THE Lagos environment is getting dirtier by the day. The Private Sector Participant, PSP, operators, who were charged with the responsibility of removing refuse from various homes and dust bins are no longer working effectively. Hence, the streets are littered with heaps of refuse with looming epidemic. In view of the prevailing situation, David Oriyomi, chief executive officer of Excellence Links International Company, who is one of the PSP operators, in an interview with Samuel Ibezim,reporter, Realnews, reels out the challenges they are facing, how the present state government contributed to the current environmental pollution of the state by relieving the PSP operators of their services to the state and inviting an inexperienced foreign company to take up the job. Oriyomi, who is also an executive member of Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, AWAM, revealed the efforts made by Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and others to intervene in the matter, the current legal battle on the case and made suggestions on what government needs to do to restore the state to its clean status that earned it both national and international awards in the past. Excepts:
Realnews: Recently, Refuse littered some parts of Lagos? What is the cause?
Oriyomi: Yes, the issue is a general issue in Lagos right now and we have been on this issue for a long time. You know, since the governor said he would like to change the way things are going concerning the environment. He said he was bringing a foreigner to come and take over the job of more than 350 PSP operators in Lagos State. So, that was the genesis of the crisis in Lagos State and I don’t know whether you are aware that there was a time we PSP operators in Lagos State did a protest. We went to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Bourdillon to help us mediate the crisis.
Realnews: That was when?
Oriyomi: That was on the 27th of April, 2018, less than two months ago that we went to Bourdillon. It was a media affair. The PSP operation had started preceding the Bola Ahmed Tinubu era but when Asiwaju came into power, he modified it, he gave it life and brought it to this appreciable level that people from outside the state and even the country came to observe how it was being done in Lagos State. Lagos State happens to be one of the most populous state in Africa. So, to that extent, for us to have a very high degree of cleanliness was something to really share about but unfortunately when this government came in with their CLI, Cleaner Lagos Initiative programme, they destabilised everything. If you listened to what Asiwaju said that day. He said that ‘you don’t fix what is not broken.’ The PSP was working and the government came and pushed everything outside, the result is what we are having on ground. Good a thing you said the people testified to it that the operators were working very well before the advent of this Visionscape issue and if you listen to the speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, about two and half weeks ago, when he was reacting to a question that was put to him in the House of Assembly said that Visionscape is a ghost, Visionscape is not known to them and they are not going to accept them. So, you see, that has been what we are grappling with. They came, they polluted the system, destabilised the already working system. To really compound the already bad issue was when Olusosun dump site, that is the dump site at Ojota was gutted by fire. That dump site receives more than 60 percent of waste generated in Lagos. We have Olusosun dump site at Ojota, we have the one at Igando, they call it Solus 1, Solus 2, Solus 3. There is one at Badagry; there is one at Ewu Elepe, Ikorodu, and there is another one the government is building at Epe. That one they said is sanitary landfill site and when you say sanitary landfill site, government has now closed down Olusosun, that is the one at Ojota which receives more than 60 percent of the waste generated in Lagos State. Now, what is the substitute? Which one is substituting for it? They said the PSP operators should be taking refuse from their respective places to Ewu Elepe at Ikorodu, that’s the outskirt of Ikorodu or to Epe. You can imagine you pick a refuse from Mushin travelling down to Epe. So, at best you can say this will slow the pace of work. But as for me, it jeopardise the service delivery of the PSP. It is a great jeopardy and that is what we are experiencing now. Hitherto, when you pick refuse from Mushin, you travel from Mushin to Ojota maybe in the next 30 minutes you are there, you dump your refuse, you come back to pick another one but now if you travel from Mushin to Epe, can you come back the same day to come and do any work? You can’t. So, when the vehicles pick refuse and go that place, they will not be able to return same day, maybe the second day or next and you have long queues up and down. Even at that Epe, there is a problem also associated with that. They said that all the Visionscape vehicles will dump first before they allow the PSP operators to dump, thereby, being on the queue for eight to 10 hours. This is what we are having now and when you want to require effective service delivery from the PSP operators, the PSP service operators also must have effective service delivery from the government. This thing is a tripartite arrangement, you talk about the people, you talk about the PSP operators and then you talk about the government. The people are to make sure that they bag their refuse, they tidy their environment, and they pay their charges. Then, the PSP operators are to come and evacuate the refuse and the government is to maintain the dumpsite which is the final resting place of the refuse. This is a chain, once one is cut, it will affect others. Now, the government side is cut.
Realnews: You earlier mention tthat some people are not paying for services rendered?
Oriyomi: You see, I can tell you categorically that a reasonable percentage of people are paying. You cannot expect 100 percent compliance with payment but at least, 80 to 85 percent are paying and the remaining 15 percent payment, government can enforce that and it would help the environment. So, the people are trying. Except for areas like Bariga where you have low income earners living in such environment and in such environment, it behoves on the government to fund refuse collection and disposal in that area, that is what LAWMA has been doing hitherto. So, any operator that is assigned to such area, you know because in such area, they see refuse collection and disposal as a social responsibility of the government because of the level of their income and it is quietly understandable. So, LAWMA has been paying operators in that area to mitigate whatever would have been the loss that such operator will incur. So, that is why work has been going on well in that area but when government came with this programme of the CLI, they destabilised that system. They stopped it and directed operators in such areas to go and fend for themselves. And now, clearly, it is obvious to everybody, the system has been working even from outside Nigeria, they have come to see how we have been doing it to understudy the system. They even invited LAWMA outside Nigeria to come and manage their wastes for them and I can tell you this; they have got several awards. Even in 2012, Goodluck Jonathan, the president of the country then, a PDP candidate gave Lagos State an award as the cleanest environment in Nigeria. For an opposition party to recognise that you have done well, that goes to show that you are doing very well. Even if you set your mind back to the electioneering campaign of Fashola then, I’m sure you will be familiar with the slogan that was talking about the environment that look beautiful and serene; look at how beautiful they are. Yes, if the PSP was like this then, would the man be able to use that as electioneering campaign? He cannot. Can any politician now come out in Lagos to come and sing that song of the environment being beautiful? Is this environment beautiful? See, we have gone back to pre-1999 where we had mountain of refuse everywhere. You know, we have been saying it and we thank God that we have been vindicated on that matter. When they wanted to start this thing, we told them that it would not work. You can’t just bring a foreigner to a stabilised environment. You have to think about the logistics. The way PSP is structured is such that we have 377 political wards in Lagos State, so one operator will man a particular ward depending on your capacity. The minimum requirement is that a PSP operator should have two compactors, that is trucks, for any ward allocated to him, if you have two wards, that means you will have four compactors. So, it has been distributed and well structured. Now you brought a system from abroad that is not conversant with what we have here, who cannot even tell you the geographical location of all these things. The person is just to come and take over the entire system and starts to work; of course, what you are expecting is chaos because they can’t just pull it through like that. The PSP did not get to this level at once, we started like I told you, before 1999 but when Asiwaju came, he modified everything, he structured everything and that was how the thing has been working very well for about two decades before the advent of this government. You see, you remember, there was a particular commissioner for environment then, Babatunde Adejare, we were telling him also that this thing would not work, he was removed and then the current commissioner, Mr. Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti; we are still saying the same thing and this thing is glaring that it is not working. So, it is in the interest of everybody – the government, the people, and the PSP operators that we go back to the status quo and make sure that it works and unfortunately, government is not taking care of the dump sites as it should. Look at the sanitary landfill site that we have. Look at the transfer loading section that we have. We have three transfer loading sections currently existing in Lagos State. There is one at Oba Ogunji, Agege, there is one at Simpson, Sura and there is one at Charity in Oshodi here. Those transfer sections are meant to receive wastes. So when they receive the wastes, there are long customised trailers that will now move the waste to the long distance. All these compactors are not meant to be going long distance. They are to work in a particular environment, go to the transfer loading sections and dump it into the waiting trailers where those ones will now move it to the distant dump site and that would encourage the turnaround time. The PSP will spend less in maintenance and the people will see the service but unfortunately it is not so. You now pick the refuse yourself as a PSP operator to travel that long distance before you now come back. The rate with which people are generating refuse is far higher than the rate of the evacuation; and that is why we are having the backlog. Unfortunately, the CLI are even operating with a programme now, the programme is that as a PSP operator in your own ward should only do two trips in a week. Let me analyse the meaning and the consequence of this. As in a ward, you know there are of various sizes in those political wards, in the smallest of the wards, you will generate six compactor load of refuse in a week, that is the minimum and in the biggest ward you will generate an average of 20 compactor load of refuse in a week. Now, if they now say the operator should do only two trips, that is, in that smallest ward where you are to do six trips, you are now doing two trips in a week, what of the remaining four trips in that week, add it to another week and by the time you multiply it in a month that is sixteen trips. Those sixteen trips are hanging around. So, if your ward is big and you are to do twenty trips in that ward and they say you should do two trips, what of the remaining eighteen trips in that week? You multiply it by four and see what it gives you. You are talking about 70 or 80 something trips that are left unattended to in a month. If you now do that for six months, what is going to happen in that environment? That is what is happening now.
Realnews: Does this suggest that an epidemic is looming?
Oriyomi: Yes, of course. They are rationing this thing because they don’t have the money to foot it. Then, it is a self-inflicted pain. Do you understand? When Visionscape is receiving money for the services they are not rendering, you see it is a self-inflicted pain. The people of the Lagos have come to terms with fact that they need to pay for the refuse to be evacuated and disposed. They have been paying. We have been disposing this and they have been paying. To be sincere and fair to them, they have been trying their best but it is just unfortunate that some people are misleading and misadvising the government in this matter and it is just unfortunate as Asiwaju said, the government is experimenting but now the government has discovered that the experiment is not working, what stops it from going back to the status quo? Now, since the day Asiwaju spoke, most of us operators, have gone back to our work but we are facing serious challenges in respect to dump sites. The dump sites are ill managed.
Realnews: You mean in terms of distance or …
Oriyomi: Not only in distance my brother. The management is poor. Even if you get there as far as they are and dump and go away within 10 to 15 minutes, it will be better. But when you get there you will be in the queue for eight hours, 10 hours. All our trucks that went there yesterday didn’t return, they are yet to come back now. When are they going to do the work of today? The chain is broken. We are just trying to fix it together but unfortunately, the government, the CLI, they must strengthen that goodwill. They are seeing it as if we concede to the PSP, it would be as if they have defeated us in this game. They should consider the plight of the people and the health of the people. Yes, government comes, government goes. Government can make policies but when government makes wrong policies for the people that are not working, there is nothing wrong with changing it and it is obvious that these policies are not working. If it is working, it is working against the sanitary of the environment, which is what we have.
Realnews: During a visit to Afariogun area, I discovered that a whole lot of refuse littered there and even in people’s compounds and that the residents have been calling for help. What would you do to help them?
Oriyomi: If you listened very well to all I have told you, there is no point raising this issue. This issue has been taken care of in my explanation to you. Don’t even single out that place, it is a general issue in Lagos State. A stranger knows; even people outside the state know. I have people from Italy calling me to ask what have become of your Lagos, outside the country. It is not peculiar to a particular environment. You cannot say Mushin is dirty. You cannot say Oshodi is dirty; you cannot say Yaba is dirty. It is a general thing and Lagos affair. What do you want a PSP operator to do? You pick a refuse, you go to the dump site you are not able to offload, so what are you going to do? If you don’t offload that one what are you going to do? I have told you the cause of this. When there is poor maintenance of the dump site and the distance. Even, the PSP operators are now spending more to service the business than before because hitherto, if you pick a refuse from Mushin, you pick from Oshodi, you pick from Ikeja, maybe, you use about 20 to 30 litres of diesel but now you are using 70-80 litres of diesel for same trip and look at what diesel is costing now. Hitherto, diesel was about N150 per litre, now it is between N230 to N250 in some places, so look at expenses we are incurring now. Yet, because of the situation of the dump site, we still have issues. There are some government officials, CLI officials going underground poisoning people’s minds not to even pay PSP operators. Could you imagine that? So, when you even begin to do this surreptitiously, clandestinely, telling people that don’t worry, don’t pay PSP operators because we would bring somebody that would come and pack your refuse free of charge and that person would come once in a week, you don’t see that person again. They are calculative in destroying the environment of Lagos State and that is what you are seeing. It is obvious. It is not something that is hidden, it is a clear issue. So, that’s just the point. People can call you from anywhere but I can say that it is a clear something. You can go around and find out that it is not peculiar to a particular environment. It is a general problem.
Realnews: So, could it be that the present government has no feeling for the citizens considering the health implications and the looming epidemic?
Oriyomi: About whether government has feeling or not, well, I wouldn’t know but what I know is that somebody somewhere is playing with people’s life. Even look at the statement credited to the speaker of the House of Assembly, at that level for them to have said that they don’t even know Visionscape. You know that Visionscape is a ghost, then that tells you a lot. These government officials and rest of them, are they not members of the same society? They live in the society we live in even though they live in secured society; but of course they drive around. You can see, they read newspapers and that means they know. Even if they don’t, what of the day Asiwaju made that pronouncement. What cogent efforts have they made to make sure that they right the wrongs? That is the way I see it.
Realnews: Few months ago, you people were in the court of law against the Visionscape and the government. So far has the court given its verdict?
Oriyomi: No, you see, that was a pre-trial court proceeding. The court tried to see whether it could manage the situation.You know, but now they saw it was not possible so they now referred the matter for trial and we are waiting for the date that the trial will start but I can see that they themselves have lost this case. Visionscape is an aberration. It is a foreign body that came into the system to destabilise the entire system and it is obvious and the company has been disowned by the House of Assembly. We have been saying it. We protested to the House of Assembly. We told them, they said they would look into it but eventually they themselves saw that we were not just shouting for fun. They saw what we were saying and what we are shouting is that they should try to prevent what is happening now. We have been vindicated on that.
Realnews: From all that you said, it seems the way things are going there will not be light at the end of the tunnel unless the government makes a U-turn. But as an operator, what would be your advice to the government and possibly to the people that are facing the environmental pollution?
Oriyomi: You see, for the people, they should be patient. They are used to that system that had been working. They are trying their best now to adjust. My own is just to appeal to them to be more patient and to help the PSP operators to lend their voices to ours to appeal to the government to please not see this struggle as a victor or vanquish thing; that okay, if we concede to the PSP operators now it would be as if they have won us in this thing; no! The government is there for the people and if that government is doing something and people are complaining then the government should have a rethink. It is obvious that this thing is not working. Listen to the news and newspapers reviews, listen to comments of journalists and television documentaries; it shows that this thing is not going well and government should please know that there is no harm in saying sorry and returning back to what was working. This is our government. We put the government there; we voted the government there. We are still ready to continue to support the government but on this waste management issue in Lagos, they are not getting it right. The government should change it and the government should put more efforts in maintaining the dump sites. All those transfer loading stations are being monopolised by the Visionscape. The PSP operators are not using them and they are not even commonly being used for what they are meant for, that is the problem. Government should face those areas, make sure that when the PSP operators get to the dump sites, they drop the waste at the maximum of five to 10 minutes and then go to bring more refuse and that is how it supposed to be and had been so before the advent of the Cleaners Lagos Initiative which has done otherwise now.
Realnews: Yesterday, I was at Oshodi/Isolo local government secretariat and special adviser on environment said that Excellence and Visionscape and even others were allowed to operate hand-in-hand in the local government. I want you to confirm this claim by the government.
Oriyomi: That was before our protest to Asiwaju. For the entire Oshodi, they have only one truck whereas we have 14 trucks in Oshodi that we deplore to clean the environment on weekly basis. Can you now substitute these 14 trucks for one truck? It is not possible, so, that vehicle always come to Oshodi on Wednesdays, if they fail on Wednesdays they will come on Saturdays and how can they do that? As an operator, I embark on 50 trips every week. My colleagues evacuate about 30 trips every week, the two of us evacuate about 80 trips every week to clean Oshodi. If you now bring a truck, how many trips can that truck do? You will pick a refuse from Oshodi now go to Epe, before it comes back what would now happen? Honestly, they came to destabilise what we were doing, that time when they came with their truck, they just entered any street they just picked refuse randomly and were disturbing our work and we told them that. But they said that they were complementing and we said that they were not complementing, rather, they were complicating it
Realnews: The governor must have his interest. You people came in with the previous government. This present government may not be gaining anything from it and that may be the reason for it to now come up with this so as to get its share or percentage from the process.
Oriyomi: Well, well, my brother you see, I think the concern of every government is the wellbeing of its people and that is the primary thing. Gaining something? I said in my earlier statement that some people somewhere see it as a social responsibility of the government. Even when Asiwaju was there, we were packing refuse free of charge in the entire Lagos State. We had beight bridge and when you get to it you climb with your truck, they measure the tonnage and at the end of the month, government paid the PSP operators and people were just enjoying that. Which people will not just like such a government? You see, that is why the name of Asiwaju till date still reigns supreme in Lagos State because of the people friendly policy and that is it. If there is a good king, when he dies, people will still remember him when there is one that is bad. When he dies, people will still remember him but for different purposes, that is just the point. If Asiwaju has ruled and left this state more than twelve years ago or so and we still remember him with fond memory that tells you something about his government.
Realnews: Ever since you people met with Ahmed Tinubu, has his intervention brought any positive influence?
Oriyomi: Yes, you know, there has been a reasonable positive development because the level of interference reduced but they are doing it clandestinely now but not with flagrant impunity as before. But after his comment, they lie low but they are doing it underground, clandestinely, going from one local government to the other telling the people not to pay PSP operators, thereby, destabilising the entire system. So, if the operators in that area are not working well as they should and the people will be complaining. The saving grace of the operators is that people knew our antecedents as we have been performing until the advent of the CLI programme. You can confirm it anywhere, go to Mushin, go to Ajao, Agege and even Oshodi, people will testify to that fact. So, it is a notorious fact.
Realnews: But Lagosians would like to know the people that are going to these local governments trying to turn people against PSP operators?
Oriyomi: Yes, the team is led by Engineer Ademola Shabi, the special adviser to the governor on Cleaner Lagos Initiative. He went to Ayabo-Ipaja, and has been going about telling the people not to pay and telling them that they would give them another operator that would come and work in the place of existing operators. Where you have about seven operators, for instance, Ayabo-Ipaja has about seven or eight operators and he went there to tell them that he would give them two operators to come and cover the environment. But the people rejected, they said the operators he was talking about were not effective; and so they rejected those operators that he took to the place. He left the place and went to Ikeja with the same message. So, are they helping the environment by doing this? They are bringing a lot of confusion into the system and the people even said that the government had put their refuse charge in the land use charge. So, they said that they would not be paying to the PSP operators that they would be paying to the land use charge. Which land use charge? So, that is the confusion they have brought to the system but we thank God that Lagosians are highly sophisticated. Also, when it comes to waste issue, they are aware; majority of them know. Those that are still paying know fully well that the PSP operators are struggling to deliver the service.
– Jul. 17, 2018 @ 18:55 GMT |