LAWMA trucks: Encouraging local innovation

LAST week, Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, bolstered the fleet of the state’s Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) with 102 units of brand new, locally-assembled compactor trucks and 100 units of double dino waste bins. This was in a bid to reduce turn-around time in waste evacuation within the metropolis, and towards achieving a cleaner and healthier environment. The development, adjudged as an unprecedented intervention by the government to address the logistical and operational shortfalls in waste collection across the state, has a major highlight: the compactor trucks, each having three-year warranty and maintenance package, were assembled by LAWMA technicians in conjunction with Dangote Sinotruk Manufacturing firm and were designed according to local requirements to aid the clearing of waste from generating points to transfer-loading stations. Again, the trucks were fabricated to address the problem of liquids dripping from waste trucks, a drawback synonymous with the second-hand trucks mostly used by private waste collectors. In addition, the governor formally launched a mobile application called CitiMonitor to enable the monitoring and reporting of environmental infractions, including indiscriminate dumping of refuse.

According to Sanwo-Olu, the new waste collection machinery was not being deployed to take private operators out of business, as the compactors would make trips only to public places and major roads to evacuate waste, while the private operators would continue with their commercial and residential waste collections. The state government, Sanwo-Olu said, was fully aware of the potential of a waste economy, stressing that the waste-to-wealth programme of the state had started to take shape given the expansion of the Lagos Recycling Initiative. The intervention, as he noted, calls for a complete change of attitude towards the  environment, beginning with basic hygiene at home, proper domestic waste management and ultimately,  environment-friendly practices, as “the quality of our environment directly impacts the quality of the lives we live. A clean environment is a major weapon against diseases and other public health challenges.”

It is indeed a laudable project to create a clean environment using locally assembled trucks, deploying applications to track compliance with environmental laws, and appropriately using compost facilities. Apparently, the launching of locally assembled waste disposal trucks will encourage local content and create jobs. It will also, ultimately, lead to a cleaner, saner, and friendlier environment. Indeed, Nigeria’s states have a huge waste problem only because most of the state chief executives fail to realise the potential goldmine that lies in proper waste management. Indeed, most seem to be blissfully unaware of the potentialities of a waste-to-wealth programme. In the absence of local innovations, foreign entrepreneurs are cashing in on the lacuna to create wealth for themselves. In this connection, the initiative unveiled by the Sanwo-Olu administration is quite in order, and deserves replication across the country. It is, in our view, criminal in this day and age for state governments across the country to be importing waste disposal trucks.

Ideally, every society ought to concentrate on what to do to encourage production, but this does not seem to bother the political leadership in Nigeria generally. Over the years, the political leadership at all levels seems to have been content with receiving free oil money, failing to embrace the innovation that ought to come internally, and naturally. For instance, Nigeria and Brazil started together in assembling vehicles, but Brazil has moved to the manufacturing stage and now Nigerians import Marcopolo buses from Brazil. Hitherto thriving manufacturing concerns like Volkswagen and Dunlop have faded into oblivion and, what is more, the business climate in the country remains largely unfavourable. In the face of this sad state of affairs, the local innovation in Lagos should provide a template to spur governance thinking with a view to turning things around, and the entire country should take notice.  It is cheering news that the state-owned compost facility in Odogunyan, Ikorodu, is being brought back to life, and that resources have been ramped up for the construction of new transfer-loading stations to provide the infrastructure that would facilitate the effective disposal of solid waste. There is, however, the question of sustainability: the project must outlive the Sanwo-Olu administration.

Ultimately, however, there must be a move from assembly to manufacturing in all sectors. Governments at all levels should make their tenure count by investing massively in local innovations. This is achievable with proper collaboration with the private sector and research institutions and, more importantly, the right governance mindset.




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