2nd June, 2010
Ola Oresanya, the Managing Director of Lagos Waste Management Authority(LAWMA), spoke with PAUL SANUSI on the challenges facing the agency in making Lagos State the cleanest in the country, war against the cart pushers and how he wants the state look like in the next five years
Q: What are the challenges facing LAWMA in keeping Lagos clean?
A: The challenges facing LAWMA are hydra-headed , fromÂ technical-know-how, to socio-cultural, economic and climatic issues. They are interwoven challenges and we are trying to solve them one after the other. We have been doing that before now in the order of preference, and we are using an army of people who share the vision.
Right now, we are not yet there but we have that vision, we have that zeal and we have that drive. The time line is what we do not know, but we are assured that some day, we would get there and we are working seriously towards that. That is our main challenge. The other ones have been infrastructure. Five years ago we had less than 50 vehicles moving waste in Lagos but right now we have more than 650 vehicles. There are so many other things we put in place. Containers, both household and street containers, litter bins and so many other things have been put in place to address other issues.
Q: If you are to rate Lagos State in termsÂ of cleanliness, how will you rate it? Can you give it 100 per cent?
A: No. IfÂ Iâ€™m to give it 100%, that meansÂ Iâ€™m saying that I have finished the job and I do not have anything to do any more. One thing with waste management is that it is a programme, not a project, and it is an unending programme. The best we can do is to set a target, meet the target and continue from there to another one.
The end of one programme is the beginning of a fresh challenge. Waste management is unending, so no where in the world can you have 100% cleanliness. It is not possible, but you can work towards it, you can set it and make sure that every challenge is overcome. You can only rate your activities as per today; it does not mean that your efficiency of today is a guarantee for tomorrow.
Q: Would I be correct to say that the activities of LAWMA are more felt in the urban area than rural?
A: Yes, you may not be too far from it, but a 100 kilometre race begins with a step. We have succeeded on the major highways. Now we are moving into the inner streets and even the rural areas. It is not going to happen overnight and you cannot say you want to solve all the problems at once, you have to prioritise your activities and that is what we are doing here. We are scaling the cleanliness of major highways to the inner streets and gradually to the rural areas.
Q: What is the relationship between LAWMA and the Federal Road Safety Corps?
A: The partnership is about education and ensuring safety on our roads. FRSC is for safety on our roads, and we are always on the road everyday. When we talk about safety, we need to team up with the expert in that area and we believe in sharing capacity. Rather than bring in foreign experts, we have experts from FRSC, so they are working with us regularly to teach our drivers and sweepers about safety. LASTMA is also training them about traffic management. It is a synergy that works between LAWMA, LASTMA and FRSC.
Q: What measures are you putting in place to safeguard sweepers on the highways?
A: The rate of accidents among sweepers years back was very high but since we re-packaged the programme, the number of accidents has reduced drastically. One can see that the sweepers are now wearing high visibility uniforms and they have been lectured by FRSC and LASTMA. The greatest insurance is prevention and we are already doing that; our people are now more conscious. They do not back the road when sweeping, and even the drivers are more careful. The environment is getting cleaner and our drains are getting clearer.
Q: How is LAWMA tackling the case of cart pushers?
A: They have reduced drastically because they now know what the law says. What we have now are the scavengers who go about picking iron and plastic from peopleâ€™s waste bags or containers, but by the time we start our programme on recycling, that will also fizzle out.
But one thing I admit is that some of the cart pushers are still in existence and that is a sign of inefficiency of some PSP operators. The operators that are not performing would be sacked after they have been warned. Though we do not expect the operators to be 100% efficient, they must work to justify what they are paid.