The 350 Private Sector Participation (PSP) operators who have in the past 18 years been responsible for wastes collection and disposal in the state are pleading with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode not to replace them with a foreign firm in a planned reform of waste management in the state, reports Olaoluwakitan Babatunde
The Lagos State Private Sector Participation (PSP) Operators under the auspices of Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria (AWAM) are pleading with Governor Ambode not to throw them out of business under the cover of any form of reform in the sector.
The PSP Operators, who stated that as a group that has been in charge of getting Lagos clean in the past 18 years and have succeeded greatly to an extent, said they were in full support of the ‘Cleaner Lagos’ initiative of the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration, but stressed that it must not be a smoke screen to halt their business and jeopardise their lives, those of their employees and the communities they serve..
The State Government had sometime last year announced its intention to effectively tackle waste management and produce a cleaner environment through a new measure tagged the “Cleaner Lagos Initiative.”
Under the new scheme, which will see it phase out the PSP Operators and invest over N85 billion in domestic waste management in the next five years, the government said it would review the activities of the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), the PSP operators, other aspects of the waste disposal processes and collections and eliminate the dumpsites to strengthen waste management in the state
The operators, who were obviously caught unawares by the government’s move, have been making several entreaties through official and unofficial quarters to get the administration to possibly change its stand. The only concession it has made is to cede 100 per cent to them, the waste collection from commercial premises largely made up of religious homes and schools, among others and the revenue thereof as against the prevailing arrangement, where they collect the wastes and revenue but share it on a 60:40 ratio with government.
Mr. Olalekan Owojori of Wellbeck Consulting Ltd, the Consultants to AWAM, believes there is more to it all than meets the eye. He dismissed the claims by the government against the operators, stating that contrary to the insinuations, government was largely to blame for much of the problems besetting waste management in the state,
Taking a retroactive look at private sector involvement in waste management in the state, Owojori said the idea, which started as a pilot scheme under the Buba Marwa military administration, blossomed under the civilian government of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 1999.
He said: “The state was completely taken over by waste as mountains of refuse littered and turned most parts of the city of Lagos into slums. The government toyed with the idea of hiring an Israeli firm to handle the state’s waste management. The foreign firm offered to do the job for N7 billion monthly to the bewilderment of the indomitable Asiwaju, who retraced his step and decided on full involvement of the private sector in the cleaning of the city.
“The government was determined to make ii work. The PSP Operators commenced operations and have consolidated on their activities from time to time. Eighteen years down the road, stupendous achievements have been recorded, though with room for improvement, we made Lagos clean and the country and the international community acknowledged it’.
“The programme has today birthed 350 successful small and medium sized businesses, which have within this period injected over N6 billion into the industry in equipment like trucks and other assets, all privately funded with facilities sourced from local financial institutions just as they have created over 25,000 direct and indirect employment,. Lagos has since been transformed from one of the dirtiest cities to the cleanest in Africa. The numerous awards bestowed on the State Government to that effect attest to this. Among many others, the awards include The Cleanest City in Africa 2011 conferred on it by the Bill Clinton Foundation, the Cleanest City in Nigeria by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012 and the Cleanest Environment in Africa 2013 by Siemens Global,” the AWAM Consultant claimed.” Lagos, Owojori said, generated over 14,000 metric tonnes of waste daily “and the PSP Operators proved that they were equal to the task as no less than 85% of the wastes were evacuated daily “to put the state ahead nationally.”
Today, he claims that there are no more dumpsites or heaps of wastes as it used to be anywhere in the metropolis.
Owojori added: “Notwithstanding the daunting challenges we are faced with, the Lagos model of wastes disposal has been copied and replicated by many other states in the country, just as a handsome number of other West Africa countries.”
Owojori wondered why the government was blaming the operators for the non-provision of bins, transfer loading stations, and other supporting infrastructure, pointing out that under the current operational arrangement, the operators are vested with residential and commercial waste collection while provision of disposal locations and facilities and their maintenances is the responsibility of government.
“And on the part of the operators, there was a tripartite arrangement in 2011 between the State Government, the operators and a local bank to acquire 400 new trucks in batches of 100. Trucks under the first batch were successfully acquired and they greatly improved service delivery and majority of the PSP operators met their obligation under the scheme. Apart from that arrangement, some operators acquired additional new trucks in partnership with some local banks without government support.
“We are not against foreign direct investment, but not at the expense of existing local businesses. The proposed foreign investors’ efforts should be geared, towards resolving the areas of challenges, namely: building more material recovery facilities, treatment facilities and establishing Engineered Sanitary Landfilled sites as none exist in the state at the moment.
It should be noted, that the foreign firms this government is bringing, in to take over from local businesses also started as small businesses in their respective countries. With the support of their governments, they grew to become large organisations. Our appeal is that the government provides us with such an enabling environment. Unlike the foreign companies, our profits will be reinvested here as we have no other place to repatriate them.”