…As faction accuses government of divide and rule tactics
By Kingsley Adegboye
Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria AWAM, the umbrella body of private sector participation otherwise known as PSP in refuse collection in Lagos State, is at loggerhead with a splinter group of the association that calls itself Concerned Waste Collectors in Lagos over disagreement on the state government’s decision to exclude them from collecting domestic waste.
The new arrangement by the government is that with the coming of Visionscape under the Clean Lagos Initiative CLI, PSP waste collectors have been restricted to collecting commercial waste only. But AWAM says the entire commercial waste in Lagos is just 20 per cent of domestic waste which is not enough for its members who are over 400, and for this reason, they have engaged the government in discussion to see if the state government will see reasons with them to be included in domestic collection as they believe there is more money in domestic waste than in commercial waste collection. They have subsequently suspended their operation until the government reasons with them.
However, the new group, which has decided to work with the government said their desire to work with the government was borne out of a need to prevent the outbreak of an epidemic in the state considering the resurgence of waste in public places.
AWAM members last week in Lagos insisted that reinstating them to their previous duties as domestic waste collectors in the state is the way out of their protracted dispute with the government, pointing out that the government’s decision to restrict their operations to solely commercial waste collection was not a fair decision by the government.
According to their interim chairman, Oladipo Egbeyemi, “Domestic waste collection forms about 80 per cent of our total operations. The reason for clamouring for domestic waste collection is because commercial is just 20 per cent of our operation. Commercial waste collection will not be enough for the over 400 of our members”.
The PSP operators who also accused the state government of employing divide-and-rule tactics after a splinter group of waste collectors emerged last week and pledged their cooperation to the government, however, distanced themselves from the claims that they have resolved to collaborate with the government, saying they are still negotiating an out-of-court settlement.
At last week’s press conference where the members unanimously agreed that domestic waste collection is the only way to save their jobs, Mr. Egbeyemi said the association, would not sanction members of the splinter group, maintaining that there is no division in AWAM “We have internal mechanisms that can be explored and once we have exhausted that then we can go to the next level. We have absolutely no intention of sanctioning them because there is still room for them to come back.”
He said that negotiations with the government and Visionscape had not collapsed, adding that they were yet to receive a feedback from their talks with the company.
“The only way out of this challenge is for us to work together to take Lagos out of this mess. We are still hoping that Visionscape will come around and give us their terms of operation.”
Meanwhile, explaining why the group decided to align with the government, Mrs. Bamidele Hussain, CEO, Olive Store Waste Collectors, who said she was a founding member of AWAM, disclosed that they decided to reason with the government out of concern for the environment, as refuse had littered the entire Lagos metropolis, insisting that their decision to intervene at this point, was to prevent likely epidemic outbreak in the state.
Mrs. Hussain who said they are still members of AWAM, revealed that they had not concretised any decision with the government, as talks are still ongoing, pointing out however, that they are making progress in their discussion with the government, insisting that the reasonable thing to do now, is to think about how to get rid of refuse on the streets of Lagos while discussions are ongoing, but not to suspend operations. She noted that it is wrong for anybody to dictate to the owner of business as AWAM members