Reinventing Waste Management in Lagos

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In this report, Joseph Ushigiale examines the attempt by the Akinwunmi Ambode administration to revolutionise and create a win-win situation in waste management

There is an ongoing race among cities globally today and the main objective or target of the race is for the cities: to transform from their present small time status to megacities. Historically, there are several success stories and well documented remarkable accounts across continents of slums that weathered the storms to transform to megacities.

Thus cities that readily come to mind and are tangible testimonies of this transformation are New York in the United States of America, Tokyo in Japan, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, London in the United Kingdom and Lagos in Nigeria. Lagos is indeed a classic case because even former governor and current leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu acknowledged that “we met Lagos as a slum in 1999 when we took.”

History of Megacities…
In the words of The World Population History “The urban shift over time has led to the emergence of the megacity – a city with a population of 10 million or more. New York City and Tokyo were the first known megacities, both reaching an urban conglomeration of over 10 million by the 1950s. But today they are far from alone in their size. In 2014 there were 28 megacities across the planet – from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Lagos, Nigeria and London, England to Shanghai, China – and all major global regions except Oceania are marked with megacities.”

So what then qualifies a city to be named a megacity? According to Wikipedia’s definition, a megacity is usually defined as a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of 10 million people. A megacity can be a single metropolitan area or two or more metropolitan areas that converge. The terms conurbation, metropolis and metroplex are also applied to the latter.

Industrial revolution which swept across Europe and Americas forced urban migration and population upsurge in unlikely places which hitherto were slums but through providence became sources of raw material of production bases. According to the World Population History urban population was three per cent in 1800 when compared to the 2008 figures which grossed over 50 per cent.

Throughout history, cities have attracted people as centers of culture, religion, learning, and economics. Looking back, the first wave of urban migration took place in what are today’s more developed countries, especially in Europe and North America. But looking ahead, 90 per cent of the future urban increase is expected to take place in Asia and Africa, and it is projected that close to two-thirds of all people will be calling cities home by 2050.

Ambode’s 3rd Largest City Ambition
It is this race against time that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is currently engaged in the most ambitious city transformation in the entire country. In almost two years since he assumed office, Ambode has sectorally allocated resources to bring about the change that will in no time crown Lagos as a truly mega city.

At the 14th annual lecture of Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL) held at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos with a theme: ‘Living Well Together, Tomorrow: The Challenge of Africa’s Future Cities’. He announced that the prime goal of his administration is to grow the state from fifth to third largest economy in Africa by 2020.

Specifically, the governor noted that the main objective of his administration remained the growth of Lagos from fifth to third largest economy in Africa, which he said formed the heart of his government. Ambode explained the significance of infrastructure projects his administration had been executing in strategic sectors of Lagos economy, noting that it was directed at up scaling the status of the state. He explained that the establishment of massive lay-bys, rehabilitation of inner-city roads and the construction of flyovers in different parts of the state were designed to end the challenges of urbanisation.

To realise this prime goal, Ambode insisted that yellow buses would be removed from Lagos roads for a more efficient, well-structured and world class mass transportation system that would facilitate ease of movement within the city. He said the present connectivity mode in the state was not acceptable and befitting for a mega city, and as such, a well-structured transportation mode would soon be put in place to address the challenge.
Ambode said: “When I wake up in the morning and see all these yellow buses, commercial motorcycles and all kinds of tricycles, and we claim we are a mega city, that is not true. We must first acknowledge that that is a faulty connectivity that we are running.

New Waste Management Policy
Another area the governor said the state government was also looking at was its desire to embark on massive reform in waste management system, expressing optimism that the plan “will be actualised by July this year.”
From a global perspective, cities across the world produce 1.3 billion tons of waste annually all of which place huge demand on resources and logistics and the dire consequences of an epidemic of these waste are left unattended to and poison both water and environment.

Nigeria, on the other hand generates more than 32 million tons of solid waste annually and according to the Managing Director of Lagos Waste Management Agency (LAWMA), Engr. Abdul Wahab Ogunbiyi, the rate of waste generated by residents has hit 13,000 metric tonnes on a daily basis and therefore becomes imperative for the formulation of a holistic approach to tackle the accompanied challenges.
Ambode said “We are also embarking on massive reform in the waste and sanitation management system. I don’t like the way the city is and the Private Sector Participants (PSP) collectors are not having enough capacity to do it but again should I tax people to death, the answer is no.
“I do not want to tax people, and so we need this partnership with the private sector so that it can invest in the sanitation management of the city and in no time, maybe by July, the city will change forever.”

The State Government last year, proactively signed a $135 million (N85 billion) agreement with a foreign firm as part of its new waste management policy, a partnership under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative expected to last for four years.
To walk the talk, Ambode has directed the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), to stop the collection of waste bills, while instructing that all payments should be remitted to the coffers of Private Sector Participation (PSP) operators, just as the government also canceled the monthly environmental sanitation exercise.

The State’s Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Babatunde Adejare, in a recent interview with a national daily said the investment, which will kick off soon involved the deployment of over 600 Mercedes Benz compactors and the engagement of street sweepers in all wards in the state, while private sector operators would be restricted to handle commercial waste.

Adejare also stated that the new policy would involve closure of existing landfill sites, creation of transfer loading stations in local councils and deployment of over one million ultra-modern waste bins with censors to monitor their movement against theft.
He said this was aimed at introducing new technology into waste management in the state.
He stressed that the decision to contract waste management under a Public Private Participation (PPP) arrangement was because of the high cost which he said the state could not afford because of limited resources.

Under the reform, Adejare said three colour coded waste bags would be distributed to homes for different kinds of waste.
“The result of this new arrangement is that waste disposal will no longer be a challenge as efficient system will be on ground for effective management which will eventually eradicate cart pushers in the process,” he said.

Angst against New Policy
But as the state government gets set to drive its new waste management initiative, the current waste managers are up in arms and may likely head to court to challenge the new policy which they say will short change and put them out of work.
According to a policy document made available to THISDAY, it was gathered that the administration did a scoping study that thoroughly assessed the current situation of the waste management infrastructure in Lagos, the state government acknowledged “systemic failures and hence started revising the legislative framework to harmonise the various laws on environment into a single law to allow for a more convenient administration of the law and management of the environment. There has also been an emphasis on putting in place an elaborate and standardized regulation of the environment of Lagos.

“Having set the legal groundwork, we adopted a holistic approach to addressing the unique problems of this mega city of 22 million people and designing a sustainable waste management system. In collaboration with the Ministries of the Environment, Justice, Urban and Physical planning we have developed strategies for regulation, enforcement and most importantly financing to support the initiatives. Over the past 10 months, these efforts have been shaped into The Cleaner Lagos Initiative,” it stated.

It defined the role of the PSPs in the restructuring of the waste management system in Lagos going forward to be to serve the commercial sector of the state; adding that “the positive impact that PSPs efforts have had over the years on the Lagos landscape is undeniable. However, we cannot deny that we need a comprehensive waste management system that is world standard. Currently, we do not have an existing structure in place to support those endeavours.

“The restructuring will benefit PSPs because the state plans to introduce new environmental policies and laws that not only protect the citizens and the environment but all waste management operators who painstakingly invest the resources into helping with the clean-up of Lagos.”

It was gathered that the investment in the waste management will address the major challenge being faced by operators by ensuring that sanitary landfills are constructed across the state. Furthermore, “the proposed environmental law requires all commercial entities to have a valid contract with a registered operator, these contracts will prove to be a valuable component for any serious-minded operator with sustainable plans for growth.”

Allaying the fears of the current PSPs, the document detailed that “The restructuring creates new operational parameters, which will see the existing PSPs (private sector participants) working in the commercial and public sectors. The law makes new provisions that protect the interests of existing investments by requiring all commercial entities to have a valid and enforceable contract with a registered operator. There are over 10,000 registered commercial businesses in Lagos so the PSPs are still very much relevant in waste stream management in Lagos State.”

It recognised that the dynamic opportunities in the waste industry has made the currently ineffective and mismanaged industry rife with profitable opportunities. Businesses with the adept capabilities will be able to make significant impact on Lagos’s waste problem and establish a viable business.

It therefore recommended that sustainable long-term funding is needed at both the state and local levels to support the efforts needed to reach the state’s goals. Therefore, “systematic planning is critical to the long-term success of this comprehensive plan we have for Lagos State. We have worked to improve safety and security by boosting the security forces, the emergency response capabilities and by improving lighting,” it stated

On the likelihood of pressing ahead with reforms in the waste management system, the Ambode’s administration says “We are now turning our focus to sanitation and the environment- there is no denial that the system is flawed. This administration has chosen to take the bull by the horns and address the challenges within waste management that are affecting our health, our economy and the very livelihoods of future generations to come in a phased, strategic and successful manner.”

According to the administration, the new policy will help address the current arrangement with LAWMA/PSP operators which it said was not working because collection service levels are low and lack of effective waste management practices. For instance, it pointed at improper disposal of medical waste instead of incineration, sporadic collection; causing accumulation of refuse dumps in public areas which are a health hazard.

It disclosed that the state’s Ministry of Environment spends a large proportion of operational budget on the collection, transportation and disposal of waste; yet it floods when it rains due to disposal of plastic bags and bottles in canals and drainage system; it also accounts for major traffic gridlock especially during rainy season. Environmental problems such as air and water pollution, diseases, and deterioration of the environment because of poor practices have adverse socio-economic consequences.

Going forward, the administration said its new policy would establish strict, secure regulatory framework which will designate LAWMA to acts as policy-making and regulatory arm and KAI will be rebranded as THE Lagos State Environmental Corps Agency and will act as an enforcement unit.
In appealing for understanding and for the citizenry to embrace the new reforms, the administration rationalised that “Lagos State is at critical levels of pollution and we must change course because our children’s lives and future depend on it. The environmental burden of disease- the biggest childhood killers- pandemics such as cholera, diarrheal diseases and malaria are due to preventable environmental causes.”

The Win-win Scenario
It said when fully implemented, the new policy will create 27,500 new jobs for Community Sanitation Workers (CSWs) who will be responsible for street cleaning and sweeping, drainage management; adding that salaries are already fixed at N18,500 per month which are above the federally approve minimum wage.
Other benefits that have been lined up for the CSWs are tax relief which will ensure that the CSWs’ salaries are tax free in addition to the provision of insurance benefits with cover for health and life, accident and injury for all sanitation workers as well as pension scheme for all sanitation workers who will only be allowed to work in their immediate communities hereby eliminating transportation costs.

Clean Lagos Initiative Goals
With the new reforms, the goals of the CLI will be to improve the quality of water, address treatment of waste water and sewage which are currently being dumped into the waterways without treatment first and to engage in environmental remediation projects to address degradation due to poor environmental practices; it is also expected to reduce the accumulation of solid waste by promoting reduce, reuse, recycle; improve air quality by reducing greenhouse emissions and air pollutants by enacting legislation so vehicles, machinery and generators meet safe emission standards.

Other goals are to ensure that in public areas, that people stop littering and engage in improper disposal of waste in drainage systems; clean up markets and ensure food vendors maintain health standards and lower crime rate with the job creation scheme.