Refuse management: Fear, concerns, as WAI returns in Lagos

•Task Force, residents speak on Sanwo-Olu’s Executive Order

BOLA BADMUS and LANRE ADEWOLE x-rayed the coming war against indiscipline in the mega city that never sleeps.

AS a mega-city, Lagos is judged by demographers as adding 77 new residents per hour and by 2100, its population is projected to be between 85 and 100 million people, making it the world’s largest city, though it is currently bigger than New York and London, in population size.

These scary numbers possibly explain the Riot Act on public conducts from the man who will manage the mega-city for the next four or eight years, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, hours after his swearing in as the new helmsman. Using the instrumentality of an Executive Order which requires no legislative inputs, the new governor announced the introduction of what could be termed the return of War Against Indiscipline (WAI) as he signed into enforcement, an emergency declaration on Public Utilities, particularly concerning the environmental headaches in the state which primarily consumed the second term ambition of his immediate predecessor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode.

About 10 days after the emergency declaration, nothing tangible seems to be happening in the area of implementation which was supposed to be immediate, though the governor and his deputy, Dr Femi Hamzat, have not stopped talking about their expectations of the dream Lagos and Lagosians, capping the talk with visits to some troublous environmental points in the state, like the Olusoosun dumping ground which challenges have seemingly remained intractable.

Echoing his boss during a sidelines’ chat with newsmen during Sallah prayers, the deputy governor said, “When you drop waste on the road, it will affect another’s health and life. When you are on the road, think about other road users. Driving against traffic is an ungodly act because you are affecting the lives of other people negatively. You do not know their state of mind or what they are going through. Let us continue to use today’s celebration to renew our lives for good so that we continue to live peacefully without inconveniencing others.”


What is new in new order?

Many have been wondering the need for a proclamation when the state has an existing and running environmental law passed in 2012 during the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola and which did not fail to address the environmental issues until the immediate past governor decided to bring in a foreign firm, Visionscape, which consistently claimed sabotage while its operations lasted. The imposing main office of Visionscape in the Obalende area of the state has since been ceded to Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA), believed to be the original allottee of the property. The exchange took place in the final days of Ambode’s government.

Ahead of the full enforcement of the new Executive Order, men of the Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC), formerly known as Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), have been charged with the task of embarking on advocacy and sensitisation of Lagosians on the content of the new order, Saturday Tribune learnt.

According to findings, the governor has given the charge to the agency to ensure better understanding of the new order and its seamless enforcement.

Essentially, the new Executive Order demands that any resident caught throwing waste carelessly around must be, among other things, made to evacuate such instantly. But the government, in its wisdom, according findings, is more resolved to let people be aware of the health risk of throwing waste around carelessly and living in a dirty environment than the punishment side of it, which is for violation.

“The government is not laying much emphasis on punishing the violator of the new Executive Order but in ensuring compliance on the part of Lagosians. And that is why officers of LAGESC were seen early in the week around Egbeda and the like carrying out advocacy and sensitisation of the people. They were directed to do that by the state government and this would be done for some time before the final take-off of the implementation of the new Executive Order, and this is to enhance better understanding of the order and its smooth enforcement when such commences,” a reliable government source said.


People’s power?

In the first few days of the current administration, the governor has left no one in doubt that he is populous in his politics and governance. He has made the people king, opening direct lines to government for them as well as waiting on them for what is termed a critical input before the commencement of the implementation of the Executive Order.

At Sallah, too, Sanwo-Olu restated the commitment of his government to collaboration with the people of the state for successful implementation of his administration’s policies and programmes.

This was just as he promised that his government would soon release emergency hotlines to the public to call the Lagos State Public Works for immediate fixing of potholes and roads that need urgent repairs.

“Let us have continuous collaborative engagements. We will continue to ask you to work with us. We would be calling on you at different times. Our Public Works Corporation would come out and start fixing all the potholes on our roads. We would soon publish the numbers that people would be calling to notify us of wherever there are potholes in the state,” the governor said.

What more can a people ask? But the governor isn’t done on returning full powers on public utilities to the people, a card that seemed to work well for Fashola in the closing days of his government, who directly handed over the various legacy projects to the various host communities immediately after the inauguration of such projects. The people were to watch over their maintenance and keep away despoilers.

While signing the emergency declaration on Refuse Management, Traffic Management and Public Works on May 30, Sanwo-Olu had said, “As from the date of this order, there shall be zero tolerance for environmental abuse, including illegal and indiscriminate dumping of refuse, construction on drainage points and setbacks.”

With regard to waste issues, the governor, who had since paid a visit to the popular Olusosun dumping ground to assess the situation on ground, promised a number of steps to be taken by the government, including making available, hundreds of thousands of waste bags to households in the state, pursuing the conversion of waste to wealth and creating job opportunities for the unemployed through it.

He then handed down the implementation fiat, disclosing that all enforcement agencies in the state would be involved in maintaining law and order for the collective good of the citizens.

According to him, “I expect the fullest level of compliance with this order and will look to the various heads of ministries, departments and agencies to give full force and effect to the orders therein contained and to take responsibility for any failure.”

The governor, however, said he was asking for opinion of Lagosians on the issue not because he did not have a plan of his on how to achieve the objective of addressing the menace of waste problem, but because the people are now king.

“I think we are going to ask Lagosians. I think you are going to help us do that. Let’s ask Lagosians, do they want us to return the sanitation day that we used to have? We don’t want to be an authoritarian government, ask Lagosians. I know what my views are. So, let us ask Lagosians, should we return one Saturday a month to ensure we bring our sanitation back so that we can clean up the city? If we clean up the city, I tell you, Lagos is one of the most beautiful cities you can live in. And I know we are going to bring back the glory of Lagos,” the governor said.


We’re ready –Task Force

Saturday Tribune learnt that between the time of the signing of the order and now, what has been going on with enforcement is dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.

Enforcement agencies say they are ready to go all out but are waiting on the governor to give the final go-ahead.

According to the spokesperson of one of the enforcement agencies, Lagos State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offence Unit, Mr Taofiq Adebayo, enforcement of the Executive Order is yet to commence, as the government appears to be using the “silence period” to make more consultations, part of which is seeking the opinion of Lagosians whether or not they would want the state to go back to era when the last Saturday of every month was observed as environmental sanitation day.

Ambode’s government abolished the old practice, tagging it an anathema to his dream of a mega-city that works 24 hours.

“Nobody has started the enforcement of the new Executive Order. The government, at the last count, is doing the preamble towards achieving better results by asking for people’s opinions whether they would prefer to go to the era when last Saturday of the month was observed as environmental sanitation day,” Adebayo said.

He also assured that the agency was poised to do the enforcement once the go-ahead signal is given by the government, adding that the Task Force is, however, not relenting in enforcing the Lagos State Government Environmental Sanitation Law 2012 which is still in force in the state.


Return to jungle justice?

A feature of old Lagos many won’t forget in a hurry is jungle justice. At the height of criminality in the 80s till mid-90s, Lagosians decided to take their fate in their hands and apply deterrent measures to those caught in the act; death by burning. The initial fear the immediate judgement struck in the heart of street villains, which led to immediate reduction in cases of pick-pocket, stealing and even robbery, gave the measure a success outlook until innocent persons began to fall victim. Because it was usually a mob action, it was very difficult for successive governments to halt the extrajudicial killings even under military government and seeing people being burnt alive started going out of fashion in the state when many who participated in such killings were arrested, prosecuted and jailed.

Pastor Emma Olaiya believes the Sanwo-Olu administration must apply caution in its bid to be populous by not stirring residents in a way that many would begin to take laws into their hands, especially when violators of the environmental order are caught by people in the neighbourhood where such violations take place.

He recalled the case of a man who was apprehended by residents after the governor’s proclamation, dumping refuse indiscriminately and forced to pack not only his portion of the refuse but the entire dump in his car.

“As commendable as that appears, it is a sure recipe for anarchy. What if the culprit declined and dared the angry residents? He would surely be mobbed and possibly murdered with nobody accounting for him or taking responsibility. As beautiful as it sounds that Lagosians should and must own the new order, for it to be successful this time, caution must be applied so that the people do not see themselves as the Keepers of the Order.

“That must be left to those trained to enforce the order. Since the government says it is at the awareness stage, this aspect must be drummed to the ears of the people that it is not for them to apply sanctions. If you remember when the actual WAI started, it was the military guys of those days whom we used to call Kill-and-Go that abused the implementation, flogging people anyhow and compelling grandfathers to frog-jump for committing environmental offences.

“Even the uniformed persons must also be warned by the government not to turn the enforcement to an illegal toll-gate. If the human angle is mishandled, the whole concept is already doomed, executive or no executive order,” Pastor Olaiya submitted.


It’s beyond Executive Order –Awobodu

Renowned environmental and building expert, Mr Kunle Awobodu, says the problem of refuse in Lagos is beyond issuance of executive order, noting that since it was a systemic failure that got the state to its current situation, a scientific approach is mostly needed to address the challenge.

“The issue of refuse disposal is a major problem which didn’t start today. The problem was also there during the military era. It was Tinubu that started something serious by bringing the private sector into it and the arrangement was working until the last administration. But the question is what was the population of Lagos then and what is it now? This is a state that keeps growing and generating a lot of waste and the problem got bigger when the end-of-the-month exercise was cancelled. I can’t say the exercise should be brought back like that, because there was even a court order suspending it. The problem is that when the Saturday end-of-the-month programme was cancelled, no solid arrangement was brought in as a replacement.

“Beyond picking the thrash you drop, what about the dumping grounds? What about the incinerators built during Jakande’s time? What is their state now? Lagos requires dumpsites outside of the metropolis and there is no land to accommodate such again in the state. Maybe land has to be sourced outside the state – maybe in Ogun, far away from the metropolis, and other areas.

“The issue of refuse management in Lagos cannot be done manually. The former governor was trying to do something to make it scientific, but something failed along the line. His idea didn’t work. This government would have to sit down and study past efforts, policies, successes and failures, before a new measure can be introduced. The cart pushers must also be excused from the new arrangement but with the trucks having to go to far distance to drop their contents and considering the cost of diesel, how much are the residents of many areas in the state paying for the trucks to cover everybody? The issue is deeper than just a proclamation. A scientific approach is required.”