In a democracy, the government is accountable to the people, to whom it owes its existence. It is on this ground that the Ambode administration renders a quarterly account of its stewardship to the people. Since democracy is primarily about the people, it is imperative that the people be consistently informed about how their mandate is being utilized. However, no matter how transparent, accessible and well-intentioned a government is, for various reasons and interests; it still has to contend with divergent views on certain issues from time to time. This, of course, is the beauty of democracy.
It is from this perspective that one views a recent piece titled: ‘Garbage, Garbage, Everywhere’, written by Chika Amanze Nwachuku and published in This Day newspaper of Tuesday, August 31, 2018. It is important to shed light on some of the issues raised in the piece in order to set the records straight and further enlighten as well as educate members of the public.
To start with, like every rational government, the Lagos State government recognises the place of a healthy environment in accomplishing its vision of turning Lagos into a safe, secure, functional and productive State. This is clearly evident in its several environmental regeneration schemes such as the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, refurbishment of Transfer Loading Stations, TLS, in Agege, Oshodi, Lagos Island (Tapa) as well as Waste Depots at Mushin and Ogudu, creation of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC), establishment of new parks such as the Johnson Jakande Tinubu (JJT) Park at Alausa, Ikeja; Rafiu Jafojo Park in Shasha, Alimosho and Badagry Recreational Park, planting of various species of trees across the State, landscaping and beautification of various sites, regular clearing of drains and channels etc.
Now, concerning the alleged resurgence of waste on major roads and streets of Lagos alluded to in the piece, it is vital to maintain that in the past few months all stakeholders in the sector have joined hands together, working round the clock to improve waste collection in the State. Cheerfully, reports from various parts of the State indicate that the situation is rapidly improving. It is, thus, rather curious that Nwachuku painted a quite horrible picture of a City overtaken by filth.
As clearly expounded by Nwachuku in the piece, the Ambode administration came up with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, primarily to provide a holistic solution to waste management in the State. Having identified the various challenges bedevilling the sector, it became evident that the existing system lacked required capacity to deal with Lagos’ ever-growing waste. This explains the necessity for a fresh structure that promotes the involvement of global players that could provide answers to apparent missing links in the sector. It was based on this that Visionscape Sanitation Solutions came on board.
However, as a result of interplay of several factors, the scope of Visionscape involvement had to be redefined along the line. Naturally, this has a significant impact on the efficiency of the overall CLI initiative. But then, the State government had to opt for the present arrangement in which Private Sector Participants (now known as Waste Collection Operators, WCOs) are jointly working with Visionscape to ensure a cleaner Lagos. To broaden the scope of their activities, 300 WCOs were recently licensed by the State government.
The point, however, is that the WCOs need to step up their operational capacity in order to meet up with the challenge of cleaning up a rising African megacity like Lagos. A recent report puts the waste generated daily in Lagos at 10,000 metric tons, almost three times higher than what the whole of Ghana generates daily.
Considering the enormity of equipment required, waste collection evidently requires a huge capital outlay. Part of the issues is that WCOs operate with malfunctioning compactors which often slows down operation, thereby creating avoidable hiccups. A recent certification exercise carried out in Alimosho Local Government Area showed that only 17 out of 44 compactors presented for the exercise were in good working condition.
To tackle the challenge, the State government is making available a facility of N2.5b which WCOs could access to upscale their operations. Equally, government has also opened another channel through the Employment Trust Fund, ETF, for loan facilities at a reasonable interest rate of not more than 12% per annum.
Presently, the possibility of turning waste into wealth is being explored through the Stare’s Landfill Gas Recovery and Utilisation Project. The idea is to make dumpsites become usable resources from which methane will be extracted for electricity generation in Lagos State. Revolving waste into energy is an established technology that could help provide a major amount of domestic energy needs. A waste-to-wealth project will, no doubt, transform waste management into a more lucrative venture that will attract more investors into the sector.
It is, however, pertinent to state that no matter the level of public and private sectors’ investment in waste management, the result will amount to little except every stratum of the society plays its part. Most cities of the world experience environmental abuse as a result of ignorance of the citizens. Hence, the citizenry needs to come to terms with the significance of an improved environmental habit. In an effort to mop up black spots, Visionscape reportedly carted away over 80,000 tons of waste in more than 1000 illegal dumpsites across the State within six months. The figure will be staggering by the time the intervention efforts of other government agencies are added.
Thus, filling the Knowledge Attitude and Practice (KAP) gap is also very vital, especially in our clime where many are still flippant in their treatment of the environment. Whereas, the environment being key to healthy, secure and peaceful living is so important that all stakeholders must pay close attention to it. Therefore, the Lagos environment requires more change agents to rise in championing the cause of sustainable environment by spreading the message of good sanitary behaviour among our people in their various communities.
What is required to maintain a sane and friendly environment is not just about what the government is doing, but also about the people’s attitude. The citizens must consider themselves partners in progress with the Government in curbing practices that could spell doom for the environment.
In order to ensure attitudinal change towards the environment, the State government had been carrying out regular advocacy with Local Government Officials, Community Development Committees (CDCs) and Community Development Associations (CDAs) as well as WCOs in the various Local Government Areas of the State.
Meanwhile, we call on NGOs, the media, faith-based organisations, traditional authorities and other well-meaning individuals to join hands with government in this advocacy crusade.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja