Why the refuse on Lagos streets may outweigh that in their dump sites.
It has been 13 years since Deborah Sholaro moved to Oko filling area, along Lasu Isheri road, in Alimosho LG area of Lagos State. A stiffly straight, light-skinned teacher and mother of two lovely girls. She had moved to live in her mother-in-law’s house when she got married, she stayed there while her husband is hustling to make ends meet in Bayelsa. Her first 4 years was worthy, she felt the sweetness and comfort of marriage. At night during heatwave, she would sleep in their verandah and feel the peace in her ambiance in the day. Her story changed 9 years ago because of the environmental degradation that infects her abode. Her environment now breathes obnoxious scent which accompanies first-grade breed of mosquitoes. “When the situation became unbearable, I ran to Bayelsa to meet my husband but the cost of living is too high there, so we came back here,” she shrugs. The Government officials would visit to fumigate the area when they first started, but they haven’t showed up in the past 7 years. The choking burden is growing.
There is hardly a place you’d drive by in Lagos and not observe littering dirt. They crawled even into the nooks and crannies of the streets. The highbrow areas of Lekki and Ajah were absolutely not spared either.
Passengers in public buses, stuck in the Lagos traffic would sit while the deep stench suffocates them -they would argue about the rift between LAWMA and PSP, and the power shift to VisionScape while covering their noses, passersby would take their hills as they walk by.
Rural and semi-urban households seek PSP alternatives by employing individual refuse carriers called “Onile” who pulls waste carriers to collect dirt in the neighborhood. These persons later sort the dirt for plastics pouches and other valuable non-biodegradable items that they sell. Some of these “Onile” were arrested for doing this. “Despite all plans to make Lagos city mega, the Government is yet to get this waste disposal issue right,” says Seyi, a petrol station attendant in Igboelerin area, Okokomaiko.
The Lagos State population, wobbling around 21 million makes her the fastest growing state in Nigeria -leaving Kano State behind. Less arguably, more people, more dirt. However, the Lagos dumpsites: Olusosun in the north wing, Solous 2 (Lanre Bus stop) and Soulus 3 (Oko filling), along Lasu-Iba road, Temu in Epe, Ewu Elepe in Ikorodu, Simpson in Lagos Island, and the Agege and Oshodi TLS (Transfer Loading Stations) are there. Also, is an illegal dump site in Ile Epo area of Lagos Abeokuta Road which is unrecognized by the Government for it wasn’t stated as part of their dump sites.
For a State with this growing population, it is disappointing that the highest waste governing body, LAWMA, can only account for the capacity of four of its six dumpsites, including the Oshodi and Agege TLS.
On the mainland, most dumpsites except Solous 3 is in partial or no functionality- they no longer serve their purposes. Olusosun which is about 42.7 hectares absorbes almost 40% of the entire Lagos waste.
According to Ojota residents, “they (the Government) wants to use the Olusosun ground for some other valuable projects, that’s why they stop dumping refuse there and started burning the place. “Another said the burning has nothing to do with the Government, that the long term stacked refuse sparked up inferno like a volcano.” Close to the actual, the Lagos State Government look forward to making Olusosun dump site a mega bus station where interstate vehicles will operate. That said, it is fair to say that 40% of the entire Lagos waste is littering on its streets and main roads. This is likely to grow worse as the Government plan to close down Solous Igando and Ewu elepe as they are termed “unsustainable.”
In Ile Epo, there is no obvious sign that dumping exercise is going on as they were no garbage trucks in the environment, unlike in Solous 3 where the presence of garbage trucks, LAWMA workers, and sorting personnel build the busy effect of the location.
In Solous 3, the truck drivers parked in long queues waiting turns to dispose of their carriage. “I live in Plaza area of Ifo, see the distance, I’ve slept here for two days, I went home late last night and came in early this morning, yet, it’s not even close to my turn,” laments Isreal Ayodele, a PSP truck driver. Rainy season is near and Lagos experience more rain. Dump sites won’t be spared, coordinators of the dump sites stopped drivers from offloading their trucks as some of these trucks were stuck in the mud as a result of bad roads -needing tractors to pull them out. This made the coordinators allow work only from 5:00pm to 9:00pm when the ground is favourably dry.
The Government brought VisionScape under the Cleaner Lagos initiative, suppressing PSP/ LAWMA implementation. They claimed PSP doesn’t have the capacity to offshore the 13,000 tonnes of refuse Lagos produce in a day. Yet VisionScape contract some of their locations for PSP to clear. The big question is: Does VisionScape not have enough resources and manpower to such tonnes of refuse? Now discussion amongst Lagos youths ends with “Vision Escape” as a mockery to the State.
From an open contracting point of view, numerous events happened that put citizens in the dark;
- Lagos State suppressed PSP. Why? And evidence to show?
- How much was PSP given for the contract?
- How much did VisionScape got for their contract? and ultimately,
- Did VisionScape follow due process to get the contract?
Situations like this kills transparency and accountability.
The 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, is the white elephant that lacks implementation. Lagosians are obviously oblivious of this acronym. Beyond dump sites, this waste disposal issue will continue unless Lagos State look beyond mere clearing off the refuse to creating an innovative and profitable business out of it.
Not every breach goes with a punishment, many could be a behavioral solution that must be consciously ingrained in the subconscious of the masses, particularly in a populated, high diverse city like Lagos. To checkmate some policy implementations, Government sends out monitoring teams to arrest defaulters and put all on their toes, but these people can’t be there all day and all time. With policies linking to waste management, it is more of the people than the Government, what the Government need is to harness with people’s behavioral and create enabling environment by providing resources for social entrepreneurs who sees light in the “waste” business.
In Indonesia, a social entrepreneur, Dr. Gamal Albinsaid created Garbage Clinical Insurance. A micro health insurance programming which uses recyclable waste as financial resources for clinical services. “… people only need to give us their garbage,” the innovative doctor explains, “and in return, they get free healthcare.” Brilliantly, the supposed cause of health problems brings health solutions.
Other countries, Sweden for instance, converts garbage into useable energy, this is so effective that less than 1℅ of their waste end in landfills. Waste is so important to them that they import it from other European countries.
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Reppie waste to energy project is set to provide energy, save the environment and address population. “We hope that Reppie will serve as a model for other countries in the region, and around the world,” says Zerubabel Getachew, Ethiopia’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nation.
When Government tackles social problems, adopting international best practices and open contracting is highly essential, the Government gets value of her money and this impacts the public in every affairs. Sitting on a short domestic stool, with her kids in her house front, Mrs Sholaro smiles saying irrespective of the stench and mosquitoes, there’s opportunity to make money. If I had started “sobo drink” business, I’d have made lots of money by now but it’ll deprive me of my love for teaching. “The situation is bad, but not too bad,” she concludes.