Susty Stories

Lagos State: Achieving Sustainability in the Waste Management Sector

It is important to note that waste management is beyond collecting waste from one point and transporting to another point.

Lagos state is currently regarded as a mega city because it is home to close to 22 million people. These people are scrambling for limited infrastructural amenities. One of these is waste management. In the last one year, some reforms have come into existence and it can be said that a cleaner Lagos state is very important to the administration in power. This dedication is reflected in the pillars of the Lagos State Development Plan where “a sustainable environment” is the fourth pillar. Despite all these, we still seem not to have found and successfully implemented a lasting solution to the problem that has direct links with disease prevention, reducing our carbon footprints, climate change mitigation, greenhouse gases reduction and excellent sanitation.

The Challenges of Waste Management in Lagos State

It is important to note that waste management is beyond collecting waste from one point and transporting to another point. This is what made up the bulk of waste management activities within the state over the years. Recently all over the world, it’s no longer news that raw materials have become scarce and energy also expensive. Pollution rates have been increasing and improper waste management is closely associated with that.

Prior to the time when the Lagos State Waste Management Authority became charged with solely regulatory functions, the bulk of the activities that were carried out under the LAWMA-PSP partnership was collection and dumping. Recycling rates were low and until 2012 when a couple of incentive-based recycling schemes came up, sorting waste from sources did not exist. It can be said authoritatively that this model was not going to last long, evidenced by when the popular dumpsite at Olusosun, Ojota caught fire as a result of methane gas. That fire was a result of years of dumping and it has been forced to shut down operations.

The PSP operators did not and still do not have the capacity to properly manage the over 15,000 tonnes of waste generated daily in the state. According to some of them, the incapacity was as a result of delayed payment for services by government and residents, high interests on loans, bad roads, faulty trucks and inaccessible streets. They also complained of the dump sites not properly managed by LAWMA as some of their trucks took 48 hours to evacuate their contents.

Visionscape Limited and the Cleaner Lagos Initiative

Dump trucks to enhance waste management

Under the new reforms, Visionscape Limited came in to take over operations from LAWMA so as to enable it to focus on regulatory functions.  In an interview granted by the CEO of Visionscape Limited, Mr. John Irvine on the 14th of April, 2018 as reported by the Punch Online Newspaper, a waste management contract the size of Lagos state ordinarily would take between 18-24 months to get mobilized but the operations of the PSP were halted by the state government shortly after the contract between Visionscape and the state government was signed in April 2017. This according to him, marked the beginning of unnecessary problems.

There has been a lot of complaints in social media about how much worse, waste management has been since Visionscape took over. The PSP operators see the transfer of service as a way to take them out of the market. It is important to note here that there were operational inefficiencies before the new company took over but the high expectations from residents of the state and how things turned out has made the majority turn a blind eye to the reality of the situation. The former waste collectors were not offering any innovative solutions and intervention was therefore needed. The situation is so bad that some people want the 1100-liter bins provided for streets and major roads evacuated because they believe the frequent overflow from these bins are responsible for the filthy sight. There is no doubt that the bins provided are not enough and even the residential bins that have been distributed have not gotten to so many residential apartments especially in the rural areas of the state.

Strategic Integration and Partnership is key to achieving sustainability

To achieve sustainability, partnership is key. Comparing the population of Lagos state (~ 22 million) to that of Cape Verde (512,000) that has a size (a bit above 4000sqkm) slightly higher than Lagos state (3755sqkm), it can be seen that Lagos state is highly overpopulated and there would definitely be a strain on resources and amenities.

In solving the waste problem,

  • The state needs to be visualized as a country and local governments as states due to the number of people resident therein.
  • All stakeholders need to key into the vision of a cleaner Lagos and work together to press for progress in waste management. This would eliminate feelings of being left out or being sent out of business.
  • Everyone should be working towards making the state clean – residents, waste collectors, truck drivers, environmental health officers, enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies.
  • The PSP operators can continue with residential waste collection while Visionscape provides infrastructural services.
  • Smaller bins should be placed at strategic points on the streets to prevent littering and overflows.
  • Residents should stare down on littering as much as possible. Excesses can be properly bagged and put just beside already filled up bins.
  • Private recycling firms that run the incentive-based recycling scheme need to expand their services.
  • Visionscape can also venture into recyclable collection just like LAWMA used to collect medical waste separately from medical facilities. Recycling needs to be taken more seriously as it would reduce what goes into the landfills. Recyclable collection would also leave no room for excuses as residents would be left with no choice than to separate from source.
  • The waste bill, like the electricity bill and food handler’s certificate given to food vendors and restaurants should be taken seriously by environmental health officers attached to local council development areas. This would gradually phase out the activities of illegal cart-pushers that dump wastes in canals and by roadsides.

Enforcement, Monitoring and Penalties

There are different enforcement officers working in the environmental sector of the state at different levels. The environmental health officers (EHOs) locally known as “wole-wole” are in charge of inspecting residential apartments, restaurants, shops and commercial facilities for defaults in recommended sanitation practices. In addition to these, the following are additional ways the different enforcement officers can achieve desired results;

  • The EHOs should include verification of waste bills into their routine checks. They should also notify PSP operators and Visionscape of black spots and other places that need urgent waste evacuation.
  • The Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps need focus more on ensuring littering is curbed. The Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps attached to LCDAs should work with EHOs by informing them of dirty communities. Offenders should be issued fines and multiple time offenders should have their premises locked up.
Rukayat Alli-Oluwafuyi
Rukayat Alli-Oluwafuyi is a budding environment, health, safety and sustainability professional and currently works with the facility department of a mixed-use development in Lagos.