…5 companies have signed into LAWMA fertilizer supply
…LAWMA generates 13,000 metric tonnes of waste per day
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Mr. Ibrahim Odumboni in this interview with Western Post speaks on diverse issues relating to waste management in Lagos state. Excerpts
Take us through your journey as LAWMA CEO in one year?
First and foremost, I will say the challenges are what I class as opportunities for us. The first big one was COVID-19 that led to the lockdown. It happened when I resumed as LAWMA CEO and the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-olu worked tremendously well to ensure the impact of the virus was well mitigated across the state. He really managed the whole situation well and LAWMA has been an essential service provider, never stopped working during the lockdown. We sustained our activities everyday and during that period, our activities increased significantly because people were at home and more waste needed to be disposed amid social distancing.
Also, the state and all agencies were going through a lot at that time due to economic instability as a result of decline in financial revenue capacity. More importantly for LAWMA as an agency of the state, we also got impacted by the economic trend coupled with already existing issues like policy summersault pre-2019.
Life after Visionscape was to LAWMA into next gear and back on track. Coming into roles, I had a sort of slightly distorted house, so I had to strip back to repair the foundation with the support of Mr. Governor and Honourable Commissioner of the Environment and Water Resources before proceeding to building on the foundation. With this process in place the state was able to achieve stability of the agency financially, resourcefully and changing the image and re-branding.
Also, few weeks after my assumption we had some unrest with our contractors’ employees. We also turned that around as an opportunity to improve our contractors’ and sweepers’ welfare packages following a detailed audit of their activities. We also paid off the backlog of wages outstanding.
Lagos State has a lot of employed personnel under LAWMA both formal and informal. Around about 30,000 plus in all. In waste management, every day has its own appraisal and right now we are all heroes doing our best for the Lagos environment. We just need an inclusive behavioural change from residents of Lagos State to deliver effective waste management at an affordable cost.
Our day-to-day operations is very capital, labour and intellectually demanding hence doing the right thing at the right time always would help everyone. Thankfully with the support of our governor (Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu) and our parent ministry, we have made a significant change from the past by been proactive rather than reactive to the way we manage waste in Lagos.
An example would be the effort we put into a significant market like Oyingbo market that requires effective management always to prevent disease outbreaks. We ensure that their waste is cleared timely about 4 times per day, deployed a waste policing team there to direct people to the waste receptacles, and do continuous advocacy there to promote health market etiquettes.
We also decentralized our operations to improve our performance and outreach to residents across the 20Local Government Areas and the 37 LCDAs. Now we operate four districts namely East, Central, West and the newly formed Lekki Free Trade Zone. Centralized operations previously slowed down decision-making at local level, and we decided to emulate the state approach of bringing our services closer to our people by instituting district and regional offices.
Each of these districts have two regional and concurrently two area offices under them. At the Central district, we have Oshodi, Mushin and Masha. In the East, we have Sura, Eredo and Agbowa, whilst we still press on to secure another office at Ikorodu. In our West district, we have Ikeja, Agege and we have just secured a place in Badagry. The above approach helps us to increase our visibility and me to know exactly what is going on at any location real-time. We also synergise with all the local government environment supervisors, and we asked for their support. If there are any concerns in their LCDA, they will tell their area manager the problems and get it quickly resolved.
We also reformed our sweeping sanitation program that had concerns initially by looking at the welfare packages and work standard operating procedures to promote safety and efficiency. Some of the issues we had around it were scope of work, inconsistent staff deployment to area of coverage, need for welfare package review and high mortality rate due to accidents via motorists.
Consequently, we have achieved great success on this program with prompt payment of contractors and sweepers, significantly low mortality rate as a result of provision of safety training and change of uniforms which makes it easier for motorist to see them over 50 meters away, and improved work insurance benefit to cover any unforeseen events like death, permanent disability and emergency medical bills. All these bottoms to top changes were made possible by the support given by our governor till date.
LAWMA has been in existence for over 27 years now and I am not inventing any new wheel but using cognitive knowledge acquired from my mentors like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as my guide to success. Also in this role, you have the benefit of interacting with very knowledgeable and street-smart people daily which also helps. For example, I have the knowledge and experience of over 400 PSP operators to pick from anytime.
Recently, we have also restored previous projects that failed due to sustainability issues by re-engineering them with a sustainability manager’s office put in place to ensure consistency of expectations of such projects. The restoration of these investments by the current administration calls for celebration as it gives us the pedestal to move forward on.
Let me give you examples. We were at Ikorodu last week to inspect level of work done at some of the re-generation that we are doing with our compost plant at Odogunyan, managed by Earthcare and the plant has been in existence for years but few years back everything stopped, and the place was closed down. The place was meant to transform organic wastes generated by the likes of Mile 12 market into fertilizer needed by farmers all round Lagos State. We have the same experience at our briquettes plant at Agbowa where all the sawdust harvested at Oko-baba were meant to be turned to briquettes for people that wanted to make furniture or use it as fuel in place of coal. The two plants were collateral damages for the previous administrations’ policy summersault on waste management.
I have often heard when people say maintenance is the problem of Nigerians and I totally disagree with that and conclude with my little experience that lack of patriotism is our problem. Nothing is owned by the government as we are all government and the individual that forms the government so the idea of it’s government’s not mine is not relative.
I can boldly tell you that the facility at Odogunyan is back into production. There was no need to bring engineers from abroad to fix it as all repairs and servicing were done locally.
How many metric tonnes of fertilizers are you producing?
Currently, we package 50kg and 25kg of fertilizer. They have capacity to produce 500 bags per daily. We have about 4-5 companies signed up-takers and we are currently in partnership with our sister agency Lagos State Parks & Gardens to promote the product across Nigeria.
We are rebranding the place by calling it LAWMA, LASPARK, Ministry of the Environment & Water Resources and Earthcare plant to prevent it from becoming a collateral damage for only one agency if any policy summersault happens in the future.
Another landmark innovation we had in the last one year is the creation of LAWMA Academy. It is a citadel of learning for waste management, the first of its kind in Africa and Nigeria and a knowledge place born out of my curiosity to bring practical, academic, business and futuristic thoughts and knowledge together to improve waste management. I never had the opportunity to study waste management in school but the combination of the above can create higher breeds of me in the future that can take the country to the next level on sustainable waste management.
With the progress made on the academy, we are now introducing waste management to all primary schools in Lagos curriculum with our partnership with LASUBEB in upcoming academic year. We plan to continuously work with ministry of Education to attain the best waste management education for students in our state. The students will in-turn be our new advocates for change in the society to tackle indiscriminate dumping of refuse on highways and canals, littering and open defecation.
Even with our environmental enthusiasts, we send them to LAWMA academy for knowledge growth and engage 10 interns monthly who have also brought to us various innovations for our optimization and sustainability. It also helps want to be PSP operators as “waste management is not for amateurs” and there is no continuous excuse for failure in the sector. If somebody dumps waste somewhere every time and you continued to pack it without finding out the source, it will turn into a dumpsite. It is better to get to the source and solve the problem before it gets out of hand.
Another opportunity I saw in Lagos waste management which was initiated officially by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on 5th September 2019 is sorting of waste from source popularly now referred to as “Lagos Recycles”. We have plastic everywhere in Lagos canals, drainages and shorelines because of past and some current actions by some residents. Some researchers concludes that an adult would use minimum of 169 single used plastic bottles per year. Hence with population of Lagos State at over 25 million, we are looking at over 4 billion plastic bottles generated annually and with a less focus on it over the previous 10 years we have about 40 billion of these plastics somewhere in our environment in the state hence the need for recycling.
Also, the above is the main reason why we are dealing with all the problems of water blocking the water canals in the state and related to traffic congestion. The bigger problem is also that plastics takes over 450 years to decay and if not properly disposed it can be consumed by our waterbodies, then onward consumed directly by us.
Lagos recycles has boomed in the sense that we have now introduced technology called PAKAM which is an Uber-like application for collection of plastic from your house. An aggregator would come to pack the plastic from you, then it goes to a recycler who weighs it and exchange it for cash value whilst the generator of the plastic is entered into a draw to win cash prizes at the end of every participating month. About 100 to 570 winners monthly are rewarded. We also have recycling bin at airports, bus stops, schools, public places, hospitals, among other places now to help promote the initiative.
All the above were made possible by the personal investment Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu made to get the 6 million purple recycling bags made for all at inception of his administration. Other partners we have in our recycling initiate includes Heritage Bank, Coca-Cola, Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance, NIMASA, Tangerine life & Rotary Clubs. This initiative have now opened the opportunity for over 6000 formal and informal jobs and we now have over 45 registered recyclers in the state.
Another very significant progress made by Mr. Governor is the extensive improvement in our main operations. With a major rehabilitation of all out five active dumpsites last year, we have now achieved the resolution of our longstanding issues of disposal, and this have in essence increased our productivity to about 800 trips completed daily in comparison to the previous 357 average. In waste management, it is very compulsory to be able to land when you fly hence the importance of getting the disposal sites in order.
Also, we had a PSP reform last year which contributed to the above success. The PSP business has grown despite having COVID-19 challenges. We used to have about 340 PSPs and now we have 457. They have brought over 200 trucks and each costing N12 million. Mr. Governor has also given us the opportunity to build three new transfer loading stations at Iberekodo, Abule-gika and Odongunyan apart from the existing three at Oshodi, Agege and Simpson. The whole idea for this administration is to have 20 transfer loading stations in Lagos for 20 local governments with one loading stations.
Once the transfer loading stations are operational and we are separating from, there 30% of the waste would also be diverted to recycling companies and others used for compost and waste to energy. Then, we can do away with dumpsite since it is old-style in waste disposal. These are ways we are creating sustainability. I believe the governor as well is looking at sustainability for us to build on.
It is very important we don’t play politics with waste and environment because the repercussion is huge. Thank God we have an understanding governor now and a seasoned environmentalist as supervising commissioner. We also have Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who is an advocate and founding father for sustainable waste management which supports the PSP structure and make sure every vision aspire on waste are effectively utilized. The immense contributions of PSP operators have also been very great to us.
All these four are very important, and then, the staff of LAWMA are also key factors when it comes to waste management in Lagos State. Any change in any of these could distort everything. For example, the 2015 Visionscape’s sudden introduction dragged LAWMA back for about ten years. It is easy to destroy things and hard to rebuild it. We generate 13,000 metric tonnes of waste per day and currently evacuating about 85% with 100% as our target.
What are those things LAWMA is doing to change the narratives that Lagos is one of the dirtiest cities in Nigeria?
The survey you mentioned was in 2019, and Lagos was then ranged amongst the bottom five states in terms of cleanest. The same survey in November 2020 ranked Lagos third and Ikeja was ranked the third city in Nigeria. We are aiming for the top spot by November 2021.
One of the best preparations for the future done for us by Mr. Governor is the procurement of 102 brand new trucks set to be unveiled in August. Currently, we have obsolete and worn-out fleet of compactors, but the new trucks would transform our fleet and improve our operations significantly by transforming waste movement by LAWMA in the state. The last time this happened was during the tenure of Governor Fashola when 100 trucks were bought for LAWMA.
By the time we have the new compactors, we should be able to reach out to everywhere in Lagos. These new trucks were designed by our engineers, and you can never see it anywhere in the world.
…(Cut in) Are these new trucks expected to operate in all the regions?
The trucks are for all our regions. What we have done for our PSP on truck acquisition is that we have discussed with keen banks to provide affordable facility to them at a lower rate of interest to upgrade their fleets. They should be able to borrow funds at a lower rate. We played our part in mitigating the credit risk involved.
Does LAWMA regulate PSP charges as prices are not constant?
Yes, we are the regulator of their services which have pricing inclusive. The rising cost of waste management is as a result of the economic trend, inflation and cost of labour. LAWMA encouraged them to always discuss with CDC, CDA and landlord associations of their regions before any price review. All stakeholders have to agree on a price before it can be used at that particular area. If you consider it, the price of diesel last year was N190 per litre and now it’s N295 per litre.
The majority of tenants are still paying old waste rate of 2009 till today. The cost of maintaining those trucks is another factor. LAWMA is not advocating for a mandatory increase in charges but there is need for review and every agreement must be consensual before a price is reached.
We always tell them to go with LAWMA representatives, document and take note of all discussions to have a price. A certain price you have in Magodo, which is the nearest community to a dumpsite cannot be compared to some around Lagos Island or someone that lives at Ayobo which is further.
I just want to appeal to all residents to ensure that their waste bills are paid timely, and waste bill is not free in Lagos State for a consistently cleaner Lagos environment
What did you discuss with the Chairman of Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance on recycling?
I visited the MD of NBC, Mr. Matthieu Seguin, who also doubled as Chairman, Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA) to discuss the plastic problem in Lagos State. We discussed increasing the membership of FBRA by promoting non-members joining them, advocacy for recycling, promotion of the PAKAM app and capacity for our recyclers under the Lagos recycles initiative.
We also talked about the agency’s request that FBRA members should insert recycling logo on plastic bottle and invest more on advertising for people to do the right thing in Lagos. We also discussed building a recycling hub in Lagos State and need for about 114 collection centers as all these are what will take us to the next gear.
How is the Lagos State government driving Green environment amid infrastructural deficit and low awareness?
As it is essential to have a strong foundation before we build a house, we are work in progress in relation to achieving our key green environment and circular economic goals. As we all know the green environment is desirable, but it cost a bit and needs to be managed in a sustainable way. LAWMA’s current actions mentioned above are parts of its contribution to going Green. The current administration is very supportive of the green initiative and taking needed steps to actualize that.
Do you have insurance policy for your staff especially those on the street?
As mentioned earlier, the sweepers are direct employees of our contractors and we have provided robust insurance for them to mitigate against any risk whilst at work. It covers death in service, permanent disability and covering hospital bill. For instance, if there is an accident, there is a process that ensures that medical bills are paid timely, victims are looked after, family of the bereaved are catered for in the case of death, it will motivate them to do their job diligently.
Most importantly we have given them safety training and changed their uniform to lemon green easily seen from afar to help reduce accidents and mortality.
Has the state been generating fund from recycling? If yes, can we get a figure for that?
Yes, but not at the potential we expect it to be currently. Over the next few years, we expect this to grow exponentially due to shift from informal to formal recycling mode in Lagos State.
Since you came in, it’s always been good news for LAWMA. Could this be associated with your relationship with who is who in Lagos State?
That’s an interesting question. I completely attribute it to the right mentorship, support from all stakeholders and belief from the team I lead.
Also, I had great tutelage from my mentors (Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mr. Tunji Bello). I also have the benefit of spending great times with the immediate communities across the 57 LCDAs. I love it when I’m with people who knows more than I do. I have no excuses not to do well because I’ve spent hours with these experienced personalities. They didn’t teach me about waste, they taught me through their experiences. What is important is that I learnt from different people and pick what is unique about them to use as a guide in my career as I grow.
LAWMA 2020 launched an App and not long ago, you unveiled some ambassadors. Why have you not used the ambassadors to market the App?
One of the things I have done is introduced some ambassadors. These are celebrities with not less than 2 million followers on social media. They are used for the promotion of our programmes, advocacy campaigns and as brand influencers for our services. We recently used two of them to promote the PAKAM app during the launch of the monthly Lagos Recycles Raffle in May 2021.
At the moment, our ambassadors are working to create a 13-episodes movie that will talk about LAWMA and everything we do.
How often do you meet your stakeholders?
I meet PSPs and recyclers separately every last Wednesday and Thursday respectively per month. I also regularly meet our junior staff in a staff forum monthly. During the forum, we discuss general staff matters, we celebrate outstanding staff, disagree to agree and take strategic collective decisions. If there is need to change direction, we simply do. We disagree to agree. All the monthly stakeholders’ meetings are the key to success in the job.
How do you feel about being CEO of LAWMA?
I’m very happy and I love my job. I enjoy every day on the job as it’s very interesting and I get to meet different individuals. I love the ability to put smiles on people’s face when they come to see me at work and on the field, an attribute I picked from a mentor. I love the dynamism of this job, It comes with a lot of challenges that I always rise against but at the same time, I’ve learnt to do more in terms of been proactive.