Stories by Kingsley Adegboye
Green Earth Angels, a non-governmental organisation, has accused the Akinwunmi Ambode Government of recklessly wasting money, experimenting with fruitless exercises in the face of the obvious failure of VisionScape Sanitation Solutions Ltd and the Government’s Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, which has resulted in the most appalling waste management by the state in recent years.
The group in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Akanni Alade, an engineer and environmentalist, alleged that rather than revert to the model that worked and conquered the once disturbing waste dump sites that dotted the state in the face of the failure of the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, the state government has kept experimenting and wasting billions of Naira on various forms of interventions in its desperate bid to get rid of refuse heaps now fast becoming once again the norm for Lagos residents.
According to Alade, “Wisdom teaches that when you are already in a hole, you stop digging, if not, you risk digging your own grave. Without doubt, Lagos was clean until the government brought in Visionscape under the Cleaner Lagos Initiative. The company started introducing communal dumping by distributing bins across the state without adequate trucks to evacuate the waste. This led to an increase in the volume of waste on our highways and medians.
“This singular act in no time destroyed the system that was put in place over the years. All the gains from the billions, energy and time spent these past years on advocacy, enlightenment and enforcement disappeared before our eyes, and has incapacitated the PSP waste operators, who were into door-to-door waste collection service.
“The revenue stream was negatively affected as the VisionScape communal dumping initiative encouraged residents to avoid paying their waste bills and dumping of waste instead in bins placed on highways and medians. Even when government eventually realised that the communal dumping arrangement was not working and withdrew the waste bins, it had become too late as the people had already imbibed the bad habit of dumping waste in the places the bins were positioned rather than allow a return to the old method of door-to-door collection and paying for the service as it used to be.
The group regretted that rather than government owning up to its mistake, retrace its step and embrace once again the old order that worked and freed the state from indiscriminate waste dumping, it came up with an intervention scheme since 2016, which has not shown any sign of solving the problem.
“Two years down the line, the government has experimented with various forms of interventions but the crisis is far from over. The reason, being that the intervention in itself is an evidence of failure that ought to have been for a short period of not more than three months to pave the way for a sustainable solution to be put in place. But that is not the case as government is seeing it as a permanent solution that has unfortunately not shown any indication of working,” the group noted.
The non-governmental organisation similarly faulted the latest of the interventions being carried out by the Lagos Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, stating that even with the acquisition of about 70 trucks by government and its decision to further acquire more new trucks for the programme, it was bound to fail as government has no business with waste management but because the policy negates the original good intentions of solely making LAWMA a Regulator and not an Operator.
“Apart from the fact that LAWMA cannot be a referee and a player in the same game, the intervention scheme is promoting free waste collection service and incapacitating the PSP operators by blocking their only source of revenue. This government must respect the original intention of the PSP initiative in the state’s waste management strategy. The truth is that waste collection service is capital-intensive and cannot be free.
“The state has invested 19 years in birthing and grooming the PSP operators and they have become very versatile in waste collection and transportation. It therefore, remains to be clearly understood why the Ambode government unlike its predecessors, seems not to be keen in going along with them in the state’s waste management. It needs to stop politicking and show sincerity of purpose on this serious issue of waste management.
“How do we reconcile the lack of any clear direction of government on this issue? In May 2018, the government during its ministerial press briefing stated that PSP operators will now manage domestic waste collection while VisionScape will focus on infrastructure development but that has never happened. In fact, what we have today is that government is trying to force PSP operators to work as subcontractors under VisionScape, a move majority of the operators have not only rejected but have described as economic slavery.