Cleaner Lagos Initiative: Tabling the facts -By Babatunde Humpe

Filed under: National Issues |


Most capital cities in developed countries like London, Washington D.C, Oslo, Dublin, Paris etc are very clean. 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 beggars competing with moving vehicles, almost threatening to harm any motorist who fails to give out alms.

Unfortunately, this could not be said of Lagos which used to be the nation’s capital and remains the commercial nerve centre that international visitors must see on arrival in Nigeria after landing at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, the busiest in the West Africa sub region.

The question 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 very effective waste disposal system right from individual households to the city centres. If we say we want to be a smart city and globally competitive, we must use the approach that allows for the collection of waste in a globally competitive way and that is what the Lagos State government has done with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) without punishing tax payers.

This is a partnership that provides 600 brand new compactors without paying a dime yet with the partnership, government will provide 27,300 well remunerated sanitation workers in all the wards across the state who will be well kitted and clean Ikorodu, Ayobo the same way they clean Victoria Island and Ikoyi. The take home pay of the sanitation workers would be N23,000, including health insurance as against the N10, 000 they are currently being paid. The partnership is also expected to provide hundreds of thousands of bins where our people can now have the culture and attitude to put their dirt in the bins instead of putting it in the canals and drains.

Much is needed to be done to attain the level of cleanliness as obtained in other developed capital cities across the world. There is no gainsaying the fact that the administration has made giant strides in achieving the Lagos of our dreams in terms of a cleaner smart-city that is not only environmentally clean, but a commercial hub that offers prosperity to everyone. It is in this sense that the CLI was established as an extensive and sustainable waste management system for Lagos. This is very likely to be the catalyst we have been waiting for.

This new waste management initiative will create about 27, 500 direct new jobs. Apart from it creating the enabling environment for the private sector to harness international best practices, it will also address the existing challenges in solid waste management in the state. This is no doubt a mass employment scheme that would take many unemployed youths off the street and coming with the added propensity to generate additional indirect 500,000 jobs from its value chain.

The new sanitation workers will take cleaning as a serious business such that residents would only take care of their homes 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.

For sure, the scheme was informed by the need to correct the flaws in existing waste management system mainly operated by Private Sector Partnership and to introduce modern technology into the management of solid waste.

It is erroneous and needless apprehension to think the PSP would be out of business because of the scheme. They are indeed supposed to move from domestic to commercial waste disposal. Lagos Waste Management Authority has been directed that all qualified PSP should be given companies to service. The government has made an arrangement that in case any of the PSP service providers does not have the capacity, it will back it to be able to secure bank loans to be able to service companies assigned to it. Without a shadow of doubt, the PSP in the new arrangement would be the ultimate beneficiaries.

Residents will still pay what they are paying presently to 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 LAWMA has been 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.

Moreover, 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 that have been ignored and undue attention placed on waste collection only. Also, we must note that 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. Besides, 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.

Yet, there are pungent questions to ponder. Why are people putting their waste in the drains and canals hoping that somehow the water will flush it away? The answer is that government has not been able to provide the people with enough bins or places where they can put the dirt. Since they cannot leave the dirt in the house, they must have a channel to get it out.

The cheering news is that the current poor waste management situation shall be addressed holistically using modern technology under the new waste management regime that the initiative represents.

The planned shutdown of dumpsites such as the Ojota and Olusosun, 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.

Going by what this administration has done since its assumption of office over two years ago, Lagosians have confidence in the ability of the government to deliver on promises like it did in a couple of other areas like economy, infrastructure and security.

Humpe is the Special Adviser on Environment to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode