‘Lack of enabling law bane of waste management in Nigeria’
What is your view about waste management in Nigeria?
Waste management in Nigeria is yet to take off in my own view. This is because as a waste management practitioner, I have a very broad knowledge of how waste management is run in other climes. One of the challenges is that we don’t have adequate policy. We don’t even have enabling laws guiding us. We are still relying on laws that were made by sanitation authorities in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. The other is lack of proper knowledge of waste management.
What I mean by that is, we don’t have adequate knowledge of modern ways of doing things. Another challenge is infrastructure. Waste management requires infrastructure. We don’t have them. We lacked facilities for waste management because of funds. Lagos State Government for example wanted to tackle the issue of waste management in the state. They created a policy to help drive it because they knew that we don’t have adequate law and the fact that the constitution places the duties of waste management on the local governments. The local governments are not able to even carry themselves let alone the huge sum that is required for planning, training, procurement of waste management facilities and infrastructure.
So the state government took advantage of that shortcoming and decided to create a body to manage their waste and they came up with an agency called Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA). The only agency that supposed to do it is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It could have been a different unit under the EPA but politicians have a way of doing things. So when they created LAWMA, they gave it all the powers to procure materials. They tried their best, and then they now decided through counselling to come up with the Private Sector Participation (PSP).
Today the PSP is functioning but it has its shortcomings. They know where the problems are. The only thing they have been able to resolve in waste management is just the collection of waste, which is just the beginning of waste management. We don’t have adequate facilities for disposal.
What roles do you expect government to play towards ensuring effective management of waste in Nigeria?
Government should come up with enabling law that will be acceptable to all stakeholders. Government should not usurp all the powers in waste management. Government should leave waste management to those who can do it. Waste management is a business. It is not something you put under a bureaucratic arrangement. For instance, if we discover that our bins are filled, we should be able to call our operator. We don’t have to wait till the man in the office or in the ministry give instruction for instance that Ogba waste collection will be every Thursday. Once you are not around on Thursday that will be the end. No; it should not be so.
By the time, you have adequate policy that will allow the private sectors operate freely; even the banks will come to give them facilities because they know what they will be earning. So they can have a good cost benefit analysis to create a bankable proposal so that the banks can fund waste management adequately.
Do your company – Waste Matters Limited play any role in this regard?
Tremendous one. Our company came out of deep thought. As at the time we registered it in 1998; waste management was one of the greatest challenges in Nigeria. Everywhere you go, you see heaps of refuse, in Benin, Ibadan, Abuja, and other states capital in Nigeria, it is the same story. People just dump their refuse at the middle of the road and walk away.
We did a survey and found out that waste management is an issue that must be dealt with otherwise, we will end up spending so much on health and we will be losing people daily as result of pollution coming out from all manners of waste being dumped irresponsibly. So we decided that the only thing we could do at that time was the collection of waste and we took them to government approved dumpsites or sewage. That is what we could do but I know we could do more with time, when we are able to establish volume; we can bring facilities like the sewage treatment plants, solid treatment plants, and incinerators.
We can even have different kinds of infrastructure for different kinds of waste. Today, you can see tyres and plastics being recycled; so I thought that if we go into waste management, we are not going to stop at collection of waste alone, but also deal with every facet of it. This means we are going to deal with many issues in waste management. That is the concept of Waste Matters.
Today, there has been an improvement in the processes. How will you assess the present state of waste management in Nigeria?
We have seen a lot of changes. The first thing we thought would posed a problem is awareness. That has been handled. Today, you can hear people talk about waste to wealth everywhere you go. The level of awareness had increased. If you go to almost every home, there is a facility, where people contain their waste. The major thing we need is infrastructure so that people can sort from the beginning what is useful from their waste and earn from it. Aside from oil, waste management is another industry that we can generate funds.
The discussion emanating from the public shows awareness has increased, why are you holding this exhibition?
The exhibition is tailored towards bringing organisations that have quality equipment and techniques as well as infrastructure that are in vogue.
The industry is wide in the sense that everybody is involved in waste management. That is why the law says that anyone who generates waste will take care of his waste. This is not the first waste management exhibition to take place in Africa. We have several of them in South Africa and other parts of the world. I have attended a couple of them and been part of a few. But it is so difficult for our people to attend because of Visa issues and other logistics.
We decided to bring these people here because Nigeria’s population is a huge market for any industry and we have a virgin atmosphere for waste management. It is therefore a better opportunity for anyone that plans to attend, to receive knowledge from those who are coming from other countries. The idea is to create avenue for different segments. This time, we picked only four segments. We are not going to have conventional conference where you have so many people sit down in one hall and one man will deliver one paper and every one will just concur and go. That is not it; we want to have one on one session with the experts. We have already involved some sponsors, who are ready to finance ready prospects to take off in the first instance as pilot base, before the next event.
What other things do stakeholders stand to gain from the exhibition and conference?
Aside the one on one session, they are going to have the opportunity to be exposed to modern methods, equipment and techniques.
Can you throw more light on the four segments you spoke about?
We are thinking about current issues that applied to Nigeria. One of them is energy. We are looking at having a session that will generate alternative source of energy through waste management.
Today we are talking about agriculture; agriculture as it is has a lot of waste. So we have a session that will deal with agricultural waste. That same session will deal with domestic waste. We are going to talk about recycling itself, recovering, recycling and reuse. One session is going to be dedicated to research and policy. The major reasons why things don’t work in Nigeria is that we don’t do research. We rely on old policies that are not working. So we have session that is going to deal with that for consultants only.
What is the level of acceptance from stakeholders?
The willingness to participate is 100 per cent. Everybody is talking about it but the ability is the problem and without the ability we cannot organise the exhibition and conference.
People need to pay for what they want because we are bringing quality service, they need to pay some money even though we tryied as much as possible to bring the cost to the barest minimum. No exhibition of this type will charge the kind of fees we are charging very low.
Who are you expecting to attend?
We are expecting all waste management practitioners from all sphere of life both outside and within the country. Unfortunately, those coming from Nigeria just want to come and learn. The outsiders want to build relationship that could lead to trade now and the near future.
We also want the general public to come. If you look at the current economic situation, a lot of people are confused that they don’t know what to do. They can get inspired by what they see and hear. People who are looking for ideas or what to do can come though they are not into waste management that is how most countries develop, government can not do everything.