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Lagos needs sustainable waste management system to achieve vision 2030, says Odumboni

By Gloria Nwafor
07 June 2021   |   4:09 am
Environmental sustainability is very vast, it does not mean living without luxuries, but being aware of your resource consumption and reducing unnecessary waste.


Ibrahim Odumboni is the Managing Director, Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA). In this interview with GLORIA NWAFOR, he speaks on plans to create effective solid waste disposal management and efforts to drive environmental sustainability, among other issues.

How much effort has been put in place by the state in driving environmental sustainability?
Environmental sustainability is very vast, it does not mean living without luxuries, but being aware of your resource consumption and reducing unnecessary waste. Social satisfaction, efficiency improvement and innovation are the key drivers to achieve sustainability. In LAWMA, we have sustainability experts in the house, hence we do business across all our programmes from waste collection to disposal, Public Sector participation (PSP) programme, the landfills operations and others, ensuring that our entire operations are based on ensuring adherence to the environmental sustainable goals.

The management of waste in Lagos state is still a big issue. Why is the state still at agrarian level of generation without effective sorting, collection?
The process of waste management (generation, collection and disposal) varies from city to city and it involves a significant financial and human capital investment coupled with demands for advocacy and awareness among residents. The current Lagos State Government administration led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, with the support of Ministry of Environment and Water Resources led by the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tunji Bello, are in tune with this and currently leading the way in Nigeria.

In relation to recycling, Lagos State has started recycling officially since the inception of the current administration and over the last six months have scaled up big with revamp of the Blue box initiative, the introduction of technology through PAKAM app, provision of incentive scheme, collaboration with corporate organisations for production and distribution of recycling bins at airports, schools, hospitals and other public places, inauguration of Lagos Recyclers Association, capacity building for our certified recyclers and engagement with Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and World Bank to mention a few. The ultimate goal is to divert 20 per cent of our waste collected, which are recyclables from our disposal sites. On disposal of waste and waste to energy initiative, it is known that there are various approaches to it, which includes open dumping, landfilling, sanitary landfill for gasification and incineration system for energy generation plus others. In Lagos, at the moment, we have the landfills system, and in the last nine months, we have expedited efforts to ensure that we move away from that as quickly as possible due to its long-term environmental impact whilst we mitigate that. As we look at the vision of Lagos up to 2030, we need to come up with effective ways of managing our waste disposal in Lagos because the city is surrounded by water and limited in landmass availability. It is important that we have the right choices made rather doing something that is not sustainable. We are discussing with various environmentally centric organisations to give us options to explore. We have also sent our team of experts in-house to different countries and seminars to examine the available waste management models in those countries. We can benchmark our city with countries such as Singapore, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Belgium, Netherlands and Venezuela in terms of topography, population and other environmental challenges. We want to achieve something that is more sustainable for Lagos State and Lagosians. It is our goal to ensure that any initiative we embark on is at an affordable cost for the state and residents as well.

What are the key growth initiatives and the progress so far?
One of the key growth initiatives we have implemented under my watch is the repositioning of LAWMA, which was championed by the state governor. The focus has been how to position LAWMA, while considering the future. So, we decentralised our operations to ensure that we are present in all Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in Lagos metropolis and be more proactive rather than reactive. The second growth initiative is PSP reform.

We have reformed our PSP, organised capacity building for them and minimum standards to ensure deliverables. LAWMA is more regulatory rather than participatory now, and by doing this, we have been able to achieve more productivity in terms of trips to landfill and turnaround time for operations. More importantly, the governor helped us to address our disposal challenges with rehabilitation of landfills for long-term gain.

The third is the establishment of LAWMA academy, the first citadel of learning for solid waste management in Africa and Sub-Saharan Asia.

The academy is aimed at bridging the gap between practical, academic, theories and eradication of myths whilst creating a conducive learning environment for solid waste management. It is also tasked with carrying out research, awareness creation, advocacy and education. We recently partnered with the state’s Universal Basic Education Board, (LASUBEB) to train primary school teachers across the state on solid waste management. The aim is for them to include waste management in their curriculum. The training will help primary school pupils to understand what it takes to manage waste and implement effective waste management strategies as a culture. So, we are trying to catch these primary school pupils young basically, and encourage them to imbibe good waste disposal culture in them. The hope is that when they are grown, they will become change agents with their teachers, and correct the wrong narratives of ineffective solid waste management and other environmental challenges.

Another initiative, we have recorded success in the state’s recycling programme, which supports separation from sources and recycling plants. We have grown our recycling with the support of the governor to ensure that 20 per cent of what we take to landfill is duly intercepted. The progress made on recycling will help ensure consistent supply of raw materials for recycling manufacturing companies, creation of over 6,000 informal jobs and reduction of environmental impact.

For instance, it takes a long time for single used plastic to decay, so, we cannot continue with the conventional approach, as these plastics will outlive all of us. The best thing to do is to take a position around it and you can see a lot of private organisations have joined to support our efforts. We are partnering Heritage Bank, Tangerine life, Rotary clubs, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and others. Stakeholders are getting involved to help move the circular economy supported by recycling and waste to wealth forward. Those are some of the things we have done apart from welfare package for LAWMA staff, sweepers, capacity building for our staff and engagement with local communities for effective solid waste management. We are also proud of our engineering team, as they are one of the strongest any agency could desire in Nigeria. In terms of productivity, our engineering team has the best hydraulic engineers and we manufacture our own bins from scratch.

What is the mandate given to you regarding waste management and how much progress have you made on that?
My responsibilities and mandates are as spelt out in the state’s Environmental Protection and Management Law 2017. It stipulates that my team and myself are saddled with the responsibility to ensure cleaner Lagos is achieved in an environmentally sustainable way with greater consideration given to human health demand.

This is also well emphasised under the current administration’s agenda. Moreover, solid waste management is a collective human responsibility not just the agency’s, as the part we all play determines the benefits to us all and I’m leading from the front as the responsibility champion.

In doing this, we collaborate with other agencies within the state, other key stakeholders in the private sector and align with the policies and agendas of our parent ministry. The commitment to effectively manage our solid waste in a proactive manner. Therefore, all hands has to be on deck to ensure progress is made on over 14,000 metric tonnes of waste generated daily.

When you compare solid waste management collection when Visionscape was handling waste management of the state to what we have now, you will begin to see the magnitude of the progress Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration has made in the last two years.

Visionscape had a target of 2,000 metric tonnes daily averaging over 150 trips compared to the over 800 trips we have completed. We also have the state’s mandate to ensure effective and sustainable solid waste management plan is put in place for the future.

In terms of deliverables so far, we have made significant progress in the initiation of recycling/ separation of waste from source, launch of LAWMA Academy for promotion of waste education and awareness across all ages, reforming of our PSPs for service optimisation and sustainable capacity building.

On disposal we have had a fully rehabilitated landfill and have proactively commenced the research for our future needs, as we cannot continue with the current conventional approach. I am extremely confident that this administration is on the right course to deliver the first revolution way for waste management in Lagos.

As part of our plan for effective solid waste disposal management, we created our own blueprint, which led to the inauguration of our Waste Management Unit (WMU). This unit is saddled with the responsibility of carrying out research and development activities to ensure sustainability in relation to solid waste disposal.

They research on what we have currently and what will do in the future, they travel to various countries to understudy latest development efforts in waste management and examine what various global stakeholders are saying.

What has been the achievement of your administration in the last one-year in office?
The last one-year has come with loads of milestones for the agency and myself. We have consistently cleaned Lagos, inaugurated LAWMA academy, launch of Lagos recycle, ensured better welfare package for all formal and informal staff, decentralisation of operations into four districts.

We have also supported the provision of employment for over 30,000 residents, initiated PAKAM app, made progress on waste to energy/wealth initiatives, provided infrastructural development for future positioning (landfill rehabilitation, acquisition of 102 brand new trucks for operations and initiation of three new transfer loading stations) and newly branded LAWMA (post-Visionscape).