Lagos waste collectors drag govt to court

LAWMA street sweepers Photo:
LAWMA street sweepers

The operators of domestic and commercial wastes in Lagos State have approached a state high court to stop the government from displacing them or replacing them with new operators.

In a suit filed on their behalf by Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, the Private Sector Participants (or PSP operators, as they are known) urged the court to urgently uphold and protect their existing rights and benefits so that the government will not appoint new operators to replace them.

Listed as defendants in the suit are the Lagos State Government, the Attorney-General of Lagos State, Commissioner for the Environment, the proposed foreign operators and their local agents – that is Visionscape Group, Visionscape Santiation Solutions Limited, and ABC Sanitation Solutions Limited.

“If the government’s resolutions are implemented to the letter, the regime of refuse heaps may soon return to the state,” said Mr. Adegboruwa, a human rights lawyer.

Lagos currently generates 14,000 metric tons (about 490 trailer loads) of wastes daily, according to the Lagos Waste Management Authority.

Last week, during a three-day training workshop for LAWMA officials, the government announced it would introduce new reforms to make the agency more efficient.

Part of the reforms include a cancellation of the current 60-40 arrangement between LAWMA and the PSP operators whereby the agency collects waste bills on behalf of the operators and remit 60 per cent to them.

Olumuyiwa Adejokun, the LAWMA chairman, said residents would now make their waste payments directly to the PSP operators.

“Government does not have the huge funds required to manage waste in the state, this is why the governor has decided to embark on waste management reform,” Mr. Adejokun said.

“The state government does not have the fund to operate waste management. I can tell you that it costs huge millions to manage waste in Lagos. And that was why we have thrown the business open to investors whom we believe will help in managing waste in Lagos State.

“It is better for LAWMA to step aside in the bill issuance and concentrate on regulation of the PSP operators in the state. By doing this, they will be able to sanction any operator that fails in its duties.”

In their 77 paragraph affidavit deposed to by Olabode Coker, the Chairman of the Association of Waste Managers, the operators stated that they had helped Lagos State to rid the state of refuse spanning several years of investments human and material resources, which had also involved professional trainings and education.

The association, comprising over 350 PSP operators, asked the court to restrain any foreign operator, and their local agents, from taking over the collection, disposal and management of domestic solid waste in all areas of Lagos State.

“The operators claimed that Lagos State had encouraged them in the past to improve their operations through acquisition of modern trucks, for which many of them obtained loans from banks with huge interest rates and the consideration was to be using the resources generated from the waste operations to service the said loans, they have built offices in various parts of Lagos State for the smooth administration of their operations,” said Mr. Adegboruwa.

“They also claimed to have been operating at a loss because of the refusal of Lagos State Government to enact a legislation that will facilitate the enforcement of collection of dues.”

It was further alleged in the suit that the location and dilapidated state of the dumpsites make the operations of waste disposal burdensome as trucks have to waits hours in order to discharge waste, leading to congestion and the bad roads leading to the dumpsites have caused refuse trucks to break down very often, with huge costs of maintenance.

Some of the reliefs being sought by the waste operators include a declaration that the decision by the government to hinder them from recouping their investment is inconsistent with their rights and obligations; a declaration that the decision to license one or two waste collectors solely as the operator(s) to collect and dispose waste in the state is arbitrary; and an injunction restraining the government from carrying out their plans.

The operators also sought an order directing the state government to continue working and partnering with them as waste operators.

No hearing date has been fixed for the suit.

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