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Monthly environmental sanitation: Sanwo-Olu waits on Lagosians

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Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu. PHOTO: Twitter/jidesanwoolu

Since it was inaugurated, about a fortnight ago, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led government in Lagos has made some policy statements all of which point to the direction of change.

In one of such policy statements, the administration hinted that the rested monthly environmental sanitation exercise might be re-introduced by the state government.

Governor Sanwo-Olu was, however, quick to point out that the return of the exercise would be based on the people’s consent, even though his body language suggested he would really love to bring back the exercise.

 
Before it was abolished, the monthly environmental sanitation usually held every last Saturday of the month.

While it lasted, residents were expected to clean their homes and environs, hence the restriction on movement between 7am and 10am, except for those that are on essential duties. Expectedly, defaulters were arrested by appropriate government agencies.
 
This was the scenario before the immediate past governor; Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode cancelled the monthly exercise on November 23, 2016.

It should, however, be noted that before Ambode finally cancelled the exercise, there were two court judgments, which ordered the cancelation. The two judgments, one by a Federal High Court, the other by an Appeal Court, were as a result of litigations initiated by two residents of the state, where they challenged the restriction on movement while the exercise lasted.

In the first suit, a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos State, presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris, declared as unlawful, the restriction of citizens from moving around during the monthly exercise.

The court held that there was no law in the state by which citizens could be kept compulsorily at home. It also added that there is no regulation in force currently in Lagos State, which authorised the restriction of citizen’s movement on the last Saturdays of the month, for the purpose of observing environmental sanitation.

The court found that the Constitution of the Federal Republic grants freedom of movement to every citizen, and such freedom cannot be taken away by executive proclamation, in the absence of any law to that effect.

As a result, Justice Idris voided the power of the Lagos State government and its agents in arresting any citizen found moving between 7am and 10am on the last Saturday of every month.

He delivered the judgment in respect of the suit by human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, against the Inspector-General of Police, and the Lagos State government, challenging the restriction of human movements on the said days.

Aside this judgment, which was delivered on March 16, 2015, there was another judgment by the Appeal Court that aligned with the High Court ruling.

In the suit brought before the Appeal Court by a certain Faith Okafor against the Lagos State government, Justice Ugochukwu Ogakwu of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on November 8, 2016 held that in the absence of a written law prescribing the same, the governor’s directive for people in Lagos State to stay at home, and not to move about, thereby restricting movement of persons in Lagos State within the hours of 7.00am to 10.00am on the last Saturday of every month was unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional.

Residents of the state are divided regarding the imperative of bringing back the exercise. One of those that kicked against the initiative is Tobore Ovuorie.

“We should stop deceiving ourselves with forced sanitation exercises. What we actually need is attitudinal change about neatness and waste management,” Ovuorie said.

She maintained that the monthly sanitation exercise was hypocritical as it gave many the opportunity to relax and engage in street football… So, the sanitation shenanigan is not needed …” she stated.

On his part, a development worker, Tayo Adelana said what the government needs to do along this line is to establish an environmental law enforcement agency, just like the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

“For us to achieve a decent environment, people must be held accountable, while government should sanction any market leader that his members are found wanting in this regard.”

He argued that re-introducing the monthly sanitation is not the best solution, because it is a waste of time and resources. “When the right system is put in place, you don’t need to set out a particular time belt for environmental sanitation.”

But Yemisi Adebayo, another resident supported the re-introduction on the monthly exercise saying it would compel residents to be involved in cleaning up of their environment.

For Joy Ani, a lawyer, the state does not need a monthly environmental sanitation, but a sustained campaign on attitudinal change, the need to maintain a neat environment, as well as appropriate waste management. Working towards a neat environment should be a daily thing, and it is important for Lagosians to get used to the reformation process,” she said.

For Nelson Ekujumi, the state needs a sustained and vigorous campaign on cleanliness, and also needs a fool-proof waste management system. “That to me is more beneficial because even when we had the monthly environmental sanitation exercise in place, most people didn’t own the exercise, but were always compelled to be part of it,” Ekujumi said.

Another resident, Tajudeen Adeola said the reintroduction of the exercise would not guarantee a clean state, noting that during the exercise many youths engaged in recreational activities, while adults stayed indoors.

“Most people do not put in up to an hour during the so-called sanitation exercise, which lasts for three hours, yet in a state like Lagos, where there is very high volume of economic activities, a lot of economic losses are recorded as a result of the exercise. I believe there should be an alternative means of getting the people to keep their environment clean without restricting their movements. Lets make cleaning of our environment a routine activity, and not a monthly exercise.”

Adeola, who claimed that the monthly exercise led to the emergence of illegal dumpsites across the city, added that some major roads and inner roads might be clean after the exercise, “but are we considering the negative impact of having illegal dumpsites scattered across the state,” he questioned.

The ministry directly in charge of the monthly environmental sanitation is the Ministry of Environment. Its public relations officer, Mukaila Sanusi said the governor’s statement was without ambiguity, even though he is seeking the people’s consent.

According to him, on the Lagos State Facebook page, the Ministry of Information is already collating opinions of residents and the Ministry of Environment cannot preempt the outcome of the opinion poll.


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