befitting the status of a mega city. This should be supported by all without prejudice.
The restructuring will benefit PSPs because the new environmental policies and laws will not only protect the citizens and the environment, but all waste management operators who painstakingly invest their resources into helping with the clean-up of Lagos.
The investment in the waste management will ensure that all commercial entities have a valid contract with a registered operator; these contracts will prove to be a valuable component for any serious-minded operator with sustainable plans for growth.
The restructuring will make new provisions that protect the interests of existing investments by requiring all commercial entities to have a valid and enforceable contract with a registered operator.
It is also heart warming to know that five new power stations, one in each division in the state, will be built to generate power from wastes, and the numerous dumpsites dotting parts of the state will soon be a thing of the past.
Going by what the Ambode administration has done so far since its assumption of office over a year ago, Lagosians have confidence in the ability of the government to deliver on promises like it did in a couple of other areas like infrastructure and security. If Lagos must truly attain it’s status of a mega city, it must be as clean as any of the capital cities earlier mentioned and that is why the Clean Lagos Initiative is the appropriate Special Purpose Vehicle towards achieving this. Let all stakeholders support this bold move. Lagos must be clean!
Gbolahan Akintunde, a policy analyst wrote from Karimu, Surulere, Lagos