A Lagos based lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has approached the High Court of Lagos State, challenging the legality of the newly signed Environmental Management and Protection Bill into law.
In his suit, the lawyer is “seeking an order and perpetual injunction restraining the Lagos State Government in the person of the Attorney General of Lagos State and the Governor of Lagos State, the Commissioner for the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) from violating and deviating from paragraph H of the fourth schedule of the 1999 Constitution”.
Paragraph H of the fourth schedule of the 1999 Constitution empowers the local government councils with the provision and maintenance of public conveniences, sewage and refuse disposal, according to the lawyer.
Mr. Adegboruwa is also seeking an order nullifying, voiding and annulling part 3 of the new Environmental Management and Protection Law which empowers LAWMA to make regulations for the collection and disposal of wastes and refuse in all areas of Lagos State.” According to the lawyer, this “usurps the functions of the various Local Councils in the state.”
“In the light of the provisions of section 7(5) of the 1999 Constitution along with the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution which provides an exclusive function of the Local Government Council in Nigeria, Lagos State Government especially the Lagos State House of Assembly cannot manage, control and administer refuse, sewage and waste disposal as that is the exclusive preserve of the respective Local Government Councils in Lagos State.” said Mr. Adegboruwa.
He further said that “the Lagos State Government cannot make any law that will empower, vest and place control, regulation and administration of refuse and waste disposal in all areas of Lagos State in the hands of LAWMA, Commissioner of Environment.”
“Once any law is against the Constitution, that law cannot stand and the Governor took an oath to protect the Constitution,” the human rights lawyer said.
“A Commissioner’s power cannot override the powers of the Constitution which gives exclusive right to all the Local Government Councils to manage the wastes in their areas as well as manage how these wastes are disposed.” Mr. Adegboruwa said.
“The Lagos Government is outsourcing the constitutional responsibility of the local workers to foreign investors.”
According to Mr. Adegboruwa, “the issue of refuse and waste matter is a local matter which can only be controlled by the 20 Local Councils established by the Constitution.”
The new environment law titled: Consolidated Laws on the Management, Protection and Sustainable Development on the Environment in Lagos State and Connected Purposes, was signed into law by Mr. Ambode on March 1 after a public hearing organised by the Lagos House Committee on the Environment on February 9 and its subsequent passage by the House on February 20.
Mr. Ambode, who spoke shortly after signing the bill into law at the Lagos House in Ikeja, said his administration, on assumption of office, saw the need to address the gap in the sanitation of residents and the state.
He said the major motivating factor in signing the bill, outside of the financial burden, was the fact that children were the greatest casualties of the poor management of the environment, hence the need for the initiative.
Mr. Ambode’s assent to the bill came days after activists, including a UN expert, faulted some key provisions of the bill.
The Lagos House of Assembly had, on February 20, passed the bill into law, drawing criticisms from environmental activists who criticised the law’s criminalisation of borehole drilling in the state.
But Mr. Ambode said the law was necessary because the state’s environmental laws were outdated and could no longer apply to the present-day conditions.
“While charting a new direction, it became quickly apparent that government on its own would struggle to bear the cost of the wholesale changes while meeting its other obligations across other equally vital sectors,” the governor said.
“It was necessary to make investor friendly laws that attract the type of capital we need to further our development agenda and achieve our sustainability goals.
“We believe it is worth the risk involved in changing the legislative framework if the reward is a healthier and cleaner Lagos for our children – our future,” the governor said.
Governor Ambode said under the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, the commercial sector would be serviced by licensed waste management operators while an environmental consortium will provide waste collection, processing and disposal services for residential properties through a long-term concession.