Will LASG Adopt the Omole Environmental Sanitation Model for the Rest of Lagos?

With the rains, submerged vehicles, flooded homes, closed businesses and loss of lives have been the experience in Lagos, especially with dirt-clogged drainages. Mosunmola Ogi-Olu, who spent a day in Omole Estate in Lagos, observed the zero-tolerance policy for dirt and queries if the model would be adopted by the Lagos State government for the rest of the state

During a visit to Omole Estate, in Lagos, an incident occurred that sparked curiosity about the community’s cleanliness standards. Alighting from a tricycle, someone dropped her snack, picked it up, dust it off, and ate it, a surprising sight given Lagos’s reputation for being unclean.

However, upon closer inspection, It was clear that Omole was exceptionally clean, especially its drainage systems, which were devoid of the typical plastic waste seen in other parts of Lagos. Curious, a passerby attributed the cleanliness to the residents’ zero-tolerance policy for dirt.

This encounter would have led anyone to contemplate whether such cleanliness standards could be replicated in other parts of Lagos and the possibility of the government engaging Omole residents as Environmental Champions to share their success story and strategies for maintaining a clean environment.

Lagos, being a coastal city, struggles with the recurring challenge of flooding. In recent years, the city has experienced varying degrees of flooding, resulting in drowned vehicles, flooded homes, property damage from fallen trees, and disrupted businesses.

A significant concern raised by many residents of the state is the inadequate management of drainage systems, hindering the free flow of water through gutters and drains across the state. Numerous drains in Lagos are clogged, with stagnant water often displaying discolored shades.

In a chat with the environment officer of Omole Phase 2 estate, Adebowale Michael Owookade, it seems the management has devised a means of ensuring that the drainages are clean and unclogged  within the community. One of such strategies employed is that the estate takes sole responsibility for drainage maintenance, organizing annual evacuations at its own expense, without reliance on government assistance.

Owookade shared that the estate has an environmental committee whose responsibility is to ensure that the drains are always kept clean, he highlighted the importance of residents’ cooperation to achieve their aim. Additionally, he noted that regular inspections are conducted monthly to identify areas that need attention, during these inspection responsibilities are shared between resident and estate management.

In places like Agege, there appears to be widespread neglect in maintaining the drainage networks, despite yearly budget allocations to the Ministry of Environment, particularly the Office of Drainage, Lagos State. This raises doubts about the effectiveness of oversight over Lagos’ drainage infrastructure.

Moreover, there is a pattern to how drainage clearing is carried out, typically in response to flooding incidents. While gutters are cleaned and debris removed, the waste is often piled beside the drains. Consequently, during subsequent rainfall, the accumulated debris is washed back into the drains, increasing the problem.

A tire repairman operating near the Abattoir along Abule Egba road highlighted the challenges faced during the rainy season, noting that the road becomes submerged with water, obstructing passage and causing traffic congestion as vehicles must slow down to navigate through the flooded area.

He commended the efforts of the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) in maintaining cleanliness on the street, noting that they diligently clear debris from drainage systems. In contrast, he pointed out issues at Agege market where cleaned drains result in debris being left on the road. Consequently, during subsequent rainfall, the runoff washes the debris back into the drains.

During a conversation with Mr. Zubair, a resident of Agege, he explained how recurring floods during rainfall have inflicted substantial and devastating damage to properties in the area, sometimes resulting in loss of life and destruction of buildings along waterways and canals.

Zubair highlighted that the flood originates not only from rainwater in Agege but also from flooding in Oke-Aro area, Ogun State, which feeds into the Olaniyi canal in Oko-Oba area, passing through the State Abattoir en route to the Aboru canal, amplifying the devastation during rainfall.

Zubair identified human activities as significant contributors to the problem, citing instances where people obstruct the free flow of water by living along waterways and canals or constructing dwellings in these areas. He particularly emphasised the illegal dumping of refuse by cart pushers into the canal, exacerbating flooding during heavy downpours and causing extensive damage, including loss of life.

In addressing the issue, Zubair outlined solutions proposed by researchers and environmentalists. These include clearing debris and refuse during the dry season under strict supervision, removal of illegal shanties along the canal, and regulation of cart pushers’ activities.

Furthermore, Zubair suggested that the government needs to widen the canal from the Oke-Aro axis to Aboru and construct concrete walls along the edges to prevent erosion and weathering.

Representing the Baale of Oko Oba in Ilobu Street, Agege, Balogun Akinpelu painted a vivid picture of the challenges faced by residents whenever it rains. He expressed deep concern over the prevalent flooding that afflicts the area, emphasizing the urgent need for effective drainage solutions.

During recent rainfall, Akinpelu revealed that residents resorted to using buckets to cope with the influx of water inside their homes. Despite expectations for larger gutters to facilitate proper water flow to the canal, Akinpelu said the contractor stated that the size he’s working on is what he has been instructed to work on.  

Akinpelu further highlighted the impact of the ongoing drainage project on Oko Oba Road, which has diverted debris onto Ilobu Street. This influx of dirt and debris worsens the flooding situation, leaving residents grappling with the aftermath of each rainfall.

The consequences of the inadequate drainage system are severe, with many homes along the canal collapsing and residents forced to evacuate. Akinpelu described a disheartening reality where residents must vacate their homes during the rainy season, returning only when the weather permits.

Despite efforts to address the issue, including appeals to government representatives progress has been slow. Akinpelu expressed frustration over the lack of tangible results from the contractors handling the project,  citing delays and inadequate execution.

Moreover, Akinpelu raised concerns about waste management in the area, noting that narrow streets hinder proper waste disposal. Residents are forced to contend with overflowing drains and unsanitary conditions, increasing health risks such as malaria.

As the community grapples with these challenges, Akinpelu issued a heartfelt plea to the government to speed up the drainage efforts and address the pressing needs of Ilobu Street. With the rainy season underway, swift action is necessary to prevent further devastation and improve residents’ quality of life.

The concern here is how Omole has been able to maintain such cleanliness and Agege has failed in this regard. 

As the raining season draws near, the Lagos State ministry of Environment has been carrying out some activities with regards to clearing up some drainages in the state. The Commissioner of Environment, Lagos State Tokunbo Wahab on his post on X Platform (formally Twitter) highlighted some of the efforts by the Lagos State government to combat flooding, which includes dredging and cleaning major drainages and canals across the state. Wahab added that his visit to inspect System 44 (Ikota) and System 156 (Orchid Estate – Ajiran – Agungi – Ikota) is to monitor enforcement and assess recent flooding levels.

Actions taken include removing properties encroaching on drainage channels and clearing canal paths after engaging stakeholders who failed to comply with agreed plans for rainwater flow. 

Additionally,  Wahab mentioned that the construction of System 44 (Mobil road – Ogombo – Ikota) drainage channel has commenced, reflecting the government’s commitment to flood prevention.

Another development is the ongoing removal of illegal properties built on the drainage channel along System 1 midstream (Odo Iyalaro – Ojota – Ogudu reach) as seen on his X platform formally Twitter. 

According to him, the initiatives demonstrate the state government’s dedication to resolving flooding issues. He therefore urged residents to refrain from dumping waste in canals and encroaching on drainage rights-of-way, stressing the government’s commitment to year-round drainage cleaning to prevent flooding.

Wahab further stated that the state government  is prepared for the rainy season, by taking a lot of measures to reduce the usual flooding in the state. He pleaded with Lagosians to desist from throwing wastes in the drainages and take ownership of the public infrastructures. 

He concluded his tweet with “Collectively, let us ensure a cleaner, safer and greener Lagos.

In a report by the Director of Features at the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Tayo Ogunbiyi, he revealed that the state government has designated a  number that residents should report emergencies and drainage blockages to the appropriate authority via hotline 767. According to him, the importance of citizen involvement in complementing government efforts to mitigate environmental risks cannot be over emphasized.

However, It’s necessary to note that the Office of Citizens Engagement website lacks specific responsibilities related to mobilizing citizens for environmental causes. Experts emphasize the importance of such synergy, especially with the upcoming rainy season to get Lagosians on the campaign for a better environment.

During a discussion with a staff member at the Civic Engagement Office in Lagos State, she spoke about Citizens Gate 2.0, a citizen engagement platform where residents can report issues and receive a response within 24-48 hours. The website describes the platform as a One-Stop Shop for all Lagos State Ministries, Departments, and Agencies services for non-emergency feedback, Citizens Gate provides comprehensive assistance to Lagos State citizens through its website platform. Users can download and register on the app.

According to the staff member, residents can report incidents by snapping photos and sending them through the platform. The Governor, Deputy Governor, and other relevant stakeholders are active participants in this platform. For instance, if it concerns issues about the drainage, the appropriate department will address the reported incidents.

Additionally, there is a chatbox for citizens to file complaints, particularly concerning state matters, while a designated emergency hotline is available for urgent issues.

Once reported, these complaints are visible to relevant officers who can take appropriate action.

The staff explained that the Citizens Gate 3.0 platform serves as a centralised platform for all state residents, ensuring that reported issues are directed to the appropriate department responsible for resolution.

During a conversation with the Director of Public Affairs at the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, Kunle Adeshina noted that residents must take responsibility for maintaining the drainages in front of their homes, as government intervention is limited to major drains.

Adeshina explained the interconnected nature of drainages, differentiating between tertiary, secondary, and primary drainages. He noted that waste disposed of in individual home drains affects the entire drainage system, leading to environmental hazards.

According to him, sensitization is a continuous exercise, he citing various media platforms such as radio, television, and social media which the state government uses to urge people to use bins instead of drains. 

“It’s a continuous thing, there are several messages on the radio, television even on social media that are telling people, use the bin, don’t use the drain” 

“If you listen to the radio, there are jingles telling you that don’t dump refuse in your drainages because at the end of the day, it’ll come back to hunt you, because Lagos is a coastal city, one theirs of the state is u see the water, it’s not what government is going to start, it’s something that we do on a regular basis”.

He mentioned some of the efforts that have been made to sensitize residents include town hall meetings, distribution of flyers, and engagement with influencers and celebrities to discourage littering.

“We also hold regular town hall meetings where we distribute fliers. We also engage influencers, Nollywood actors, actresses, they do testimonials on behalf of us that don’t litter your canals and.  drains with refuse”.

Adeshina emphasized the importance of attitudinal change among residents, urging them to dispose of waste responsibly.

Regarding enforcement of regulations, Adeshina highlighted the challenge of penalizing offenders and emphasized the need for a collective mindset change among residents. He stressed the importance of proper waste disposal practices to maintain a clean environment as the way residents relate to the environment is the way the environment will relate back to them.

The Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) Brigade is the Law Enforcement  Unit of the Lagos State Ministry  of the Environment which was created with a vision to promote a cleaner, hygiene, aesthetically resplendent environment. Its mission is to constantly monitor Lagos environs in line with global best practices of enforcement technique. 

Largely, the brigade has always been used primarily for the arrest, harassment in some cases of people who disobey the law in Lagos state. 

However, residents who have been victims of such arrest claimed ignorance of the law and have suggested that rather than use the KAI brigade for only arrest, they could be used to educate and mobilise  and also to sensitize the people to be aware of the law as it concerns the environment. Others have claimed that arresting Lagosians without proper enlightenment will not address the issue but will only degenerate the situation.

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