Management of waste in Lagos is vested in Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), it is also being handled by the Private Sector Participation (PSP).
In this interview with the President of the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, Mr. David Oriyomi, he speaks on the challenges they are facing as operators, real reasons a foreign cleaning firm, VisionScape imported into the country by former governor Akinwunmi Ambode failed. He also speaks on the challenges of the job.
How would describe your working relationship with the former Managing Director of LAWMA, Mr. Ola Oresanya, compared with that of the present MD of the organization, Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin?
It was a very cordial one, Mr. Oresanya is a leader who piloted the affairs of LAWMA some years back before he was called back.
We are all aware of VisionScape brought by former governor Akinwunmi Ambode for refuse clearing job in the state. We saw what happened, and the way the environment became so dirty. So, Mr. Oresanya was later invited to correct the abnormally and he did his best in that area. You know one person can’t be there forever, that’s how the current MD, Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin was brought in less than four months ago.
Dr. Gbadegesin is the new person at the helms of affairs in LAWMA. As a person, he has his own agenda and vision, which we as PSP operators support, to make the environment clean, and help the people gain employment and contribute to the development of the economy.
Mr. Gbadegesin has told us about the plans of the government to support us in acquiring equipment and in other areas, most especially the dump site.
He pleaded that we should be patient with the organization, that the dump site would soon be in the right condition by February, because dump site is so important to us.
He also told us that the government promised to help the PSP operators by the first quarter of next year.
We PSP operators were the first to align ourselves with the administration of the executive governor of the State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
When he challenged former governor Akinwunmi Ambode, we offered to evacuate the heaps of refuse in the state free of charge. So, I will say that one good turn deserves another.
If he had failed in challenging the incumbent governor of the state then, where would people like us be, your guess is as good as mine. PSP operation and the state of the dump sites are inter-woven such that they cannot be separated. If the PSP operators do not find it easy, definitely there would be an impact on the environment.
If the dump site is not in order, the impact would be felt on the environment.
Operators hold one angle, government holds the second angle and the people of the state hold the 3rd angle, none of the three angles must miss.
The business of the government is to have an accessible dump site where operators could easily go and dump their refuse so that service delivery could be better and they should also ensure prompt payment for PSP services by the residents and also deal with people who fail to pay for the services rendered for waste collected in their houses by the operators.
Part of the responsibility of the people is to ensure they pay for the clearing of their refuse in time and they should bag their refuse properly. They should not throw refuse on the median of the road, and they should not pour refuse on the frontage of their houses. Meanwhile, it is the responsibility of the operators to clear the refuse in time and dispose it at the appropriate dumpsite, those are the responsibilities of the three arms.
I am looking at a situation, where PSP operators would be self sufficient, depending on the government for equipment acquisition should be totally eradicated. The government should be relieved of that.
PSP operators should be given an agreement by the government, with this agreement, the PSP operators could approach banks for loans to change their trucks.
Each of the trucks cost nothing less than N10m.
Each operator is expected to have at least two trucks. I have been in this business for the past 20 years and because the business is capital intensive, our trucks are not the kind of vehicles that could be parked on the streets. If any vehicle runs over and hit it, it will cost a fortune to replace it. So the truck could not just be parked anywhere. I cover about four wards with at least two trucks for each ward that’s talking about 8 trucks, calculate that and see how much it cost.
During the era of former governor Babatunde Fashola, he bought 100 trucks for PSP operators and we paid for them on instalment basis until we finished the payment. After that, he encouraged us to purchase trucks on our own, that was 2011, 2012. I bought three new trucks on my own, one of them is sold for N32 million naira now, not “tokunbo” (second hand), which cost N10 million. Imagine somebody invested such money on business, then one person came and truncated the whole business.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu initiated the policy, Babatunde Fashola came and consolidated it, and another person (Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode) truncated the whole thing.
That act took Lagos back, under Asiwaju, a business was created, Fashola Administration followed, instead of doing the same, former governor Akinwunmi Ambode came with VisionScape.
Some people were saying, who do you think Asiwaju would support, of course Asiwaju would support the governor, because it’s not possible for him to bring a foreign firm into the country without Asiwaju in the know. To God be the glory, God appointed me to lead other operators to see Asiwaju in his house in Bourdillon, Ikoyi over the matter. He addressed all of us, and the problem was solved, that’s why during our gala night, we gave him an award of Generalisimo of the environment in appreciation of what he did for us. He saved the livelihood of a lot of people, we are over 400 PSP operators in Lagos State. I personally have more than 50 workers and I pay their salaries on a monthly basis, and someone now came and gave the job to a foreign firm.
Why do you think VisionScape failed?
If any government wants to succeed, it must be people friendly. How could you want to watch over the business of 400 organizations, wipe them away. When he should reward the people who voted him into power, he collected their daily food and give it to a foreign firm. Even God would not allow such to stand, so where were those foreigners, when election took place, that’s ingratitude. Mind you, foreigners went to Asiwaju at a time for the project, but Asiwaju told them, “if my people could not clean the environment, what else could they do.”
We could not rely on only one dumpsite, that was one of the reasons Governor Ambode failed. He closed down Olusosun dumpsite for lack of maintenance, how could a truck pick refuse in Badagry and dump it in Epe, it won’t work.
What magic did the PSP Operators used to clear all the refuse within a short period?
We were are able to clear all the refuse within a short time because we have 377 political wards in Lagos. As I have told you earlier, we had two compactors in each wards, that arrangement was fantastic, operators would go to the people’s door steps and collect refuse. It has been well mapped out. When VisionScape came in, they didn’t operate like that, they just put refuse bins on the highway across the state, instead of the operators to go to people’s houses to collect refuse, people just dump the refuse at the high way and moreover, they did not have enough equipment to meet the job of refuse clearing.
At a time, they came to appeal to us to work under them, we told them it was impossible. How could we work under you, and why would you collect the job which you know you are not capable of delivering. Though, they came with beautiful equipment such is not sustainable under our environment. After VisionScape had worked as a ‘ghost’ as stated by the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, PSP had to come back. When we came back, we went back to our original position to make sure we clear the refuse from the real source.
Though it is not yet the best, we are yet to reach where we want be. Surely when you have a government that surely knows what he’s doing , automatically things would be better, but when you have somebody that thinks against normal things, the result was what we had, and unfortunately, when you have somebody that could not be talked to, somebody that doesn’t listen there would be problem.
But this governor now, he is very amiable. There was a time, he told the people not to address him as his Excellency but as Mr. Governor. He said that calling him his excellency could easily get into his head, that’s the type of leader we want, a leader that thinks about God and people.
What are the challenges of the job?
The problem we have is our dump site. For instance, each time a truck is sent to a dump site it is always hectic. We use our trucks for just six months, here you would shed tears especially during the raining season. Many of the Tokunbo trucks had been used for about 15 years overseas.
Driving trucks into dumpsite, most especially during raining season is hellish because of infrastructure deficiency. When you buy a truck for N32 million and take it to the dumpsite, you would shed tears for what would become of the vehicle.
If you go to the bank to get funds to acquire equipment, you would be asked for collateral and use such funds to purchase a tuck that enters a dumpsite that’s not taken care of. The truck is almost gone within six months, that’s why you see many of the trucks becoming rickety in nature.
Those are the reasons, when a truck gets into dumpsite, and it’s unable to come out, they would use a caterpillar to push it.
Meanwhile, a caterpillar is made up of very strong iron, as the caterpillar pushes the truck, the truck is damaging gradually. Sometimes, something could be used to drag the truck, sometimes, it could be one caterpillar dragging the truck at the back and another one at the front, that’s double tragedy.