•As communities bemoan mounting garbage heaps, Ambode meets with residents over plans to tackle waste, flooding, others
By Kehinde Aderemi
It was a revolting spectacle, one that thoroughly traumatised the eyes. Early last month, shortly after a downpour that caused considerable flooding in parts of Lagos, Akobi Crescent, Surulere, became the centre-point of public discourse.
The deluge had caused the canals in the area to empty their contents, which comprised mostly household waste, onto the streets. On radio, television, social media and in the newspapers, many were they that blamed the residents of the area for their careless lifestyles and dirty habits. Indeed, it was such a disgusting sight as hundreds of residents of the area waded through the flooded, refuse-riddled Akobi Crescent.
In the past weeks, the two major ills that have plagued Lagos consistently are flooding and accumulation of refuse in many parts of the metropolis. Although the floods seem to have taken a break, the indiscriminate dumping of refuse in canals and by the roadside has not stopped. At the moment, virtually every part of Lagos has seemingly metamorphosed to a garbage dump.
Many factors have been listed as the reason for the sudden resurgence of refuse in Lagos. Some residents have upbraided the state government for terminating the erstwhile refuse collection process while the proposed replacement was still in the works. Proponents of this argument insist that the new waste management policy, which was encapsulated in the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI), was responsible for the heaps of refuse across Lagos. Some others claim that the development is the handiwork of those that have vowed to stand against its implementation, especially the PSP operators.
Indeed, the PSP operators were said to have suddenly abandoned their duty posts, refusing to collect refuse in Lagos in protest against the new sanitation initiative of the state government. Their action, it was gathered, has been responsible for the heaps of garbage in many parts of the state.
Expectedly, the two issues, resurgence of refuse across Lagos and flooding, were the main points discussed at the recent town hall meeting between the Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, and residents of the state. The meeting, the eighth in the series, was held last week at the Badore Ferry Terminal in Ajah.
Thousands of residents, including monarchs, community leaders, artisans, marketmen and women, journalists and politicians, converged on the venue from early in the morning to bare their minds on matters affecting the people of the area.
One of the points raised immediately after the commencement of the meeting was the issue of flooding. Indeed, household belongings worth millions of naira have been lost in the area in the past weeks due to flooding. There were concerns by many of the residents that the problem might recur in the near future.
In his response, Ambode said that the meeting was holding in the Ajah area to enable him address the flooding that had been ravaging the area. He noted that floods had been inflicting pain on Lagos because the drains and the canals were often blocked with refuse, adding that most people just dump refuse in the canals with the hope that the water would flush the waste away.
He admitted, however, that the state government wasn’t without its faults.
His words: “We have not been able to provide the people with enough bins or places where they can put the dirt. They cannot leave the dirt in the house, so they must have a channel to get it out.
“Another question is, has government been able to provide enough locations, bins, bags where they can put that refuse, from where we can collect it? And when we collect it efficiently, won’t they go back to the canals and the drains?
“Now, do we have enough equipment to clean Lagos? Are we having enough bins, plastic bags, compactors that can go round the population of 22 million people? The answer before now is no. We are the largest waste producers in the world, more than New York. New York produces 10,000 tonnes of waste every day, but the waste accounted for in Lagos is 13,000 tonnes per day, not to talk of areas that are not documented.
“Do we have enough equipment and compactors? We don’t have. But how do we get it? The population is increasing and by that fact the waste is increasing and we have not increased revenue. But we need new equipment. Some people were doing it for us before, but we all saw the equipment they have been using to clean up the state and the truth is they can never do it right.
“If we say we want to be a smart city and globally competitive, we must use the approach that allows you to collect waste in a globally competitive way. It is what we have done with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) without me punishing taxpayers.”
The governor explained that the partnership, which would not cost the government any money initially, would provide 600 brand new compactors and generate 27,500 sanitation jobs across the state.
“But what would happen in the interim, as the CLI wouldn’t go into effect until next month,” a resident enquired. The governor replied that all the newly inaugurated chairmen of the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas have been mandated to ensure a 24-hour cleaning of the environment, even as government officials would be patrolling the state to evacuate waste. He also stated that 900,000 electronically tracked bins would be provided in homes across the state.
What would then happen to the licensed private sector participants, otherwise known as PSP operators? They would collect mostly commercial waste, Ambode said.
He also noted that the dumps at Olusosun and other areas in the state would be closed once the new landfills being constructed by Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Limited were completed.
A resident, Mrs. Abiodun Dina, complained about the activities of sand dredgers in the area. The governor warned that the government might be forced to tackle the issue decisively, as advocacy with the dredgers seemed not to be working.
Ambode also assured residents that work on the Oshodi-International Airport Road and 181 new roads would commence next month, adding that potholes on roads in the state would also be addressed by the Lagos State Public Works Corporation.