Ambode Sets up Committee to Review Agreement with Visionscape

1

· Appoints SSG to draw roadmap for waste management

By Gboyega Akinsanmi

In a renewed effort to clear heaps of refuse on the state’s main roads and streets, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has constituted a high-level committee to review the environmental management policy that brought in Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Limited about three years ago.

Apart from setting up the new committee, the governor has equally appointed the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello, to head the committee, whose mandate principally centres on ridding the state of wastes and developing mechanism for effective waste disposal across the state.

Competent sources in the State Executive Council spoke with THISDAY Wednesday on the establishment of an ad-hoc committee on environmental sanitation and waste management, which they said, had become imperative with the growing heaps of wastes across the state.

With the enactment of the Lagos State Environmental Management and Protection Law on March 1, 2017, the state government signed an agreement with Visionscape to manage residential wastes across the state while the public support participation (PSP) operators mandated to service the commercial sector alone.

Contrary to its previous mandate of carrying out 90 per cent operations and 10 per cent regulations, the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) lost its core responsibilities to Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) with the passage of the 2017 waste management law.

Under the CLI, specifically, the commercial sector would be serviced by licensed waste collection operators while an environmental consortium was mandated to provide waste collection, processing and disposal services for residential properties through a long term concession.

After the agreement was sealed, the Managing Director of Visionscape, Mr. John Irvine, claimed that the consortium would inject a whopping sum of $50 million into the state’s waste management programme and employ 27,500 different categories of workers under the CLI.

Consequently, the new waste management regime stoked discontent among the PSP operators, who dragged the state government before a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi for alleged breach of agreement and withdrew their door-to-door waste collection services.

Shortly after they withdrew their door-to-door waste collection services, residents were left with no option than disposing their wastes on the main roads and streets, thereby culminating in public outcries and fear of epidemic outbreaks if not properly managed.

The state government defended the new waste management order, though alleged that the return of refuse to the state’s main roads and streets was an act of sabotage, which it proved with the arrest of some suspects in different parts of the state.

With the rising public concern due to heaps of waste on the streets, Ambode constituted the committee to review the waste management regime that brought in Visionscape under the CLI and redesigned the LAWMA to be the state’s regulatory institution for waste collection operators.

Alongside Bello, Ambode appointed the Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr. Abiodun Bamgboye, and General Manager of LAWMA, Mr Segun Adeniji, among others, as members of the committee.

The committee, which started operations last week, was mandated “to review agreement with Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Limited and re-organise the state’s mechanism for effective waste disposal.”

The committee was also charged “to work out modalities and strategies of incorporating the PSP operators into the state’s waste management regime and realign the roles of the LAWMA and CLI for effective waste collection, disposal, management and processing in the state.”

In a telephone conversation with THISDAY, a member of the committee disclosed that the committee had started operation immediately after the governor constituted it about two weeks ago as part of strategies to realise its vision of cleaner and safer Lagos.

The source noted that the committee had been consulting all critical stakeholders in the state’s waste sectors, acknowledging that it had already held consultative meetings with the PSP operators and the management of the Visionscape, among others.

According to the source, Ambode set up the committee in the best interest of the state and worked out a win-win template for all stakeholders in the waste sector. He did not set up the committee to edge out Visionscape, but bring together all stakeholders for effective waste management.

Another source disclosed that Ambode appointed former Managing Director of LAWMA, Mr. Ola Oresanya, to help the state design new mode of operation for the Private Sector Partnership, PSP operators.

The source explained that Oresanya’s appointment was “to help the state government in directing activities of the PSP operators to quickly cart away heaps of waste in all 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).”

The source noted that the reason for Oresanya’s choice was because the successes enjoyed in waste collection in Lagos till 2015 was due to his efforts, noting that he had clear understanding of the waste sector and was involved in the birth of PSP operation in the state.

He said, “It was Bello that started the major environmental reforms in the state under the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Bello recommended Oresanya from the Ministry of the Environment for appointment as LAWMA’s General Manager in order to reposition the organisation for the task ahead at that time.”

The source explained that Oresanya’s recommendation “then elicited stern opposition from superior civil servants. They argued that the position of LAWMA’s GM should be held by a level-16 official. On this ground, they fought Oresanya’s appointment. But his competence and clear understanding of environmental sector spoke for him.”