Lagos is one of the world’s megacities with rapid urbanization. By 2030, it is expected that the urban population will double and urban space will increase. As this happens, ecosystems and the essential natural assets they provide will come under threat. Hence, the State has placed the environment at the center of its development agenda.
This explains why successive administrations in the State have accorded priority attention to environmental protection and preservation. It is in line with this tradition that Health and the Environment occupy the second place in the THEMES+ Agenda of the Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration. A good environment, no doubt, enhances improved health and better living conditions.
However, despite environmental laws, policies and the enforcement agencies put in place to secure the public and environmental health of the State, as well as improve the environmental aesthetic value, the attitude of many certainly poses a hindrance to the State’s objectives.
Environmental infractions such as street trading, indiscriminate dumping of refuse, pollution and crossing of highways and failure to maintain hygiene and sanitation in markets among other contraventions put a question mark on the State’s smart city quest.
Whereas environmental protection and preservation will enhance the people’s well-being as well as quality of life, many are yet to key into the worthy cause. Environmental laws are worthless unless they are effectively complied to and enforced where necessary.
The recent all-out enforcement moves of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC) has raised hope in many quarters that the fulfillment of the Sanwo-Olu’s administration’s determination to secure the public and environmental health of the state is on course.
LAGESC has been at the forefront of implementing the Administration’s strategy of maintaining a hygienic, cleaner environment and reducing environmental infractions to the barest minimum.
The Agency is focused on instilling discipline and social order through a combination of public enlightenment, arrest and prosecutions of persons who commit any offense under the Environmental Sanitation Law, 2017.
Environmental law enforcement agencies are put in place to mitigate the threatening environmental problems that emanate from human activities in the quest for economic growth and development.
LAGESC has been ubiquitous in the government’s concerted efforts to rid Lagos of environmental nuisance and achieve a cleaner environment for the well-being of the residents. Environmental infractions such as street trading, indiscriminate dumping of refuse, pollution and crossing of the highways among others dot the Lagos landscape, thus putting a clog in the wheel of the government’s plan to regenerate the State’s environmental outlook.
LAGESC’s operational mandates include preventing the erection of illegal structures on walkways, drains, pathways, road verges, medians and Pedestrian Bridges in the State. The Agency also prevents the cooking and selling of food on roads or sidewalks. It also prevents auto mechanics from operating by the roadsides.
Before now, the State was full of objectionable scenes of mountains of refuse everywhere. At every highway, bus stop and adjoining roads, especially during traffic rush hours, it is not uncommon to find people displaying wares, products and items of different types to potential customers, disregarding the risks, hazards, dangers and illegality associated with such ventures.
It is disheartening that even traders selling at the appropriate markets are not left out of turning the environment into deplorable filth. This accounts for the closure of some markets in recent times.
There are many different ideas and points of views on why environmental infractions continue in the State, in-spite of the policy and environmental regeneration programmes of successive administrations in the State.
There are many people who dump refuse indiscriminately in unauthorized places in a bid to evade the patronage of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA). To many, everywhere is a market. They care about tormenting responsible citizens by obstructing the free-flow of traffic and other negatives associated with their uncivilized attitude.
No one can deny that there is a problem. It is, however, reassuring that priorities are being given to the problem. At the moment, LAGESC is clearing pathways and bridges and dislodging people selling on the road.
The sanitation corps ensure the roads are clean and there is no infraction. They are working to make sure that the Public Utility Levy is paid by residents of the State. It is cheering that the people are seeing the need for this environmental cleanup and they appreciate it.
It is part of the functions of LAGESC to monitor and maintain surveillance along highways, streets and public amenities as well as to regularly report any breach of the provisions of the Environmental Laws to the appropriate enforcement authorities.
For this, the present administration, which is passionate about the safety of lives and cleanliness of the environment, has given the Agency the mandate to effectively clamp down on all violators of environmental sanitation laws in the State in order to adequately protect the environment from abuse.
On the aspect of public education and enlightenment, LAGESC is presently making use of the mass media to educate the people on the risk associated with neglecting the use of pedestrian bridges, noting that this act not only endangers the pedestrian’s life but impedes the free flow of traffic. The distance from the Pedestrian Bridges where arrests can be made by LAGESC officers against erring individuals is within the range of 200 meters.
Also, LAGESC is drumming it into the ears of the people that displaying wares for sale in traffic and erection of illegal structures on Pedestrian Bridges, road setbacks, medians, verges and curbs constitutes street trading, which remains illegal in the State.
Rightly, LAGESC is compelling residents of public and private buildings to sign a waste collection contract with approved PSP operators for the proper evacuation of refuse. The goal is to prevent channeling of sewage into drains from residential buildings, which is a punishable offense that must be discouraged.
It is expedient for the people to understand and cooperate with the government in the quest for a cleaner and habitable Lagos. Also, it is important that the people understand that any obstruction of LAGESC operatives in the course of their lawful duties will be treated as an affront against the State and will be dealt with by appropriate legal actions.
A cleaner and habitable Lagos is possible. Play your role and encourage others as well.
Ajayi is Head, Public Affairs and Advocacy Unit, Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC), Oshodi, Lagos