By Muyiwa Olayinka
‘Knock’ ‘ knock’
Who is there?
Mr Boniface’s daughter Nneka queried from inside
We are you neighbors, answer came from the other end.
Nneka: Good morning sir.
Neighbors: We are here to see your daddy
Nneka: Recognizing the voice, she said ‘ I’m coming sir’.
Boniface’s daughter opened the door and recognized the three men standing at the door.
Neighbors:Nneka good morning where is your daddy?
Nneka: He’s inside let me go and call him, make yourselves comfortable
She dashed inside to call her father
Shortly after, Boniface entered quietly, wiping sleep from his eyes
Mr Boniface: My neighbors good morning, hope there is no problem
Mr Tayo, one of the neighbors was quick to reply him
Tayo: Not at all my brother, we are here to see you regarding the collection and payment of LAWMA fees. As you can see our frontage has been messed up with refuse, LAWMA has refused to remove wastes. They said we are owing. He continued, we are here to collect your dues.
Others nodded in agreement.
Boniface: How much am I owing?
Checking through the files in Mr Tayo’s hand, he said you are owing three months in arrears.
Boniface: You see my friends, I deliberately do not want to pay
The neighbors were shocked, Mr Hassan, one of the neighbors fired the next question
Hassan: But why, Oga Boniface?
Mr Boniface: I’m protesting subtly, haven’t you guys noticed the whole of Lagos is messed up with heaps of waste? The city is dotted with refuse and wastes. From Mushin to Ojuelegba, CMS to Victoria island, Lekki to Ajah, Cele to Igando and so on. If Lagos state government cannot meet their responsibilities, why are they asking me to fulfill mine?
Hassan: But you know LAWMA will not clear our wastes and they may invariably lock up our compound.
Boniface: I dare them! When we get to that bridge, we shall cross it. But as for me, I have no dime to pay, good day my brothers.
This is the sad reality in Lagos, our centre of excellence!
Wherever you go in Lagos, heaps of refuse stares back at you.
A first time visitor to Lagos will be shocked at the mountain of heaps of refuse. Road medians are not spared
Driving through Ikorodu, the main artery road that links the mainland to the island, heaps of refuse and wastes dot the landscape. Heaps of refuse is struggling with vehicular movement. With the accompanying health hazards, only God knows the number that have died as a result of this abnormality..
It seems Lagos has returned to pre 1999, when Nigeria just returned to democratic rule, after many years of military rule
The civilian governors met broken down and dilapidated structures including heaps of refuse. Lagos was not an exception.
The administrations of Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola, between 1999 to 2015, successfully tackle the environmental problems. LAWMA’s main responsibility then was the collection and disposal of municipal and industrial waste. They were also responsible for the removal of commercial waste services of the state and local governments. The past governments of Lagos took some far reaching measures such as:
Building of transfer load stations, widening and developing land sites, for example the Olusosun land site that was busting it seams
Banning the activities of cart pushers that were fond of dumping refuse indiscriminately
Equipping and reorganization of LAWMA to function optimally.
Employment of street sweepers on mainly the major roads
Encouraging the private sector participation in waste disposal (PSP).PSP managed both residential and commercial wastes. PSP was jointly paid by subscribers and the state government.
A weekly environmental sanitation by traders and shop owners was instituted along with another general monthly environmental clean up exercise.
Unfortunately the monthly exercise was nullified by a court verdict that ruled it infringes the resident’s right of freedom.
However it did not dampened the whole exercise.
The system was operational and it was largely successful. Some African cities were impressed with the model until Governor Ambode came in 2015.
Ambode came up with its initiative and launched the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) in July 2017. But since then,the state has been worse hit by heaps of refuse.
What went wrong?
The Cleaner Lagos Initiative, launched by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, was meant to be an ambitious comprehensive reform that will cover recycling, sorting and dump site management. It goes beyond mere collection and disposal.
CLI was backed by a recently passed Environmental Management and Protection law by the state’s house of assembly. Accordingly, it was meant to drive the state to the desired future of achieving clean, hygienic and flood free environment. The CLI launching featured 920 LAGESC corps , marine waste collection and mechanized sweeping.
LASG dispensed off the services of PSP and appointed a private company Visionscape, a company promoted by Mr Niyi Makanjuola.
Niyi Makanjuola a young upstart, is the son of the owner of Caverton Helicopter, Mr Remi Makanjuola.
Allegations that some top notch Lagos politicians are on the board of Visionscape is rife. The young man, Niyi is believed to be fronting for top powerful individuals in the state.
This could be true, because sadly, the engagement of Visionscape has shown that it is incapable of.handling a mega status city of Lagos. Visionscape lacks the capacity for the enormous responsibility assigned to it. To add to the prevailing situation, the 350 PSP waste operates dragged LASG and Visionscape to court contesting the decision to jettison the existing PSP arrangement for a new investor. The case instituted had been invariably settled out of court but the awkward situation persists until trusts could be restored on both sides.
Issues surrounding Visionscape
Visionscape International Holdings is a registered offshore company in Dubai, UAE, according to its website.It claims it has other offices in Johannesburg (South Africa), Mumbai (India), and in Essex United Kingdom.
Visionscape Sanitation Solutions is the Nigeria subsidiary registered in 2015, it’s current shareholders and directors took control of the company a few months before it was awarded the waste management contract by LASG. Further search showed the company does not have a track record in actual ‘municipal waste collection’ elsewhere in the world
The finance structure of Visionscape is shrouded in secrecy, costing tax payers money to the tune of N85billion according to media reports. It was done in a nebulous way with LASG guaranteeing the dubious arrangement.
Adding more to the bad situation, the new environmental law passed, has seen LAWMA transiting from refuse collection and disposal to regulatory body. This has contributory effect to the malaise,when the most important responsibility has been hijacked from LAWMA.
No one is safe again.
Residents are exposed to disease carrying rodents, cockroaches and vermin. There was an outbreak of Lassa fever in Lagos sometimes ago, claiming the lives of many, some residents also died as a result of out break of cholera.
Lagos cannot make breakthrough in refuse collection with this culture of discontinuity. Changing policy as it suits political office holders does not ensure progress of functional policy.
Ideally LASG should have improved on what they met that was known to be working. Jettisoning an old model for a new model without thinking it through, possibly for pecuniary gains and for political gains, invariably affects the lives of. 21 million Lagosians.
We also need to ask why refuse management, ordinarily an assignment for local council, has been taken over by the state government.
Perhaps, these facts made Boniface to take a defiance stand. Do you share his frustration?