The acting managing Director of LAWMA, Mr. Ibrahim Odumboni has said the reason why they approached the audit process was basically to identify the shortcoming of the agency and fix the issues they were experiencing.
Here is the full details of the interview;
Question: Just after your appointment as acting MD, there were a lot of distractions. How have you been able to remain focused in carrying out your duties?
Answer; For me, mainly is understanding what the job requirements are, so I know in terms of transition various things will happen, but in staying focus on what is the primary goal? What got you here and what is expected of you? So clearly my Principal, his excellency, the executive governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo Olu has already told me what exactly is expected of me and I know very well from being an executive director of the organization for nine month before now, what are the areas of concern and what are the things we really need to approach as quickly as possible. I was able to look at my Key Performers Indicators, KPI’s, what needs to be done at what time and what is most essential for the residents of Lagos. So keeping focus for me is mainly down to doing it with the core requirement of the whole. What do I need to do to make sure that Lagos is cleaner at this particular point in time? This is the most difficult time to actually be doing this role, it’s raining reason coupled with different contractor’s issues and then you have the different transitions. So I think weathering it at this point in time will help us in future ahead. If you can do it now, you can actually be able to do it in the future. So right now, I am laying a foundation that we can build on and that keeps me focused.
Question; There was an ongoing audit process, the audit I believe is now completed. What is the outcome?
Answer; yes! The audit process is already completed and what you probably will notice is that we had a lot of learning that we took away from the audit process. So for example, we are able to access this is where we are, this is where we are not. This is where we are over resourced, this is where we are under resourced. Welfare of the sweepers, primarily, how our contractors engaging our sweepers? Are they being treated fairly? What are the basic welfare requirement for them? What you will begin to see from now on will be us addressing all these issues we have highlighted. So firstly, on the issue of the routes, where we are supposed to be and we are not, we are addressing it. Where we not supposed to be and we are, we are moving ourselves and re-aligning all our routes. Number two, if you notice the area of concern in terms of wages for the sweepers, making sure that we are on time when it comes to payment is being done. Insurance policy for our sweepers for medical, for permanent disability, we have addressed it as well. Also provision of the equipment they need to do their job, their day to day wellbeing, these are what the audit has brought up. And a good thing about this audit is, it is more beneficial to the sweepers and contractors doing the job because then LAWMA will be able to understand very much what is required of whoever is undertaking the role. And one of the good thing is, for example on Saturdays, right now we have a lot of sweepers going out on Saturday and we don’t used to have that. so we have a situation that we have spoken to them, we have re-aligned the jobs, we have designed it in such a way to say you need to make sure that someone is covering between 2pm and 6pm on some of the major roads in the state. If someone is coming to the state, he will not just see it clean in the morning, it has to be clean throughout the day. Those are the things the audit has brought up.
Question; As against what was widely speculated, the audit process was not a probe into the activities of the past management?
Answer; the audit is one of my KPI’s to know that Lagos is consistently clean, so, that is why I approached the audit. The audit was not to witch hunt anybody, but to find out the various ways we can increase, improve our process. If we just stay the same way, then what is the point for a change? So you change to move forward and move to the next level and that is the reason why we did that.
Question; Being a revenue generating agency, why is LAWMA struggling with the issues of salary payment?
Answer; Sweepers are employees of contractors, so with our contractors we always tend to be up to date with the payments we make to our contractors, but it is the requirement for the contractors to look after the welfare of the sweepers. I think to be honest, a line can be drawn on that particular issue. As you can see, everybody is back to work, everything is calm and it’s because we are making sure we are extraditing their payment structure which is the same thing like people getting salaries for their employees. We are working with those companies to ensure that everything is up to date. To be honest, normally people like change but change that is positive must have its own shortcomings at the beginning but eventually we learn and then we move forward.
Question; What is the current situation for sweepers under contractors that were disengaged?
Answer; the transition is smooth, everything we have done up on till now, even with our re-alignment, sweepers are guaranteed their job. No sweeper lost his or her job except those that don’t want to sweep. Being able to work is a thing of choice, so those that want to remain as sweepers with LAWMA have been engaged. So sweepers under contractors we had issues with were transferred and placed under other contractors, so everybody has moved on. It has been a happy ending for everyone.
Question; Few month as acting MD, you have launch the Insurance Scheme, The Waste Academy is kicking off soon. What has informed these initiatives?
Answer; The key reason why we looked into the waste management academy is, if you look at the waste management sector in the state and look at all the stake holders, it’s quite a bit of a lot of aging population and low interest from the youths. When it comes to waste management, it’s something that will be there forever. So we need to be more proactive, engaging the youths from primary school level all the way to tertiary education. Encourage people to go to school and do specific courses on waste management. For example, no university in Nigeria does waste management as a course or as a degree. Right now, we are partnering with schools like the university of agriculture Abeokuta, university of Lagos etc…to be able to design a curriculum that we can use to educate people that are keen on understanding or setting up a waste management business in the future or basically understanding how to manage and sort waste from source as well. When you talk about waste to wealth, people have heard quite a lot of things and also have read a lot of things but we want to bring it reality. So that is why we are setting up the academy to cater for all the career development needs of our youths. And it will help our secular economy when we it comes to things like plastic pollution and waste to wealth. Over the next couples of weeks, we will start taking application from age 13 all the way to age 28, they will come and spend some time with us. Either you are doing a three day placement, two weeks, six month, one year or IT students in polytechnics. Also we will be looking at secondary school graduates awaiting admission into the university, kids in summer school, they will be able to spend atleast one week on the field to understand what our operational needs and demands are. And also if you look at our Private Sector Participants, PSP, which are helping us in waste management, there are questions like how do we educate their kids to take over the business and continue to keep it afloat? So we will encourage them to send their kids here, send people to them to do placement, understand how the business run, do excursion, give them that opportunity to understand what waste management is all about. So that is why the academy is important and it will be a learning Centre for us as well. We will be able to use the knowledge of the students coming in to develop our advocacy as well and we believe anyone that pass through that system is automatically going to be an advocate of Lagos state waste management plan over the next couple of years.
Question; how is the response of the sweepers to the insurance scheme?
Answer; The response has been very positive and the reason why we forged ahead with the insurance scheme is because on a day to day basis, we have accidents, injuries, and not often but sometimes death report. What happen to these people that wake up early in the morning at 4am and by 5:30am starts working? You wake up and Lagos is clean. What happen when the unexpected happens? so that is what the insurance will cater for , so eventually, I know it doesn’t solve the whole problem but at least it’s something to fall back on and then the reason why LAWMA is doing it itself is to take the cost away from the contractors . Because we don’t want a situation we tell them to go and insure them and we find out some people are not insured. We are doing everything ourselves to make sure that we can be in control of the welfare of all the sweepers.
Questions; What other areas is your team also looking at improving?
Answer; A lot of efforts have been put into reviewing the tenement waste collection arrangement, the situation where the operators that comes to collect the waste. We are re-aligning how they are working as well. We are actually setting minimum standards for them, asking them to go back to the community where they are supposed to be and be more frequent there. Because what we noticed is, when we see waste on our major roads, is as a result of ineffectiveness on the part of some operators not majority of the operators. Some operators are not effective, so we are holding them accountable and we are also organizing capacity building program for them through the support of the office of the governor to ensure that they are able to access funds or credit facilities that they will use to build their business so that we don’t have a situation whereby some of them are doing good and some are performing below capacity, so that is been looked at.
Another factor that is very important, Lagos residents should stop patronizing cart pushers. Cart pushers are to be outlawed, they are not to be patronized at all. Do not patronize them. All they do is move your waste from point A to point B which is still within your vicinity, so stop patronizing them. It is even cheaper to patronize the PSP, pay for the service they offer you. They are cheaper than cart pushers and the other thing is, when you pay them and they don’t perform or do their job, you can report them to LAWMA. We have the customer hotlines, our social media handles, and you can report them in writing as well. Now we have regional managers overseeing them per region, so you can report them to them. So there are several approaches we are utilizing to ensure that over all, the holistic waste management sector in Lagos is well looked after. It is more than sweeping we do in LAWMA. Sweeper is just one of the several things or services we render in LAWMA. So primarily, we started by reforming our sweeping program, we moved on to reforming our domestic waste program and also one of the first things we dealt with is the dump sites, the disposal side of things. So you can see our governor has given us fund to rehabilitate our dumpsites across the states and disposal problem will be a thing of the past as we progress. But once we have sorted out the disposal site and all our operators are working effectively to cater for our community, the state will be on auto pilot of being consistently clean. That is what we are aiming for but as we know change, not everybody likes change. We go through different curves when change happens. The denial curve, acceptance curve and then we all will start reaping the benefits of what we are doing now. So everyone has to be very patient, a little pain, a bigger gain in the future but LAWMA is going to be very credible in the service we offer to the community.