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Return of refuse in Lagos

Lagos, Nigeria’s high density commercial and industrial capital, is back to wearing a garb of filth as heaps of refuse have taken over the metropolis. Not quite long after medical experts had, in reaction to the development warned of a possible outbreak of epidemic as a consequence, there have been reports of deaths arising from Lassa fever infection in the state, with a lot of people under surveillance due to exposure to the disease.

Rodents, vectors of the Lassa disease, breed rapidly in refuse-infested and polluted environments. The resurgence of refuse on Lagos streets has been attributed to the current face-off between the Lagos State Government, LASG, and Private Sector Participation, PSP, refuse collectors over  introduction of the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, a new waste disposal policy.

Aggrieved that the state government did not carry them along, the waste collectors under the aegis of the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, AWMN, had filed a suit against the government which is still pending in court.

To give legal backing to the CLI, the state government had initiated an executive bill which has since been passed into law by the State House of Assembly. To drive the CLI, government had engaged Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Ltd, an environmental utility group, to take over waste management in the state under a Public Private Partnership PPP, arrangement. This foreign firm is expected to apply advanced technology in waste management in the state.

Government’s argument is that this arrangement was in the overall interest of the state. But the PSP waste managers sharply disagree. According to them:  ‘’The Cleaner Lagos Initiative is discriminatory; it gives preference to a foreign company by displacing 350 local businesses. The plan is to restrict the PSP to commercial waste collection which only accounts for 20% of our current activity. How many businesses can survive when it loses 80% of its business activity?”

Unfortunately, while this acrimonious drama plays out, heaps of refuse continue to pile up in different parts of Lagos, constituting an eyesore and a serious health risk. Apart from that, many Lagosians have resorted to dumping their wastes into drainage channels, resulting in blockage and worsening the flooding that ravages parts of the state after rainfall.

We urge the Lagos State government to pro-actively engage all stakeholders, including the PSP operators, for an amicable resolution of this impasse and by so doing pave the way to rid Lagos  of wastes.

A way can be found to accommodate the indigenous waste collectors and prevent a situation where a large number of them will be unnecessarily thrown out of business and worsen unemployment. That is what inclusive governance is about.

 


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