When we assumed office 18 months ago, it was glaring to us that we needed to make determined efforts towards water, sanitation and hygiene. It was disconcerting to see that dysentery and other pandemics were on the rise with serious implications for our public health expenditure.
I had a choice- allow us to spend excessively on treating preventable, hygiene based diseases or tackle the root cause of the problem.
The major motivating factor outside of the financial burden this issue was putting on the State was the fact that the greatest casualties of this needless situation are our children.
We needed to address it immediately with a comprehensive mix of measures. We identified our major environmental laws were out of date and based on obsolete information. They no longer applied to our present-day conditions.
The Ministry of the Environment, appropriately helmed by a medical practitioner Dr. Babatunde Adejare spearheaded an effort to develop a model in which sanitation is a non-negotiable requisite in Lagos.
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. 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.
Under the CLEANER LAGOS INITIATIVE, the commercial sector will 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. Over the concession period, the consortium will be deploying a large multidimensional fleet of over 20 landfill and transfer loading station management vehicles, 590 new rear-end loader compactors, 140 Operational vehicles and close to 900,000 new bins to all be electronically tracked and monitored by our new unit PUMAU (Public Utilities Monitoring Assurance Unit) under the Ministry of Environment.
The consortium will be expected to run a 24 hour operation at the transfer loading stations and the landfills which will undoubtedly address a large number of the operational challenges previously experienced. We are constructing multiple engineered landfills simultaneously as we roll out phased closures of all existing dumpsites a major cause of our groundwater and air pollution, we will improve the water sector by introducing public/private partnerships that will give us viable and sustainable solutions to the challenges we are facing with wastewater treatment and the provision of water to our people.
We are creating 27,500 jobs in what is essentially a poverty alleviation initiative for our teeming youth population. Introducing incentives such as tax reliefs and healthcare, life, injury and accident insurance benefits reflects our desire to tackle the issue of poverty and the chronic unemployment crisis. Community Sanitation Workers will receive these benefits.
Everyone from the cart pushers to the existing PSPs and casual workers at the dumpsites have been considered in the plan and will be accommodated within the new environmental regime. In addition, we are extending opportunities to everyone along the value chain by working to create vocational training in the related areas through LASTVEB.
Sanitation will be a daily activity not just once a month. Which is why we are deploying a workforce of CSWs in every ward.
For these reasons and many more is why I appeal to all citizens to play an active role in their communities, as these initiatives will require the active participation of the public.
The Public Utility Levy which is to replace all service fees previously paid to the Waste Management authorities is an annual charge that will take effect as the rollout commences. We have worked closely with the public in determining the rates and have succeeded in keeping this levy relatively low.
The PUL will be a major contribution to the State’s ongoing efforts to address severe challenges that are unique to Lagos because of rising urbanization. The money will be held in the Environmental Trust Fund and managed meticulously by a Board of SEC regulated trustees.
The trustees are under strict obligations to the people of Lagos and will be accountable to the people for every naira we spend in line with our overall environmental agenda. Compliance is the key. The burden of the cost of providing these services will remain low if everyone does their part and pays their PUL.
With the newly positioned LASECORPS, we will work within the community to enforce the new laws. The State will have a zero-tolerance policy for offenders because simply put, disregarding payment of your PUL or flouting the new regulations ultimately promotes activities that lead to the loss of lives.
The primary driver of the new bill and the initiatives that we have undertaken is not just cosmetic but to save lives. Therefore, we will apologetically prosecute offender to the full extent of the law. We will make CEOs accountable, from the very top to the bottom, and the law is very specific about the consequences of non-compliance.
Through the Office of Civic Engagement, we will commence the public awareness campaign to apprise you of your rights and responsibilities under this new scheme. We assure you of a more efficient and consistent service and in turn we implore you to be good stewards of your environments.
Every one of us has a responsibility to make the right choices. Lagos belongs to us all, it is our shared identity regardless of tribe or ethnicity and I encourage you to join me in working harder and striving for a cleaner Lagos.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko, lo je wa logun!