..Says commercial operation begins March 1st, 2018
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode had in 2017 signed into law a new legislation called the Environmental Management Protection Law aimed at sanitizing the environment.
The law is to limit government’s role to waste regulation. The waste management part has been left for an environmental utility company, Visionscape Sanitation Services Limited, VSS, to handle with a 10-year franchise.
The VSS, a multinational company has a reputation for rendering innovative environmental solutions. It is known for using cutting-edge technologies and tools to address the environmental needs of large cities, among others.
The contract signed by Visionscape was to initially handle the waste in residential areas. But this did not go down well with the Private Sector Participants, PSP, operators who had been in charge of waste management in the state. They dragged the state government to the court. The matter lasted in the court for a year until the parties in the suit reached an out of court settlement. While the matter went on in court, the resources of Visionscape which were initially meant for collecting domestic waste had to be stretched because they were also deployed for managing commercial waste in public areas that had been abandoned by the PSPs.
The PSP, now called Waste Collectors (WCOs) has over 400 approved waste collection operators. They will concentrate on collecting commercial waste from schools, churches, industries, hospitals and other businesses, while Visionscape will focus on residential waste collection in the state.
To underscore the readiness of Visionscape to fulfill its mandate, its CEO, John Irvine, in a recent interview with Vanguard Newspaper articulated a roadmap at the end of which he said Lagos residents would be able to appreciate the CLI initiative fully.
Irvine further stated that, “In line with the CLI framework, wastes gathered by the community sanitation workers will be segregated, recycled and sent away and will be made into brushes, shovels and bins to come back into the state to be used in the environment.
Meantime, Visionscape Company, under the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, a new environmental waste management policy introduced by the state government to manage waste in line with global best practices, is set to commence full commercial operation from March 1, 2018.
In January 2018, Lagos State Government announced a total ban on the operations of cart pushers and wheel barrow operators in the state, saying that their activities were inimical to the environmental cleanliness in the state.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Tunji Bello, announcing the ban said that with the flag off of the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, the continuous activities of cart pushers would pose a threat to the success of the initiative.
Bello said that investigations had also revealed that the cart pushers are responsible for most of the illegal dumping of waste in canals and road medians at night which causes flooding, adding that aside constituting environmental nuisance, they were also traces of security threats.
He explained that government had discovered that those set of people used the night to perpetrate all sorts of dastardly acts. They dump refuse indiscriminately on the median of major roads and highways. They also pose serious security threats because they use those carts to hide arms and ammunitions and hide under the guise of carrying refuse to rob unsuspecting residents.
The state government therefore, declared zero tolerance for the activities of cart pushers and wheel barrow operators and directed security agencies to ensure that those found still operating are arrested and prosecuted according to the State Environmental Laws.
As part of pragmatic step to tackle the menace, the state government arrested some suspects in the act. The Lagos State Government on Tuesday, said it had concluded plans to arraign four officials of PSP operators arrested for dumping waste on the streets in the middle of the night along the Central Business District, CBD, of Lagos Island.
Also, four cart pushers;-Yusuf Saheed, Abubakar Lawal, Bashiru Umar and Amira Abdul, who were arrested in Moshalasi Alhaja in Agege area of the state for dumping refuse in unauthorised spots are to be arraigned in court soon.
The state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, said the PSP operators were arrested by security operatives in the early hours of Tuesday, in the process of using their compactor with registration number FST 908 XG to dump refuse on the street.
Bamigbetan said the latest arrest brought the number of PSP operators arrested for similar offence in the last one week to five, while hundreds of cart pushers and wheel barrow operators had equally been arrested for dumping waste in public places and canals in various parts of the state.
The commissioner maintained that the arrest was a clear confirmation of the suspicion of government that the new environmental waste management policy encapsulated in CLI was being sabotaged by vested interests.
He said: “A PSP operator was caught along Lagos Island Central Business District discharging refuse on the street. He was arrested by security operatives in the middle of the night which shows the institutional corruption that has been lingering in the sector which the state government intends to fight with the reforms put in place.
“The arrest of the PSP operator is a clear example of the deliberate efforts to sabotage what the State Government is doing. The PSP operators are not being driven out of their businesses with the reforms as they are making the public to believe.
“Under CLI, the government has made provision for the PSP operators to handle collection of commercial waste and there are over 15,000 companies in Lagos that can serve the over 200 PSP operators in the State. So far, the CLI has been able to get over 50,000 new employees out of the labour market.
“The government has also stressed itself by getting N2.5billion loan to enable the PSP operators buy equipment to be more competitive. These are the things they can key into than blackmailing government. The whole idea is to build local capacity in order to employ more of our unemployed youth,” Bamigbetan said.
Meanwhile, a PSP operator arrested last week in Mushin area of the State had already been charged to court with the case adjourned to February 26, while the latest suspect would be paraded during the week by the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps, LAGESC, and subsequently charged to court.
“The PSP operators are being used by those fighting against the reforms the government is putting in place. The CLI is part of the measures to fight institutional corruption in the system which the government is determined to eradicate.
“The government will not be blackmailed into abandoning the right thing for the people. The state government is committed to ensuring that the corruption in the waste management system is stamped out.
“Any PSP operator henceforth caught will be dealt with using the full weight of the law. No government will fold its arms and allow few vested interests whose interests are inimical to the majority of the people and aimed at sabotaging government’s policies and programmes to have a field day,” Bamigbetan said.
He urged residents to exercise a little more patience as the current challenges with waste disposal would soon be over, just as he advised the PSP operators to support government by embracing the new initiative.
Commissioner for Environment, Babtunde Durosinmi-Etti, at media briefing in Alausa, Ikeja, noted that previously, 13,000 metric tons of wastes were generated daily in Lagos but lately, it has increased.
“What we are currently experiencing across the state is temporary. It would soon disappear. All we want is for residents to bear with the state government on the refuse found across the state,” he added.
I am not a cart pusher-Suspect claims
Meantime, one of the suspects, Abubakar Lawal, a school driver, claimed that he was on his way to school when he was apprehended by environment officials, even as he alleged that no fewer than 15 persons were arrested but released after due negotiations.
He said: “I was on my way to the school where I was employed as a driver when the state government officials arrested me. I do not know the reason for their action. And later they told me that I was found dumping refuse at unauthorized locations.”