By Ngozi Nwoke

Waste management is a major challenge in Lagos despite several attempts by the state government and private organisations to curb the menace. That is why it is a common sight all over Lagos today to see heaps of festering waste dumped in almost every nook and cranny.Waste management has remained a challenge over the years, with indiscriminate dumping of refuse in any available space, especially markets, drainages and open tracts in residential areas.

   Residential apartments, markets, waterways, highways, streets and undeveloped plots of land have been turned to waste dumps for many.

Meanwhile, there is a tussle between the private waste collectors and government-operated waste evacuators over rights to operate side by side. Most residents believe that the private operators have been more efficient in terms of prompt evacuation of the wastes than those engaged by the government.

Managing director, Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA), Mr. Ibrahim Adejuwon Odumbomi, stated that: “First, as part of my mandate to ensure a consistent cleaner Lagos, especially solid waste, we have made sure that all the 57 LCDAs and the 373 wards are well catered for on a daily basis when comes to waste management.

“Lagos State generates an excess of 13,000 metric tonnes of waste daily, considering the over-population of the state. For us, it’s a challenge and an opportunity. Every day, we ensure that those 13,000 metric tonnes of waste are cleared. I can tell you for a fact that the LAWMA has properly managed the dumpsites for over 28 years. That’s why you see a lot of rehabilitation going on at the Olusosun landfill. We rehabilitate it on a monthly basis. The whole point it to help with the speedy degradation of the waste and to prevent emission of gas, which is essential.

“On air pollution, we all know that, wherever there is waste, there would be air pollution. So, we regularly fumigate the landfill on a monthly basis and we use a lot of odour control to support the fumigation.

“At the moment, Lagos State does not have a waste energy facility but that is coming as part of our 2022 projection. When we achieve using a waste energy facility, we will be able to turn the waste to resources. Other plans lined up for the agency is to provide adequate waste bins and PSP for residents. The major challenges of waste is the management, which is why we have all hands on deck.

“We will also embarked on enumeration of houses to enable us know the residents using our services. This will help us get our data accurate. We will update our 10-year plan because we are the centre of excellence and we lead the way for Nigeria. We will work in synergy with other government agencies to derive the right approach and methods to waste management in Lagos.

“We will also focus on supporting our PSP, especially now that the Lagos State government has changed our fleet, so as to be more efficient. We will engage in more advocacy and education of schools on how to properly manage waste in their surroundings.

“In the next few weeks, there would be a complete clearance of all environmental nuisances in Mile 2 to Iyana-Oba. Currently, we are well positioned and equipped to manage waste pollution in the state. I implore Lagos residents to encourage and support the good efforts of the Lagos State government to completely manage solid waste in the state.”

Contrary to Odumbomi’s assertions, however, an official of the Lagos State Waste Management Agency, who pleaded anonymity, said: “There is no proper waste management structure in Lagos. What we do is transportation, waste disposal, and not waste management. That means collecting from one point and discharging it at another point.

“We have dump sites where the wastes are taken. Thereafter, we sort them out and crush the ones that can be crushed. We have waste collectors that are shared into zones, and they go to individual houses, shops and others to collect waste and take them to dump sites. But the challenge we have is shortage of trucks, and we cannot help the situation.”

Speaking in the same vein, the general manager, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Dolapo Fasewa, stated that the responsibility of protecting and improving the environment of a megacity like Lagos, although enormous, is one the agency is bent on tackling with passion.

“Man is a product of his environment. The environment we live in has 99.9 per cent impact on our health. This is why the agency embarked on a waste-to-wealth initiative with the aim to generate less waste by encouraging reusable materials as well as promoting recycling and conversion of waste to new products, which translates into opportunities for our people.

“We used the waste-to-wealth initiative to also create public awareness on the need to rescue the environment from unfriendly activities and for residents to be conscious of actions that can cause environmental pollution and affect human health. Our objective is to advocate sustainable solutions to all forms of environmental hazards, which include burning of tyres and cooking with firewood, in order to reduce the negative effects of climate change on the environment.”

On tackling the challenge of plastic pollution in Lagos, she said: “We have found out that in Lagos State plastic pollution is a major problem and it blocks a lot of drains, as plastics are not biodegradeable. Every single plastic made is still on the surface of the earth. They can be blocking drains or eaten by fishes, which we in turn eat and the implications health-wise are now coming to the fore.

“We intend to mop up used plastics. We are having conversations with beverage and food alliance companies who produce plastic bottles. We cannot stop them but they have a responsibility by government to ensure that these plastics are properly disposed off and now we are enforcing recycling and enforcing putting money in a general treasury to deal with plastic pollution.

“We launched a programme called Waste Exchange and this simply means we are putting a premium on amount of used plastic. What do we hope to achieve? We hope to mop up used plastics all the way from the drains.

“For instance, if plastics are being bought for N5, we intend to buy it for N10 or N15 and you’ll ask me how is this sustainable, most industries and companies pay environmental development charge, a levy, a tax that is compulsory to be paid to the coffers of Lagos State. We will now start to use tax payers money to work for the tax payer.

“We have hubs now in Lagos where we encourage you to drop your plastics for incentives. LAWMA is currently working actively on sorting waste, biodegradable from degradable. We are decommissioning the landfill so we can have a mechanised landfill and we are thinking of incineration and these are all active measures towards the policies that have been made in the past,” Fasewa said.

A concerned resident of Ojota, Lagos, Mr. David Oguntoye, said it was the responsibility of every responsive government to eradicate indiscriminate refuse from the state, and that was the reason the previous administration of Governor Akinwummi Ambode took steps to carry the people along in order to achieve the ultimate goal of a cleaner, healthier and better Lagos by introducing Vision Scape, a waste management agency.

“The past administration made a huge effort to eradicate indiscriminate waste disposal in the state by introducing various waste management agencies. Vision Scape did a lot, but they were not given a long time to continue. That shows that they are concerned about the health and safety of the people.”

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Despite all efforts by the government to manage poor waste disposal in the state, the private waste collectors, popularly called Private Sector Participants (PSP) on waste collection, have come under strong condemnation in some parts of Lagos State, as they have been accused of inefficiency and ripping off clients.

Residents of areas like Ajegunle, Abule-Egba, Makoko, Ojuelegba, Iyana-Ipaja, Egbeda, Mushin, Abule Taylor, Ahmadiyya, Ijaiye and Dopemu, among others within the Lagos metropolis, are suffering in silence due to the unbearable condition of these areas.

Against the normal practice of monthly sanitation and evacuation of refuse, aimed at achieving an efficient waste management in the state, it seems adequate measures are not taken to completely stop the indiscriminate dumping of refuse. This, on many occasions, has led to disagreements between the operators and residents, based on the usual practice of ensuring that residents pay for the period in question.

Residents have now been forced to seek alternative means of disposing of their waste, either by engaging the services of cart pushers at an extra cost or by dumping them indiscriminately on the road or the median.

For Mr. Adelani Adesanya, another concerned resident, some of the PSP operators were operating with only one truck for about five communities. He noted that immediately the truck breaks down, the areas would have to suffer till the truck is put in good shape again.

“It is no news that Lagos State has had a functioning waste management agency from time memorial. But, one needs to ask the compliance level of residents with the agency.

“On several occasions, the Lagos State Waste Management Agency has warned residents of the state to desist from the act of throwing dirt on the road particularly through vehicles, restating that offenders risk a jail sentence or a huge fine. Still, the bad act persists.

“Most Lagos residents have been unethical in this regard. So, I think LAWMA officials should take adequate measures and more stringent sanctioning on defaulters to ensure a clean, safe and green state that will be habitable for all and free from environmental hazards and diseases.

“The state government should also reiterate its effort in combating environmental problems that may surface particularly, during the coming persistent rainy season.

“However, the residents should try to be law abiding group of people  to the State Government policies and LAWMA laws but they (LAWMA) need to be more proactive so that everyone will a conducive, hygienic, and clean city so as to meet the Mega City mission dream of the state government through proper and continuous sanitation exercise.

“Human beings are not animals and Lagos residents are not gullible enough to stoop down low to get knocked down by an unhygienic environment that may definitely cause harm to their health.

“In their little way of compliance, Lagos residents are cooperating in getting rid of and destroying or storing used, damaged or other unwanted industrial, agricultural or domestic products and substances, which also entails proper discarding or discharging of the material waste in accordance with the local environmental regulatory framework.

“This action is taken or adhered to by the majority of the educated because waste disposal involves a myriad of processes such as collection, transportation, dumping, recycling, or sewage treatment among other waste product monitoring and regulation measures, highlighted by LAWMA.

“Though one of the major waste disposal problems with Lagos residents is attributed to slow picking of refuse in some areas, every LGA and community development areas suffer the problem of effective waste disposal due to the generation of too much waste.”

In his recommendations to enforce proper waste management in Lagos, Adesanya noted that: “Nothing for one to gain if we should say ‘Lagos State Government is not working hard on waste and waste management agency’ in the state so as to meet the needs to take to the megacity envisioned as the Centre of Excellence. But then, nature has taught us that in life all challenges to man demand solutions. That’s exactly the case in Lagos with its residents, waste and waste management.

“However, I would prefer the underlisted policies as per my expectations from LAWMA. To establish a pay-as-you throw waste fee to encourage residents to generate less waste, design penalties for pay-as-throw waste at inappropriate areas for residents that heed not waste rules and regulations, develop rules and regulations to phase out non-recyclable materials and single-use items in the city, sensitise or do proper awareness for the residents on the hazards in unhygienic environments.

“The campaign should be aimed at educating residents on the need to properly dispose of their waste, as failure to do so can lead to water and air-borne diseases. We have to help ourselves first by maintaining a hygienic environment before the ministry of health or the government can help us

“During my recent stay in Lagos, I observed that there was only one truck that came to carry refuse in the whole Ojota, Ogudu-Orioke and Ketu areas. This means we had to wait until after one month before the truck came. We have complained to the waste management agency, but all to no avail. Sometimes they refuse to come with the excuse that their truck is faulty.”

An environmentalist, Mr. Ifeanyi Ochonogor, founder of E-terra Recycling Agency, Yaba, Lagos, also spoke on the need for the government to engage more in recycling refuse. His words: “The recurring threat to proper waste management in Lagos is the lack of adequate facilities. The best recommended strategy is for the government to invest more in recycling of refuse, electronics and plastic materials. However, one of the greatest barriers to recycling is the manufacturing industry. There are only a few recycling industries in Lagos, and they are mostly owned by private organisations.

“In a large city like Lagos, especially in the rural areas, recycling is almost unattainable, as the recycling points and collectors are mostly in the urban areas, and virtually unknown to the people living in these rural communities. Material goods like plastics are sold and used within these rural areas, and most times they end in the gutters or burnt, causing further environmental and health hazards.”

The reporter gathered that the on-going legal tussle between the private waste evacuators and government-operated waste evacuators over rights to operate side by side is at the Court of Appeal. Many Lagos residents believe, however, that the private operators have been more efficient in terms of prompt evacuation of refuse than those engaged by the government.

“It doesn’t matter who evacuates refuse between government agents and private operators. What is important is that refuse should be taken off Lagos roads and streets, as the current situation is far from acceptable,” Ochonogor said.

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