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Months after, Lagos growing waste eases off gradually

As you drive out of the city of Lagos from the popular Ojodu-Berger end of the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, a mountain of refuse, occupying conspicuous but less-dignifying space sits atop a borderline bridge, separating Lagos and Ogun states. The refuse is a stark reminder of what the city has sunk into in recent months, a black dot of sort in the city’s struggle as an emerging megacity of Africa.

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From Ojodu to Mushin, Ajegunle to Obalende, Idumota to Egbeda, the city of Lagos seems to be losing the battle against the growing waste dumps that have now become nauseating eyesores in many communities, markets, city-centres, motor parks and bus stops, among other strategic places that once enjoyed relative sanity.

The Lagos State Government,  says it is doing its best to curtail the growing menace. Residents however, are quick to recollect that the situations were not this bad in previous years when preceding administrations, through a partnership forged between the State owned Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and private waste collectors under the banner of the Private Sector Participants

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(PSP) were in place, a seemingly hassle-free process that ensured that waste collected were diligently disposed.

“If you ask me, I can say that the government is less concerned about the rising refuse in Lagos,” Josiah Edem, a barbing salon operator in Aguda/County area of the State said.

“When the PSP operators were in charge of the waste collection, it takes maximum of 48-hours for any waste bin placed outside of your house to be disposed of its contents. But these Visionscape operators don’t seem to understand their job.Just take a look at the entrance of this street; you can say for sure that the waste and human beings are co-owners.”

Indeed, right at the Afeez County bus stop that leads to Edem’s salon, a heap of refuse, which residents confirmed have been left unattended to for days, festered. The putrid smell oozing out of the garbage dump, easily gets passers-by to cover their noses, hold their breadths and raced quickly out of the vicinity. Though, at the time of visit, an official waste bin with the inscription: “Visionscape” provided for disposal was noticed to be spilling. Apparently, the bin was overwhelmed with the amount of waste it was meant to contain. Its surrounding was thus filled with ever-expanding garbage being deposited indiscriminately by the residents around the area.

At Abule Egba, Alakuko, and Iyana Ipaja, all outskirts of Lagos where our correspondent visited during the week, mountains of refuse were seen in front of many houses, a sign that they have not been able to dispose their refuse for sometimes.

Mr Bolarin Sunday, a resident of Zone 1, Oko Oba, lamented the absence of refuse collectors whom he said have not visited the area in the last two months.

“We have not seen any refuse collector. There was a time one of their Lorries came to our street. A staff of the company asked each household to pay the sum of N1, 500 each, so as to dispose the refuse.

Some of us had no option other than to pay. We have paid the money and since the payment, we have not seen anybody to come again. The N1, 500 charges was actually meant for one month.

“I recalled that before the State Government clamped on the PSP, we paid a minimum of N1,500 per month which guaranteed three times collection in front of each payee houses but since the arrival of Visionscape, we have been abandoned,” he said.

At Oshodi-Isolo Local Government, some residents similarly complained that they receive on regular occasions, increasing bills for payment of wastes collections. However, some residents said they have chosen not to pay the bills, hence the non-citing of waste collectors who will evacuate debris being generated. In such situations, household do allow their wastes to fester unattended to and when it rain, they do dispose them off in the canals and drainages.

“Now we dispose our dirt in the drainages and canals. That’s the only way we can beat the shylock waste collectors. They hardly come around, yet when they do, the next day, they returned to serve bills.

Some households have resorted to non-payment of bills. And if the waste collectors chose, in retaliation not to pick our refuse, we will get them disposed anytime it rains heavily. It is not as if we love doing it but there are no options,” Jaiyeoba, Akanni, a resident in Edun/Oseni Ewu Street, Oshodi said.

In other places, residents have also devised other ingenious strategies to dispose their waste. 

At Agidingbi Ikeja area of Lagos State, residents explained that whenever the waste collectors are turning up to clear the debris in their streets, they do resort to hiring local waste disposal agents who show up at night to pick up the trash bags and proceed to dispose such off at expansive gully behind Omole housing estate.

Though, the Lagos State Government, during the administration of the immediate past Governor of the State, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN, banned the activities of the local agents who use wheel barrows to collect waste based on the allegations that many of them disposed such waste indiscriminately, the current Governor, Akinwunmi

Ambode has also sustained the order, a development that has not totally got them out of operations.

In Agidingbi where their operations have now shifted to late hours, the local waste collectors are said to be charging between N1500 and N3000 to clear about 200 kg of waste from a single household.

However, Daily Trust correspondents gathered that there are a few household who can afford the charges of old PSP waste collectors and with some kinds of arrangement in place, these household get their wastes cleared regularly. Other residents who work at the island and leave their houses before sunrise told our reporters that they do pack their waste, neatly in nylons, put them in their car trunks and dispose them on their way to work.

Yet, there are incidences of communal feuds in Agidingbi as some residents are accused of being in the habit of transferring their waste to the trash bins of those who regularly evacuate theirs. This development has forced those who previously keep such bins outside their fences and gates to relocate them into their compounds to check abuse rate.

With an estimated 22 million population, Lagos is said to be managing 13,000 metric tonnes of waste on daily basis with about 80 percent of that figure being waste generated from the residential areas. The poor management of these waste, many have argued, does poses not just environmental but health risks to the state’s teeming population.

An environmentalist and Professor at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Kehinde Olayinka said the consequences of growing refuse on the streets of Lagos are grave and must be urgently addressed. She recalled the near-perfect situation in the management of city waste in the past and called for collaborative efforts from all stakeholders to address the situation.

“The heaps of refuse we are seeing on the streets are capable of causing health hazards. Gone were the years when we didn’t use to see such. Such refuse can be washed into the drains; eventually it can hit our waterway and cause water pollution. All these incidences can cause cholera and typhoid. Some of these things are metals, and when the rainfall, it washes them even into our wells and metals are not biodegradable. By that we would be taking in poisoning, metal poising that can cause lots of problems. So we need to do something about heaps of refuse we are seeing,” Prof. Olayinka said.

The State Government, however, is insisting that it is giving its best in addressing the situation. The State Commissioner for Environment,

Mr Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti, at a recent briefing with journalists at the State Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja, said the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) which brought in the engagement of the Visionscape Sanitation Solutions and PSP operators are geared towards finding a lasting solution to the waste menace in the city state.

According to the Commissioner, the CLI was introduced in 2017 to foster broad reforms in solid waste management, with the hope of making the scheme the panacea for delivering “efficient, effective and sustainable environment with its attendant benefits such as job creation, cleaner, safer and healthy environment.”

“Very soon, Lagos will be very clean. We are working hard in

partnership with all stakeholders to ensure we address the challenges. Both the government and the residents will jointly address the challenges and with Visionscape and the Private Sector Participation (PSP) operators working together, and the cooperation of the people, the challenges would soon be over.

“We know that our population is increasing as available statistics indicate that 85 people enter Lagos every hour and very few of them go back, and as more people come in, the waste generated in the State is also increasing but we are working to put the right infrastructure and equipment in place to address waste management.

He said 13,958 Community Sanitation Workers (CSW) have so far been employed to sweep inner streets in the 377 political wards in the State, with recruitment exercise still ongoing, adding that under the new arrangement, the sweepers would be directly supervised by the Ministry, while mechanized sweeping would be managed by three companies – Avatar, Wastercare and Corporate Solutions.

Although, the Commissioner also assured at the meeting that the situation would be address before the rainy season, the situation on ground appears not to have so far measured up to that target.

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