Lagos State generates over 13,000 tons of waste every day; 1.2kg per person is generated per capita and expected to increase to 1.42kg in the next 15 years.
Waste management infrastructure remains the fundamental lifeline in the economic development of the State, and the lack of an effective collection and disposal process has contributed significantly to environmental epidemics such as lassa fever and perpetual flash flooding which has worsened in the last decade. Rainy season is upon us and the State’s waste generation rate continues to increase faster than the infrastructure available to handle it.
Mega cities around the world generate a total of 1.3 billion tons of solid waste per year, and by 2025, this is expected to increase to 2.2 billion. Delhi, India, generates 11,500 tons per day at 0.5kg per person per capital; and Seoul, London and Tokyo generate waste at 1.08, 1.45, 1.03kg, respectively. While many cities around the world struggle with waste management problems due to increasing population and changing lifestyle, Tokyo remains one of the cleanest cities, using an advanced waste incineration technology, that is efficient and environmentally friendly. Approximately nine million people in Tokyo generate about 8,000 tons of household waste per day and with a garbage collection rate of 100 percent, waste is collected within a day and transported to its 19 waste incineration plants.
In comparison with other developed countries, the effective collection and disposal of all types of waste (residential, commercial, medical, etc.) has been a struggle in Lagos State. Of the 13,000 tons of waste generated per day, less than half was being collected and disposed. Between 2007 and 2013, a total of approximately 78 million tons of waste was generated, with collection rate at 27.7% – resulting in extreme cases of fly tipping, blocked drainages and waterways, leading to environmental epidemics such as the flood disaster in 2011. The casualty of this incident was significant, claiming over 25 lives and displaced approximately 5,393 households, destroying almost N100 billion worth of property.
There is a growing recognition of the need to address and rethink the approach to waste management. Transforming the waste management sector, through partnerships, such as the Visionscape Sanitation Solutions public-private partnership with Lagos State, provides innovative solutions that puts disposal at per with collection. Visionscape’s partnership with the Lagos State government is a long-term investment, to develop supporting infrastructure for the effective management of waste.
Since 2017, the company has refurbished three TLSs; vehicle maintenance depots, for the servicing of a waste collection fleet; and is redeveloping the Epe landfill site into an engineered landfill Eco Park, a first of its kind in the region. The Epe Eco Park will be home to world-class facilities such as a weighbridge and control center, materials recovery facility (MRF), recycling facilities, wastewater and leachate treatment plants, a green area as well as the engineered cells. Visionscape’s circular economy business model will help the State capitalize on resource recovery and develop a much-needed waste management structure.
However, in the last few weeks, Visionscape Sanitation Solutions, an environmental utility group contracted by the Lagos State Government to implement the new integrated waste management policy encapsulated in the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI), has come under intense attacks from different corners.
Aside the sustained war of attrition mounted by some members of the Private Sector Participation in waste management, otherwise known as PSP operators who erroneously felt the coming on board of Visionscape would take away their means of livelihood, the company has also faced numerous allegations ranging from its ownership and its real purpose in Lagos, thus distracting it from the main task of ensuring a cleaner Lagos in line with global best practices.
Recently, news broke about a petition to the anti-graft agencies by a group, whereby series of allegations were raised against Visionscape and its competence to handle waste management in a mega city like Lagos.
Part of the allegations include that Visionscape was a special purpose vehicle set in 2017 and owned by the ‘feudal lords’ in Lagos, and that the company is only existing in Lagos and does not have any record of waste management anywhere.
Responding to the allegation, a top management staff of the firm who is well informed about the history and capacity of Visionscape, said the allegations qualified to win the tissue of lies award of the year, as they were very far from the truth.
Addressing the allegations point by point, the source said Visionscape, contrary to the claim, was established in November 2015, and that its shareholders are well known individuals, an information that is of public record.
On the allegation of the company not having any record of waste management anywhere, the source said Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Limited formed a consortium to bid for the Integrated Waste Management Tender advertised by the State Government, and that the track records of the management of the company speaks volume about their expertise in various countries around the world on the subject matter – waste management.
The source said: “To prove that Visionscape’s management team comprises of individuals whose experience and track record speak for them, here are some insights; Mr. John Irvine, the Chief Executive Officer is responsible for driving the Company’s vision of becoming the premiere environmental solutions partner in emerging markets.
“Before joining Visionscape, John was the Group Managing Director for Averda (Waste & Recycling). Prior to that, he held various management positions in multiple operations across the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where he was known for executing projects under the targeted timeframe and is a change management solutions expert.
“The Chief Operating Officer of Visionscape is Mr. Thomas Forgcas. He uses his vast strategic and operational experience to oversee Operations at Visionscape. He gained significant global experience with his postings in different leadership positions in Europe, Indian Ocean, Africa and Middle East specifically in the areas of wastes management, environmental services, transport and logistics.
Also prior to joining Visionscape, the Head of Planning, Kiran Reddy worked extensively in all sectors of the waste management industry in the UAE. He previously held a position with Averda. He has a Masters in Thermal Energy and Environmental Engineering from The Indian Institute of Technology. There are others including MS. Maimuna Maibe, whose details can be accessed through the company’s website,” she said.
Also in the petition, it was claimed that the United Kingdom address of Visionscape was dubious as Middlesborough, Colchester and Essex are different places in that country. In dismissing such claim, the source said it only confirmed that the writer was clearly not familiar with the United Kingdom, it’s a real location and the regional registered office of the Group.
According to the petitioners, the contract given to Visionscape by Lagos State Government was worth 20 times the amount the government was spending on waste management and three times the grants given to the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), and that the government ceded assets worth trillions of naira to Visionscape.
On this, it was gathered that contrary to the claim, the government never ceded any assets to Visionscape, while the Ministry of the Environment only concessioned the defunct depot and Transfer Loading Stations (TLSS) under the integrated Waste Management tender, with a mandate to upgrade the facilities for a more efficient management of waste in the city, an agreement that Visionscape had gone to execute in accordance with relevant laws, while the claim as to the quantum of the amount was untrue.
Another interesting claim in the petition is to the effect that Visionscape was just a shell company formable with less than $20,000( N7 milliion) but has become a multi-trillionaire behemoth in this dispensation, and that the company gets N1.5billion monthly from Lagos State Government. Again, the source she could not respond to such hyperbole, adding that Visionscape operates a performance based contract, and that the fee payments are of public record.
Despite these allegations, Visionscape is focusing on its core business which is addressing plastics pollution and to provide infrastructure across emerging markets that have been identified as the largest ocean polluters in the world majorly because there is no proper infrastructure to manage the waste and support recycling of plastics.