By Sunday Alade
Lagos State, the centre of Excellence may experience health hazard if Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and his machinery of government could go ahead with their plan to relieve the private waste collectors or waste disposal contractors [that are addressed as PSP Operators in Lagos State] of their duties.
All plans have been concluded by the government to bring in foreign investors thereby sending the 350 PSP Operators in partnership with LAWMA packing in July, 2017.
Let it not be forgotten in a hurry the Yoruba and Hausa adage that says: “OBA MEWA IGBA MEWA” and “SARKI GOMA ZAMONI GOMA” literally means ten kings with different policies which also translates into who ever governs when the citizens enjoy will never be forgotten and likewise who governs to cause hardship to the citizens would not be forgotten, too.
It would be recalled that LAWMA the agency of Government is responsible for the collection and disposal of Municipal, Industrial and tenements’ wastes in Lagos State.
Edict No. 55 of 1977 created the Refuse Disposal Board which later metamorphosed to LAWMA in 1992. The Environmental Sanitation Law of 2000 empowers LAWMA to provide commercial services to the State and Local Governments. In 2007 another law was reenacted to reestablish LAWMA to provide general waste management to State and Local Governments.
Generally, the overall goal of Waste Management in Lagos State is to effectively collect, sort, transport, store and dispose wastes generated by all populous groups, commercial, industrial and socially responsible manner using the most economically sustainable means available hence, the partnership with private sector called PSP Operators that have been playing an increasingly significant role in Waste Management till date.
It would be recalled also, that these PSP Operators have been in partnership with LAWMA since 1999 during the administration of the then Lagos State, Governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Interestingly, over one thousand people showed interest in the Waste Management Business before it was pruned down to about 350 PSP Operators that actually met the requirements of the State Government standard or conditionality, as at the moment many of them are still wallowing in the oceans of debts in order to maintain the standard of having compactor trucks and befitting offices. Because they all started with hiring of trucks, tippers and even trailers with no office as a reference point. Supposing those that scaled through the huddles of screening are not hard working, definitely, they would have been shown the way out before now.
The then Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola [SAN] never compromised with excuses for not doing the right thing at the right time hence, he initiated annual Awards to the most hardworking PSP operators as a form of encouragement.
It would be recalled again, that since the participation and collaboration of these dynamic PSP Operators, every one of them has been striving very hard to get the Award, too; in spite of the bad roads that contributed to wear and tear of the trucks, inadequate dump and land filled sites that caused damages to their vehicles and this also, compelled drivers to stay on queue for days waiting to discharge their waste thereby slowing down the pace of work with no clear cut solution till date yet the job must move on.
All over the world governments are getting reinvented for the sake of concretizing the democratic imperative. This imperative, of course, goes beyond the electoral necessity of procedurally voting a group of people into government on the contrary the ethical import of democracy demands that those so voted into power use their constitutional authority to ensure that the citizens trust in their governing capability that is translated into definite plans of action that are transformative in socioeconomic terms.
Let it not be forgotten in a hurry that the association of these PSP Operators supported the government in power particularly during their electioneering campaign and generally sensitized their households to massively vote these groups of people into government. And the only way to pay this association back is to send its members packing without due consideration of their workforce and the effect on their families at large. Let it not be forgotten also, that one good turn they say deserves another. They actually deserve a preferential treatment in all ramifications.
The Governor should be advised not to stain or destroy the template his predecessors from 2nd Republic have built over the years of which he supposed to build on, particularly, for posterity and legacy.
Instead of a strong fixation on foreign investors, the Local investors [PSP] should be encouraged, too.
The idea of empowering the National Road Union Workers and its counterpart with 5000 brand new buses though on lease to own basis in the name of withdrawing yellow buses called ‘Danfo’ from the Lagos Roads is highly commendable but the question is what would be the likely empowerment for the 350 PSP Operators to be disengaged from their duties other than using veto power of hiring and firing? Should it not be a case of what is good the goose is good for the gander?
This cannot be the hallmark of an executive with the fire of reforms. However, the approach adopted by Governor Ambode in going ahead with 80% domestic for foreign investors, 20% for local investors and subjecting the indigent households to pay yearly for service “rendered” leaves much to be desired.
Since there was no proper consultation and no opportunities to engage alternative view points; just a unilateral announcement which has elicited an expected response, it then means that the Governor is in a bid to satisfying his friends and political empire all in the name of adding value to the clean environment of Lagos State.
Let us imagine a bridge that is built to connect all the resources to keep Lagos clean which purpose is also to create job opportunities. This bridge only succeeds in identifying the already known challenges peculiar to these refuse collectors and thus fails to help them.
The foreign investors were given red carpet treatment as against local investors [PSP] for instance; LAWMA’s corporate offices at Mushin, Ojodu, Oshodi, Simpson etc were taken from LAWMA by the Government and gave to a foreign company whereas the local investors [PSP] were compelled to borrow money from banks to build their offices/garages.
This clearly shows that this Government has a deep seated hatred for these PSP operators. The idea of Government wanting to pay for waste service by the use of weigh bridge is a clear indication that there is no proper guide for the Government on this issue because this system was used before but it was characterized by fraud as the corruption of the first order.
Also, the idea of “Public Utility Levy” whereby the people will pay a yearly refuse disposal fee as against the current practice of bi monthly billing will be a huge burden on the citizens because a sizeable number of Lagosians are salary earners.
The question that arises from this; is it in the civil service commission rules and regulations that a serving government official could run a private company while still in service let alone using same to amass ill gotten wealth from the government he claims to be serving and still be qualified for gratuities and pension at his retirement age?
Allied to this fact, this man and others whose names are not mentioned here should be the right guests of EFCC if the corruption must be fought to a standstill. The government is continuity, the structure and institution he met when ascending the mantle of leadership should be maintained. However, any PSP operator that is found wanting on his/her job should be sanctioned but not to “push them to commercial” thereby rendering them useless.
Since the Government has given the following responsibilities to a private company:  Recycling of wastes generated plant  Building landfill sites  Marine waste  Building transfer loading stations  Building material recovery facilities  Drainage clearing and  Street sweeping.
Judging from this, it is only God that can assist these PSP operators in the same way the Government wants to assist these NURTW AND RETEAN ASSOCIATIONS. The ultimate objective is to jump start a research framework built around the urgency of taking LAWMA to the next level. The pursuit of social wealth is a very good starting point. This is not an overly ambitious aspiration.
In this context, Nigeria as a whole urgently requires a public private partnership paradigm that catalyzes an entrepreneurial spirit necessary for achieving developmental goals, in the area of wastes recycling. This area, if properly harnessed will not only create job opportunities but serves as revenue generation for the governments.
Suffice to say that the non implementation of the environmental laws is corruption, the non prosecution of the offenders is corruption, the under utilization of the law is an offence, the over utilization of the law is another offence, and no sanction on errant officers is tantamount to corruption, too.
It is on this note that emphasis on appeal to Lagos State Governor, His Excellency, Akinwunmi Ambode to rescind his cabinet decision to bring in foreign investors for the purpose of Waste Management in Lagos State as there is always room for improvement if only the government assigned organ plays its normal leading role in line with the Environmental Laws relative to the waste contractors or operators and thereafter, any PSP Operator that is found wanting be sanctioned.
Engr. Sunday Alade 07025528873, 07057508955 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org