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As stakeholders bury the hatchet in best interest of cleaner Lagos


Oba Akiolu

In the last couple of weeks, a lot of fireworks have been detonated among key stakeholders on the waste management situation in the centre of excellence, Lagos State. The development was largely due to the implementation of a new waste management policy encapsulated in the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) which was designed to revolutionize waste collection and processing in the State in line with global best practices.

Determined to implement a radical paradigm shift, the State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode had introduced some reforms in the sector with the sole aim of addressing the challenges, which had plagued waste management in the State, a development which brought about an international environmental utility group, Visionscape Sanitation Solutions.Under the new arrangement, Visionscape was required to manage residential waste, while Private Sector Participants, otherwise known as PSP operators were required to collect commercial waste. Visionscape was also required to come up with engineered sanitary landfills and modern material recovery and transfer loading stations to scale up the waste value-chain.

The transition period had, however, been fraught with disagreements and setbacks, especially with the PSP operators deciding not to work with the State Government and Visionscape.There was also the allegation of some PSP operators allowing themselves to be used by those who felt the new arrangement would affect them, to sabotage the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, which in turn, further complicated the waste management challenges with the resultant effect of heaps of refuse adorning major streets and public places across the State.

For instance, the State Government had, in a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan, revealed how some PSP operators were arrested for dumping waste on the streets in the middle of the night, in a clear effort to sabotage the new policy.Disclosing details, Bamigbetan had 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.He said another PSP operator was arrested in Mushin area of the State for a similar offence and had already been charged to court.He said it was unfortunate that some PSP operators were allowing vested interests to use them to blackmail government into abandoning the reforms designed to revolutionize waste management in the State in line with global best practices, and that it would not succumb to such blackmail.

“The PSP operators are being used by those fighting against the reforms the government is putting in place. The Cleaner Lagos Initiative 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. Overtime, the Lagos State Government has carried out reforms in the Police Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LATSMA), among others and 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.

“We like to appeal to Lagosians to give the government a chance and they will see the results of the new initiative which, ultimately, will make the State cleaner, safer and more prosperous. We also urge PSP operators to cooperate with the new initiative in the overall interest of the peace-loving people of the State,” the Commissioner said.

Before then, many notable citizens, had called on residents to join hands with the State Government to ensure the success of the CLI, especially to end the resurgence of waste on major streets.Speaking on the development, Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila urged the people to support government to make Lagos clean and habitable.

According to him, “In terms of dumping of refuse, that is a problem we have. Governance is about everybody; all of us need to join hands together to make Lagos cleaner. You clear refuse today and by tomorrow, refuse has returned there and government cannot keep up with that.“My charge to the public is that please, as government is trying and making efforts to make this place a more habitable place, we have responsibilities on our part to help the government. This is the time to remind the people of that popular slogan that says ‘change begins with me’, he said.

Also speaking on the waste management in the State, Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu warned residents against dumping refuse in public places, saying the CLI is for the benefit of all, just as he called for support for Visionscape in a bid to rid the state of refuse.Oba Akiolu spoke at a Town Hall meeting to sensitize market women and others on the CLI project and the need to ensure a cleaner environment, while also warning the PSP operators not to destroy Lagos in trying to sabotage the CLI project.

According to him, Lagosians should ensure that the state was not littered with refuse, warning that he would not beg for anybody who is arrested by the state government for dumping refuse in unauthorised places.Oba Akiolu said he learnt that 13 people had been arrested for dumping refuse in unauthorised places, adding that Lagosians should desist from such act, but rather bagged their waste and put them in places where Visionscape would cart them away.

The monarch said the state government had put in place mechanism to deal with waste in the state, saying that this kind of enlightenment programme would also be carried out in other parts of the state.He further urged Lagosians not to patronise cart pushers as some of them hide arms in their carts to wreck havoc, as well as dump such refuse in inappropriate places. He said, “I was in security service for thirty-two years. Armed robbers hide their guns, live ammunition, under these carts used for carting away refuse but with the initiative of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, things are going to be better, we are going to have a cleaner Lagos provided we have 100 percent citizenry cooperation, which is very necessary.

“That is why I had to come out today to talk to all of them. Lagos has started to grow better and bigger. All the market women have to cooperate. I have told them to stop living in the markets. It is only mad people that live in the markets. That is not in our culture,” he said.Also speaking on the development, the state Commissioner for the Environment, Babatunde Durosimi-Etti warned residents to stop indiscriminate dumping of refuse in unauthorized places, saying that perpetrators would face the full wrath of the law, including engaging in compulsory communal service as a form of deterrence.

The Commissioner reassured that the new solid waste management system was well thought out and positioned to offer an enduring solution to the waste management challenge thrown up by population increase and facility deficit that the State has had to encounter overtime.He said the PSP operators could not cope with the huge refuse being generated in Lagos currently as the population kept growing, adding that they did not have the equipment to cope, especially with the rise in foreign exchange.

According to him, this was what informed the Ambode administration to get a new consortium, Visionscape to handle domestic waste in the state, while the PSP operators would now handle commercial waste.Durosimi-Etti also appealed to Lagosians to bag their waste properly so that refuse would not litter the streets, urging them to report people seen dumping refuse in unauthorised places to government for prompt action.

The Iyaloja General of Nigeria, Folasade Tinubu-Ojo said Lagos had always been a role model to other states of the country, charging the market women to contribute their quota to make Lagos cleaner and better than it was before.She called on Visionscape and the government to provide market women with thicker waste carriers so that they could bag their waste properly, assuring that the market women would cooperate to make Lagos clean and embrace CLI.

Chairman, Lagos Island Local Government, Prince Adetoyosi Olusi also appealed to people on the Island to embrace the culture of bagging their waste and dumping them in designated places where Visionscape would cart them away. He called for the ban of scavengers across the state as their activities normally lead to littering the environment.Before the Oba of Lagos and the government read the riot acts, aggrieved PSP operators had used every mean possible to register their displeasure with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative.

However, in a twist of events, the differences which gave rise to the overflow of refuse across the state after the launch of CLI were eventually resolved on Thursday, with all the key players agreeing to sheath their swords and collaborate in order to ensure cleaner, prosperous and healthier environment in the state.The resolve to collaborate was reached at a meeting held between officials of the Lagos State Government, Visionscape Sanitation Solutions and Waste Collection Operators (WCOs), also known as Private Sector Participant (PSP) Operators.

Speaking at the meeting, the State’s Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti said that government was interested in easing challenges being experienced in Waste Management at present by creating synergy between Visionscape and the WCOs in their spheres of operation, stressing that resolving the challenge in a mutually beneficial manner was the best approach.

The Environment Commissioner stated that the Lagos State Government was determined to remove all bottlenecks hindering seamless waste disposal operations, adding that it was making the bold move of targeting a turn-around time of thirty minutes at the dumpsites by encouraging concerned stakeholders to create additional platform at the sites.He emphasized that no efforts would be spared to return the dump sites to sanity by reducing the menace of indiscriminately parked trucks and scavengers, both of which add to the loss of time at the dump sites.

Speaking on behalf of the WCOs, Kasumu Afis Olasehinde reiterated their commitment to the success of the Cleaner Lagos Initiative and pledged to roll out more trucks to rid Lagos of Wastes’ black spots.It was agreed at the meeting to evolve a mechanism that will guarantee effective collaboration between Visionscape and the PSPs.On his part, Visionscape’s Chief Executive Officer, John Irvine, applauded the new found understanding between his company.

With the resolve of all stakeholders to be on the same page, the public can only expect a cleaner Lagos in coming weeks.PSP operators dissociates truce with Lagos govt, Visionscape on refuse collection Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria (AWAM) popularly known as PSP yesterday disassociated themselves from alleged truce with the Lagos State government and Visionscape over the refuse collection and management.

The group in a statement by its Chairman, Oladipo Egbeyemi, expressed regrets that the alleged reported truce following a meeting on Thursday last week was clearly misleading and untrue.They stressed that on the said date parties were before Justice Taofiquat Oyekan Abdullahi of the Lagos High Court, sitting in Igbosere, in the suit filed by the Incorporated Trustees of the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria against the Lagos State Government.Visionscape, and ABC Sanitation Solution and all the parties legal representatives were duly present and the case was adjourned till March 7, 2018.

According to them, “The reason for the adjournment was to allow all parties to document agreement reached with His Excellency Mr Akinwummi Ambode on Saturday January 27, 2018. It was also to allow both parties to conclude on areas that have not been resolved”.The group said: “We are however disturbed by the news that while we (including the lawyers of the Government, Visionscape and ABC solution) were in court, there was a parallel meeting at the Ministry of Environment and Visionscape. And, that some individuals claiming to represent the interest of PSP had reached an agreement.

“Therefore, we would like to state categorically, that these individuals do not have the mandate of our members. “Consequently, they are in no way representing the collective interest of the Association.“We, the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, registered under the Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have a duly nominated Executive Caretaker Committee to steer the affairs of the Association following the resignation of the former Executives.“This executive Caretakers have been mandated to negotiate on behalf of our members”, the PSP operators said.

They also stressed that they are proud of being responsible for making Lagos a clean State and are saddened to see waste return to our beloved Lagos.“With a great sense of responsibility we agreed to collaborate with Visionscape following an explorative meeting between the Chief Executive of Visionscape, John Irvine. “We expected that by now negotiations would have been concluded but Visionscape have yet to follow through after the agreements reached at the meeting”, it added.

The PSP operators therefore appealed to the Government of His Excellency Mr Akinwumni Ambode, not to patronize or encourage or meet with those that not the accredited representatives of PSP operators, so that the government is not seen as encouraging impunity or sponsoring factions within our registered organization.They also expressed their continued adherence to the directive of the trial judge to continue to work despite the air of uncertainty that has plagued our industry in the last two years and the deplorable state of the dumpsites.

“ We remain committed to an amicable legal resolution with the Government and collaboration with all stakeholders to not only restore Lagos to her once glorious clean state of old but to actualise the Cleaner Lagos of the~ dream of His Excellency Mr Akinwummi Ambode.“We urge all our members AND sympathizers and indeed all lovers of a cleaner Lagos, not to be discouraged by the seeming intransigence of Visionscape in following through with the negotiations already commenced, but to continue to serve the good people of Lagos State in good conscience, hoping that with time, good reason will prevail to make the government agree to partner with in truth and in deed, for a Cleaner Lagos”, they added.

Your position in bad taste, PSP operators tell aggrieved members, insist on resolve to work with LASG, Visionscape The Concerned Stakeholders of Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria (AWMN) on Sunday condemned a statement credited to an aggrieved group within the association faulting the resolve to work with the Lagos State Government and an environmental utility group, Visionscape Sanitation Solutions to ensure cleaner and healthier environment.

The aggrieved group, in a statement by its Chairman, Oladipo Egbeyemi, had distanced itself from the agreement to work with the State Government to rid the State of filth adorning major streets and highways, describing the resolution as misleading and untrue.Responding, the concerned stakeholders, in a statement signed on their behalf by Kasumu Afis Olasehinde of Gafista Concepts Limited, said the statement by the aggrieved stakeholders was not only in bad taste but had shown them to care less about the interest of Lagosians.

The stakeholders comprising of 48 Private Sector Participant (PSP) operators in waste management, said their resolve to work with the State Government to ensure the success of the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) was borne out of the genuine desire to protect the environment and prevent outbreak of any epidemic in the State considering the resurgence of refuse in public places.

According to the statement, “This kind gesture was warmly received and accepted by the Government, but to the surprise of many, a group believed to be aggrieved from AWMN, has come out to disown us for offering a helping hand, you must ask why? Are they angry with progress? Are they people-oriented at all? Is this challenge a thing of pride and ego to them or service to the people?

“We have been rendering unequalled outstanding waste management service to Lagosians for decades and it is the state of things that necessitated our group’s initiative to offer help and also collaborate with Visionscape. The Visionscape group sees us as partners who will learn a lot from each other and they are willing to collaborate with us to make Lagos clean.“We also state that the wellbeing of Lagosians is utmost in our mind, and as we approach the raining season, we cannot just watch but also intervene to avoid epidemic, which is what the aggrieved group does not care about.

“We can’t afford to let the Cleaner Lagos initiative fail, because if it does, we will also be considered as failure, hence a need to take responsibility as a people-oriented group to render service whether paid or unpaid; laudable to say the least and quite commendable and any progressive would agree with my group,” Olasehinde said.
While describing change as inevitable, Olasehinde said it was surprising that some people who in the past had benefited from change were working against progressive change, and also attempting to discourage those who were genuinely willing to help government in the best interest of the people.

“Change is inevitable, other aggrieved operators can collaborate to deliver service with Visionscape without making drama out of it. It should be a collective joy to see people of Lagos living in comfort, you don’t wish failure on a vendor because you feel you can do better, and finally, it is unruly to attempt to pour cold water on the bravery and courage of the noble men who tried to swallow hurts and offer help. If we all contribute something, Lagos will work for us all by default,” he said.

While standing by the resolve of the stakeholders to work with government, Olasehinde commended the State Government for coming up with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, saying the policy and the law promulgated to back it up would no doubt proffer a permanent solution to waste management in the State.He particularly lauded the clear distinction under the CLI between commercial and domestic waste, among other innovations geared to revolutionize waste management in the State.

Besides, Olasehinde said there was no existing agreement between the State Government and PSP operators, and wondered why some aggrieved members were working against the State Government.

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