Workers of Visionscape, the new waste management company employed by Lagos State, were seen around Tinubu Market, on Monday, evacuating refuse from overflowing bins and open spaces converted by dumpsites even in the midst of hustle of commercial transactions.
For residents and traders in the area, the appearance of the workers of the waste management firm was a big relief: at least, the unsightly mountain of refuse that had piled up in the vicinity over several days would be evacuated and with it, the foul smell that has made breathing in the environment a nightmare.
However, residents and traders in the area will be praying that Visionscape will not allow the bins to again, pile up to epidemic proportion before it send its workers for the next round of evacuation.
Traders in the market told Saharareporters that the bins and dumps in the area were usually left uncleared for many days, a situation that they said began when the Lagos State Government ended its contracts with the indigenous Private Sector Operators then under the management of Lagos Waste Management Authority, LAWMA in favour of foreign owned Visionscape.
There have been a lot of speculations about ownership structure of the new company and why Governor Akinwumi Ambode decided to dump an arrangement which was carefully put together and had, over the years, to a large extent, helped Lagos rid itself of its unenviable status of ‘filth capital of world,’ for a new, untested model of waste evacuation.
But what is certain is that Visionscape has failed to live up to expectations.
Residents of Lagos regularly upload pictures of mountains of refuse in their areas, popular bus stops markets and so on to indicate the regression in waste management in Nigeria’s foremost commercial city under Governor Ambode.
At Tinubu market on Monday for instance, Mr. Tunde Razak, a vulcaniser, told Saharareporters that the refuse dumps in the area had been abandoned until last Friday when Visionscape workers came around.
According to him, Visionscape usually allow refuse to pile up days before sending their trucks and workers to evacuate them.
Also speaking to this website, Mr. Ishola Ali, another Lagosian, said the new waste management company has not been effective in keeping Lagos clean, particularly if compared with the old manager, Lagos Waste Management Authority.
“The Visionscape people are not as efficient as LAWMA. If you compare them with LAWMA, their work is quite different. LAWMA used to clear the refuse at least three times in a day, even at midnight, but Visionscape is not effective at all.
“If you go to the inner areas like Bamgbose or Freeman, you will see refuse everywhere. Idumota is the worse. The refuse there has taken over more than half of the road. The three-lane road there has become one lane because of refuse,” Mr Ali said.
As expected, officials of Lagos State Government are always ever ready to defend the performance of the new company.
Kehinde Bamigbetan, the new spokesperson for Governor Ambode regularly uploads pictures of workers of Visionscape dressed in their lemon coloured overall uniforms and boots evacuating refuse from various sites across the city to social media sites.
While supervising the evacuation of refuse at Tinubu market on Monday, the Special Adviser to Ambode on Central Business District (CBD), Prince Olanrewaju Elegushi also defended Visionscape.
According to him, the waste management company evacuates refuse dumps every day, especially from the commercial areas.
“We clean up in the morning and in the night. It is a daily thing. We don’t leave the waste. We clean it every day, both morning and night.
“We must realize that this area (Tinubu-Idumota) is a commercial area and the quantity of refuse being generated is huge because of its commercial nature...”
He however admitted that it would take a while for Visionscape to adjust to the pace needed for evacuation of refuse in the state.
But when asked if it is true that the new cleaners come every day to dispose of the refuse as claimed by the Special Adviser, Mr. Ali said “it is not true”.
He however said the workers of Visionscape workers have been evacuating refuse from the market since Friday, February 16, 2018 after the failure to turn up for many days before then.
Mr. Shamsudeen Mayegun, another resident, corroborated Mr. Ali’s claims. He added that the Visionscape workers appear lazy and unwilling to work.
“The Visionscape people will not pack the sand. They only pick nylons and even that, they don’t do properly. They sweep once a day unlike the LAWMA,” he said.
Even then, the intensity in the cleanup of market areas is coming days after Ambode issued a 20-day ultimatum for all market districts to be cleaned up or risked being closed down.
“You have 20 days to clear the refuse in your markets. The State Government will not hesitate to shut down any market that is dirty because we will not be happy to see any market within our metropolis dirty.
“All markets must be kept clean; the State Government has spent so much on various projects and we want you all to be partakers of these benefits. Work with us to ensure Lagos is cleaner,” Governor said in the ultimatum issued on 29 January.
Visionscape-PSP partnership, Lagos State Government Looks Away
There was a report over the weekend that unable to cope with the task of keeping Lagos clean, Visionscape had entered into an agreement with the rejected PSP operators.
Spokesperson for Visionscape, Mr. Olabode Opeseitan, confirmed the arrangement.
But he said the partnership was motivated by the company’s desire to settle out of court, the suit initiated by the PSP operators when their contract was terminated in its favour by the Lagos State.
The operators had dragged the Lagos state government and Visionscape Group to court in a suit filed by Lagos lawyer and activist, Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa following the termination of the waste evacuation agreement with the indigenous firms.
In the suit, the PSP waste 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 high interest.
They argued that their understanding was that they will be using the resources generated from the waste operations to service the said loans.
They also argued that they have built offices in various parts of Lagos State for the smooth administration of their operations.
“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,” Onagboruwa said while speaking on the suit filed against the Lagos State government.
But the Special Adviser to the state governor said he knows nothing about the partnership, adding that as far as the state is concerned, it is Visionscape that is in charge of cleaning Lagos state.
“What I know is that Visionscape is in charge of the carting away of refuse. I don’t know about any partnership between them and the PSP.
“Visionscape it solidly on ground and they are gradually taking care of the waste. That is all I can say about that,” Prince Olanrewaju Elegushi said.
But the fact that the Special Adviser has to accompany the company’s workers to ensure they do their work speaks volume of the current regime of waste evacuation in Lagos.