Waste Controversy: Lagos govt, Visionscape lied – PSP operators

File photo of a local PSP operator evacuating the waste at Tinubu Square.
File photo of a local PSP operator evacuating the waste at Tinubu Square.

The Lagos State Government and Visionscape were not truthful in a recent statement released on the waste controversy in the state, private waste managers have said.

The local waste collection operatives, commonly known as Private Sector Participants (PSPs) denied reaching a resolution with both parties. This is contrary to widely circulated statements by the Lagos State government’s waste management programme, Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI), and the waste collection company, Visionscape.

The Chairman of the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria (AWMN), the registered body of waste collectors, Oladipo Egbeyemi, also accused the CLI and Visionscape of propagating falsehood and fabricating a quote attributed to him.

Problem in the state’s waste management sector started when the government sacked the PSP operators from collecting residential waste and replaced them with Visionscape. Visionscape, despite being highly recommended by the governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode, however, struggled with the waste collection task, causing refuse to pile up on streets and major roads in the city.

Aggrieved at how they were kicked out of the residential waste collection business, the PSP operators sued the state government and Visionscape. The case is still in court.

A PREMIUM TIMES investigation also revealed that contrary to the claims by the state government and Visionscape, the waste management company has no pedigree in waste collection nor an international presence. The investigation also showed that the state government may have jettisoned due process in awarding the waste management contract to Visionscape.

But while the standoff continued, last Thursday, PREMIUM TIMES received a statement from SA&B, a public relations firm, hired by Visionscape, declaring that the impasse has been resolved.

According to the statement titled “Waste wars end as Visionscape, PSPs agree on terms of operations”, both parties agreed on terms of operations “barely a week after the PSP operators opted to partner with Visionscape Sanitation Solutions to clear up the backlog of waste in the State.”

Quoting Hafis Kasumu, representative of Waste Collection Operators (WCO), the new name given to PSP operators by the CLI, the statement claimed that the partnership between both parties would yield results in the coming weeks.

“We have decided to support the government in the initiative to get rid of the waste. And also, to partner with Visionscape. So, it is a partnership and we are doing it together,” Mr Kasumu was quoted as saying.

The statement added that while Visionscape will develop waste management infrastructure, the PSP will continue residential waste collection.

“Also highlighted in the new agreement is that Visionscape will serve as the central processing hub of municipal solid waste within Lagos State. The company will engage PSPs on long-term service arrangements and will pay them for their service.

“This new direction will ensure that all arms of the CLI is able to deliver optimal results that will raise Lagos State’s waste management process to globally acceptable standards.

“Sometimes you must compromise for the sake of the common good. We listened to all stakeholders, and our intentions were always to be part of a community. Both sides understand each other’s aspirations, and have chosen to focus on our commonalities, put the controversy behind us and move forward collectively as a community. We will continue to support our partner operators with equipment and capacity upgrade for better collection and carry out interventions required to fill service gaps,” the statement also quoted Visionscape’s CEO, John Irvine, as saying.

Similarly, on its Twitter handle, the CLI claimed that Mr Egbeyemi, while speaking about the resolution of the conflict, was grateful to the state government for its “unrelenting support and dedication in the face of the challenges faced by the PSP operators.”

“Egbeyemi further reassured Lagos state residents of an uplift in the city’s waste management system with the official resumption of door-to-door residential waste collection by the PSPs,” a subsequent tweet stated.

A DECEPTION

But in a telephone conversation with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, Mr Egbeyemi described the said resolution as hoax. He also accused the CLI and Visionscape of making up the comments attributed to him.

“It is a complete fabrication.”

“There was no negotiation with Visionscape. I have not held any meeting with them. I don’t know where they got the comments attributed to me,” he said.

According to him, Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti, the state’s Commissioner for Environment, held a brief meeting with members of his association earlier in the week and proposed a resolution of the impasse. He claimed that the commissioner proposed that the PSP operators should work as sub-contractors for Visionscape.

“He (the commissioner) said the government policy has changed and they have decided to reinstate all PSPs, however, the money accrued for the services they are rendering will be collected by Visionscape. It is only in areas where you have estates like Magodo, that the operators will be allowed to collect money directly and the money to be charged will be subjected to approval by the Lagos State government, Mr Egbeyemi said.

He, however, said the government’s proposal was cosmetic and unsustainable.

“The government said we would now be working under Visionscape, we would be rendering in some cases two trips per week, which is absolutely insufficient. Eventually, what we have derived from it is the bulk of the blame will come to PSPs for the inability to service. Because where you have operators currently rendering about 18 trips per week, when you subject them to two trips what happens to the rest 16 trips? So that means you will clean one area and the other area will be dirty and the whole area will look like you have not done anything.

“That cannot be a solution that will suffice. That is just a cosmetic approach to it that cannot solve the problem. We are seeing it as a last-minute reparation because of pressure coming from all quarters, which include the House of Assembly, which have told the state government to stop paying Visionscape,” he said.

Also speaking on the matter, Olalekan Owojori, a consultant to the PSP operators, said his clients were ready for a constructive engagement to resolve the impasse but were shocked that before a proper resolution could be reached, Visionscape had rushed to the press with a fabricated story.

“We agreed to a constructive engagement on how we would resolve this but unfortunately before we can even sit down with the government and take the conversation to the next level, everything is gone into the press saying that we have agreed. In the interest of amicable settlement, we shouldn’t go into detail of what was discussed because it is still an on-going discussion. That negotiation should be complete, instead of us being railroaded. That is where the problem is. And the terms still don’t make sense,” he said.

When contacted for comment, Tolagbe Martins a media consultant to Visionscape declined to comment.

“I have no comment on this matter,” she said via sms. “Your enquiry is best directed to the Ministry of Environment.”

Mukalia Sanusi, assistant director of public affairs at the Ministry of Environment, could not be reached on his known phone number. He did not immediately respond to text messages sent to him for comment.

Kehinde Bamigbetan, the state Commissioner for Information, promised to find out the true situation of things. He was yet to get back at the time of publication. This article will be updated comments from the state government as soon as they are made available.


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