Mounting refuse turning Lagos into mega dumpsite

Fagba Road, Agege

In 2016, the Lagos State Government disclosed plans to introduce a new regime of waste management in the state. It dubbed the policy the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI).

To institutionalise it, the government came up with a bill, and the seriousness it attached to it spurred the recall of lawmakers from their recess to consider the bill. With unusual alacrity, the bill (one of the biggest in the state, as hitherto legal frameworks for all waste management agencies in the state were merged into one) was passed by the state House of Assembly.

The passage of the bill was, however, not without a protest from some stakeholders, especially the PSP operators, who felt they were being eased off their business, and about to be shortchanged.

This is because the new policy entails PSP operators will only collect commercial garbage, which they claimed is just 20 per cent of the rubbish generated in the state, while the new investors would collect domestic waste, considered to be 80 per cent.

While the conflict between the state government and the PSP operators was on, many residents were unperturbed, as all they craved was an effective waste management policy, even after the state government terminated its contract with the PSP operators, with no date in sight for the commencement of the new policy.

According to the state government, the CLI is focused on improving the environment to make it cleaner, safer and healthier for all Lagosians, by promoting a harmonised and holistic approach to the challenges, and as a result, improve operational efficiency.

The initiative is geared towards addressing the challenges in the solid waste management systems within the state, while also aiming to protect the environment, human health and social living standards of residents.

For the government, the citizens needed to key into the initiative, which it said would provide new funding to hire and train 27, 500 Community Sanitation Workers (CSW), who will be evenly distributed within the 377 wards of the state.

The government also said that over 100, 000 new trashcans would be distributed throughout the city, in its bid to ensure that trash goes where it belongs.

“A vital component of maintaining clean streets is making sure that people, who illegally use our streets, sidewalks and alleys as dumping grounds are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” it said.

The CLI empowers the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC) to enforce all aspects of the environmental management and protection law (2017) to fight illegal dumping in our neighborhoods.

A highly optimistic Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, while speaking at a state function, said the best way to sustain the environment is through the ongoing waste management reform, because it offers a unique opportunity to seek private investment from national and internationally renowned players in the waste management, which would infuse more efficiency and enhance the standard of living.

“We have thrown up an intervention programme that the Ministry of the Environment, LAWMA and Visionscape are doing called ‘Operation Deep Clean.’ The three of them have combined and are doing this intervention programme supported by our PSP team. We have started using open trucks to make sure that we don’t have refuse so much on our roads.”

A couple of months into the year, heaps of refuse started dotting different parts of the state. This gave the impression that the state government and the “international renowned players in the waste management” may have been overwhelmed, and the stopgap programme for the collection of domestic waste could not really work.

Consequently, many residents became apprehensive as most parts of the state got enveloped in waste. In some areas, it took weeks for the new investors to evacuate the rubbish generated.

The case became worse when there was a report of cholera outbreak in some communities in the state. This, in addition to the public outcry forced the government to up efforts to rid the state of filth. That notwithstanding, the heaps of refuse are still common sight in most parts of the state.

At some point, Ambode was forced to order the newly elected local council chairmen to take clearing of waste within their communities as a priority, while also urging citizens to be patient, as the earlier date for the commencement of the new waste management system had been shifted to September 1, 2017.

Two weeks into 2018, the refuse situation in most parts of the state remains the same, as domestic waste collection remains sloppy.
Olutayo Irantiola, a resident of Ketu, lamented that “waste is just everywhere and it is disheartening that Lagos is losing her beauty to dirt. We look forward to a cleaner Lagos befitting its moniker – Centre of Excellence,” Irantiola said.

Ayo Adefemi, who resides in the Bariga area of the state is of the view that things are not getting better there in the area of waste management, in spite of government’s promise and intervention.

According to her, even though residents were warned against making payments to any PSP operator by the state government, the PSP operators that come around do not evacuate any waste until residents have fully paid up.

She said there was a time none of the PSP operators showed up forcing residents to make a special arrangement to move the waste away from the area, as it constituted a nuisance, as well as, a threat to health.

Seun Igbalode, a resident of FESTAC Town and her neigbours have resorted to using the outlawed cart pushers in order to free their neighbourhood of mounting heaps of refuse, as it would be costly to wait for a epidemic outbreak before making a move.

“Government’s effort in the area of waste management is rated zero as far as we are concerned. That is why we still pay cart pushers to dispose off our refuse in FESTAC Town. When I pass by in some areas in Amuwo Odofin and even FESTAC and see heaps of garbage, I feel that the government is not taking this issue of refuse management seriously,” Igbalode said.

On the finely tarred road leading into Abesan Housing Estate, what welcomes a first-time visitor is not the well-paved lawns or beautiful flower hedges. Rather, it is the pungent odour oozing from the heaps of dirt that dot the street and many other streets within the estate.

Prior to the sacking of the PSP operators from the collection of domestic waste, the situation was radically better. But in the last few months, the over 100, 000 residents of the estate have been bewildered by the rising dirt profile in their neighbourhood.

Of all the five avenues in the estate, as well as, the major road, which is a bypass to the avenues, heaps of refuse are evenly spread, including on adjoining streets like Opeki and Adebosun Ogunlola.

That is why a worried Hannah Ojo, said that, “People have turned open pathways in our estate to dumpsites. I have not noticed any improvement with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative in my area. In fact, there is no difference in terms of movement of waste in Abesan Estate in Ipaja and within its environs.”

Mrs. Owoyole, a shop owner, whose store sits directly opposite one of the dumpsites is sad, but feels helpless about the situation. “What can I do about this?” she questioned when asked how she and her customers were coping with the stench from the illegal dumpsite.

“Unfortunately, here, I am at the receiving end, inhaling the unpleasant smell that comes from the waste, but I won’t abandon my shop because I have to make money to take care of my family. Once in a while, the refuse collection van comes around to take as much as it could in the estate, but within a twinkle of an eye, the dumpsite is filled up again. This is disheartening.”

Peter Ubong, who also resides in the estate said, “The PSP operators servicing this estate are not doing their job. They will ask for receipts when they come to carry waste and if you fail to provide any, they will not carry your refuse. People have now resorted to throwing their household waste anywhere. Even when you pay to the PSP operators, they don’t issue you receipts.

In addition to that, they also base their assessment on parametres known only to them. Or how else can we explain a situation where residents are given a refuse bill of N58, 000? Besides the collection vans coming infrequently, this is the reason some people started getting comfortable with the idea of throwing dirt anywhere, and this is not healthy for our environment.”

Attempting to explain the chaos, which refuse collection in the estate has become, Chairman, Abesan Housing Estate Residents’ Association, Mr. Kehinde Ogundimu, said, “There are two PSP operators in the estate; KJ Enterprise and Cornerstone Enterprises. They are still working, but our residents owe an enormous bill hence it is operation show your receipt that the operators are doing. That is why they are not clearing the refuse by the roadside, they only go into the sectors and take waste when payment receipts are presented.

“However, the state government came up with a new initiative, which has to do with a firm called Visionscape, but residents are yet to understand what it is all about since the announcement was made, and that is part of the reason that people are thinking that they should no longer pay the PSP operators again. To worsen matters, the Visionscape is not up and doing up till now. I have had contact with one of them and was informed that they are instructed to clear the refuse on the roads, and not the one in individual houses.

“Also, the local council that is supposed to do that as part of its environmental sanitation for its citizenry is not forthcoming, hence the whole place is in a mess. So, what I feel should be done is to call together all parties concerned, including the state government, the local council, and estate administration so that things can be sorted out. On my part, we have been working tirelessly on this as an association, but the government is not giving us a listening ear,” he added.

The head of Environmental Sanitation Unit of Mosan-Okunola Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Ipaja, declined comment on the development and directed The Guardian to the Information Unit, where the head of the unit also declined comment.

However, a reliable source in the LCDA, who preferred anonymity said, “The first major issue with refuse in the estate is proper waste packaging. Residents should know how to present their waste properly to ease evacuation.

“Also, there are defaulters, who will always do things the wrong way, no matter the conditions in place. The third is that the PSP operators are having issues with dumping sites, which are getting filled up every now and then, and they don’t have a good data system in place that identifies payments made, hence their inability to keep proper account of those that have paid up, the association chairman said.

He added that the sudden change of waste management policy, without proper transition is also responsible for the chaos. “The Lagos State government has introduced a new policy thereby jettisoning the one that was on ground instead of fine-tuning it. Unfortunately, the new scheme is taking too long to take-off,” he said.

Adeife Ojolola, who resides at Igando, says there are no heaps of refuse in the area, not because government or licensed waste collection agents are doing their work well, but because residents are engaging the services of cart pushers, who help them rid the area of waste.

Residents of the Papa Ajao area of Mushin Local Council, and that of Shagari Estate, Mosan-Okunola Local Council Development Area, are suffering the same fate right now, as far as refuse collection is concerned.

According to Nike Ademola, who lives along Olanibi Street, Papa Ajao, “In a very long time, this is the first time that refuse collectors have kept away for three weeks in a row. Sadly, we do not have reasonable information as to why this is happening. But for a reasonable part of this year (last year), their services have been fairly okay,” she said.

Opeyemi Johnson, who resides around Shagari Estate, on his part, said waste collection has not improved in his area and this is why the heaps of refuse are still growing in her area.

Like Irantiola, Ademola and Johnson, residents of Gbagada, Bariga, Ilasa, Lawanson, Mazamaza and Oshodi, also have sad tales to tell regarding the refuse situation in their neighbourhood.

According to a senior lecturer at the Department of Community Health and Primary Care, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, (LUTH), Dr. Bolanle Balogun, “When refuse litters the place for sustained periods, it affects the community members in different ways, and this could be classified under hazards. And the hazardous implications could be physical, biological and chemical.”

The physical hazard, she said, could be injuries from broken bottles, metal and sharp objects that are part of the waste, while the biological hazard comes into being when rats, mosquitoes and flies turn the refuse dump into breeding grounds.

“You must have heard about Lassa fever, and the vector for Lassa fever is rat. When you have rats around, they are potential for infectious diseases, same with flies, which are associated with diarrhea, while mosquitoes stimulate malaria fever.”

The university said chemical hazard is brought about especially when the heap of waste decomposes after days and generates liquid that flows into the ground to contaminate the underground water, or burst pipe. That can actually cause an epidemic of diarrhea or cholera. This has the potential to negatively affect the drinking water of the populace,” Balogun said.

She added: “The polluted air and the untidiness of the environment, could affect the residents psychology, as there is an effect on people, who live around such communities, waking up to the heap of waste and the odour. It also has negative implications for the environment in terms of the soil texture and topography. We must also not forget marine lives, consumed as food could be affected, especially when liquid generated from abandoned waste flows into a body of water.”

Special Adviser to Governor Ambode on Environment, Babatunde Hunpe, told The Guardian that in view of the challenging nature of refuse management in a megacity like Lagos, the, “new idea now is that these people that are partnering us in this first instance will come with nothing less than 600 compactors to join the ones we have here. If we have them, it means we will move.

Those that were doing it before were not ready to add to the equipment rather all their equipment were just breaking down on the roads. We have a lot of things to do; it is not only solid waste that we would put taxpayers’ money into. We have health sector, education sector, housing sector, and so
on. So, the best thing to do was to partner private people and that is what brought about Cleaner Lagos Initiative.

“We are only talking about the movement of the waste now, but we are also concerned with ‘where do we put this waste if we cart it away?’ what we have presently, they call it landfill, it is not landfill, it is dumping site. That is what you have at Olusosun and Solux. 

And we also have some at Epe, Badagry and Ikorodu. But with this Cleaner Lagos Initiative, the idea is that we are going to have engineering landfills; we will have one at Epe, we are going to have one at Badagry, and we will have 15 CLF and MRN to go with them.

This CLF or MRN will collect the waste and at night the trailers will put it together and take it to the landfills either at Epe or Badagry. Those landfills, if they are completed, would be used to generate gas and power. That is the plan. They are going to be well constructed and to the best practice like in the other parts of the world.

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