16 August 2017

Nigeria: Revisiting Ambode's Waste Management, Infrastructure Targets

Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, at the 2017 third quarter town hall meeting in the state, reiterated his government's resolve to tackle the problem of waste and ensure rapid development in all parts of Lagos.

Lagos State, with a population of over 22 million, has in recent times had cause to grapple with the resurgence of waste in major parts of the state which became increasing manifest during the heavy rains leading to flooding in major parts of the mega city.

The development was attributed to the new waste management policy of the state government encapsulated in the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI). Yet more than casual observers noted that the sudden appearance of waste in some parts of the city, was the handiwork of those who are not comfortable with the policy and have vowed to stand against its implementation.

Whatever the speculations were, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode recently decided to take on this menace head-on at a town hall meeting where he told Lagosians that the new policy, when fully implemented from next month, would indeed transform the waste management subsector and bequeath a functional, healthier and liveable environment to the people of the State.

For the governor, the ultimate goal of the initiative is to make the mass of the people healthy, and when the people are healthy, they are likely to be more productive and productivity, according to him, is about services and goods, which in turn will translate to the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state.

The assurances of the true intention of the new policy came to the fore at the 2017 Third Quarter Town Hall meeting, the 8th in the series, held at the Badore Ferry Terminal in Ajah.

Addressing a large gathering of politicians, artisans, concerned Lagosians and residents at the meeting, which was specifically convened by his administration to intimate people about the policies and programmes of government and as well get the necessary feedback, Ambode said he deliberately asked that the meeting be held at Ajah, taking into account the flooding recently witnessed in the area, and to assure the people that government was working round the clock to comprehensively address the challenges once and for all.

He specifically urged residents of the state to be patient with government on the Cleaner Lagos Initiative billed to commence next month, saying that the policy which is a holistic and comprehensive waste management plan was currently in its gestation period.

He said once fully operational, waste would be collected in line with international best practices, while all parts of the state would always be kept clean.

Ambode, however, urged residents to adopt a new attitude of disposing waste and desist from dumping them in drainages and canals, assuring that the government would provide adequate bins to discourage indiscriminate dumping.

While giving further explanation, the governor said: "The question to ask is why are people putting their waste in the drains and canals hoping that somehow the water will flush it away? The answer comes back to government because 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 and so on? 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 producer in the world, more than New York. New York produces 10,000 tonnes of waste every day; 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? We have not increased the taxes you are paying. 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 and that is what we have done with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative without me punishing tax payers. We have a partnership that provides 600 brand new compactors without me paying one naira yet and with the partnership, we will provide 27,500 sanitation workers in all our wards across the state, who will be uniformed and clean Ikorodu, Ayobo the same way they clean Victoria Island and then they will provide bins where our people can now have the culture and attitude to put their dirt in the bins instead of putting it in the canals and drains," Ambode said.

In the meantime, Ambode said all the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas chairmen have been mandated to ensure 24/7 cleaning of the environment, while officials of the state government would be moving round to evacuate waste.

Under the CLI, apart from the 600 brand new compactors that would be used to collect waste, 900,000 electronically tracked bins would be provided in homes across the state, while wastes generated by the commercial sector would be handled by licensed private sector participants waste managers otherwise known as PSP operators.

The dump sites in Olusosun, Igando and other areas which had been major eyesore would be closed for Engineered Sanitary and Engineered Hazardous Landfills which are currently being constructed by the new partners, Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Limited. For efficient collection and disposal operations, the state government has also concessioned three Transfer Loading Stations/Material Recovery Facilities at Agege, Oshodi and Simpson and three Waste Depots at Mushin, Ogudu and Simpson with the aim of rehabilitating and retrofitting the facilities to world class standard.

In addition, while the 27,500 sweepers would be deployed to all the political wards in the state to keep the inner streets clean, mechanised sweeping equipment would be deployed to all the highways to prevent the incidence of sweepers being hit by oncoming vehicles.

Speaking on other issues at the Town Hall meeting, Ambode said work on the proposed expansion and reconstruction of the Oshodi-International Airport Road would commence next month, while plans are already underway to commence the construction of 181 local government roads also next month.

On the Oshodi-International Airport Road, Ambode said the construction, which has already been awarded, would see the transformation of the road from four lanes to 10 lanes, from Oshodi to the International Airport with interchange and flyover that would drop commuters to the Local Airport.

It would be recalled that in May 2017, Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo approved that the road be handed over to the Lagos State Government for total reconstruction.

Ambode, who had described the current state of the road as a national disgrace, said that work would begin in earnest next September.

On the delay in the commencement of rehabilitation of 181 inner roads, Ambode said the development was due to the fluctuation in dollar rate at the time the bid was last opened, but that a new bid would be opened in the next two weeks, while work would commence in September.

"By the next two to three weeks, I will reopen the advert to get a new cost and all things being equal, the job would start on the roads by end of September," he said.

Ambode also assured residents that the State Public Works would seize the period of the break of the rainy season to fix all potholes across the state in order to improve drive time for motorists.

As part of the initiatives to enhance commuting within the state, Ambode said new modern bus terminals would be constructed commencing from this quarter in Marina, Ajah, Ojota, Agege, Iju Ishaga and Iyana Ipaja, while as part of the integrated transport system, a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) would be constructed to connect Badore Jetty to Ajah.

Ambode also said that his administration has earned the trust of Lagosians in the last 26 months, adding that taxes paid have been judiciously utilised to make life more comfortable for residents in the state.

He therefore thanked Lagosians for cooperating and helping his administration to translate its visions and plans for the State to reality, noting that without their taxes, it would have been impossible.

"I urge all other taxable individuals yet to join the tax net, to go to the nearest Lagos State Inland Revenue office to register. Feel free to honour your civic obligations. We believe we have earned your trust. Every kobo paid as tax will be judiciously used for the good of Lagosians.

"Our government feels emboldened by the tremendous support and cooperation you have continued to give us. This was also evident in your action of July 22nd when you voted massively for the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the just concluded Local Government elections," Ambode said.

He added that the Badore Road would be expanded at its entrance from Ajah Roundabout, while plans are afoot to construct Oke-Ira Nla Road as an alternative to totally eliminate traffic along the axis.

Responding to complaints by a resident of the axis, Mrs. Abiodun Dina, on the activities of dredgers who are fond of destroying the road and parking indiscriminately thereby subjecting people to avoidable traffic snarl, Ambode said in as much as government was not interested in shutting down businesses, he said the government would have to wield the big stick if the dredgers fail to comply with rules of engagement.

The town hall meeting had in attendance the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu I, members of the State Executive Council, members of the State House of Assembly, top government functionaries, party chieftains, traditional rulers, among others.

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