Saturday, 11 March 2017

Lagos Checkmates Filth With Extensive Environmental Reforms

 Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (middle), signing the Environmental Management and Protection bill into Law, at the Banquet Hall, Lagos House, Ikeja, on Wednesday, March 1, 2017.  (L-R)
With him are Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Babatunde Adejare; Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs) Oluranti Adebule; Chairman, House Committee on Environment, Hon. Dayo Fafunmi and Special Adviser to the Governor on Civic Engagement, Mr. Kehinde Joseph.

•       All structures on sewage systems without approval to be demolished
•       Commercial drivers must have litterbins in their vehicles
•       Street trading banned
•       Residents to obtain permits before sinking boreholes
•       Penalties to range from N250,000 to N5m or imprisonment
•       As Lagos sets up environmental sanitation corps agency

As part of major internal improvements backed by the new Environmental Management and Protection Bill, passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly and recently signed into law by Governor Ambode, the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI)  will be transformed into the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps Agency which will spearhead enforcement of the stringent penalties imposed on defaulters.

Plans have been set in motion to realign the roles and responsibilities of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) officers who will now be LASECORPS (Lagos State Environmental Corps) officers. The agency will be tasked with monitoring and maintaining surveillance along the highways, streets and public drainages, canals, markets and parks and will have the primary responsibility of ensuring that citizens fulfill their civic duty by paying the Public Utilities Levy- a property-based charge, payable by property occupants for the management of solid & liquid waste, wastewater and environmental intervention for Lagos State.

Speaking at the signing of the new Environmental Bill recently,  Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode declared that “Compliance is the key. The burden of the cost of providing these services will remain low if everyone does their part and pays their Public Utilities Levy.

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 Governor added “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 independent, SEC regulated trustees”.

LASECORPS’s performance evaluations and remuneration will be tied directly to the number of actionable fines they issue for non-compliance. The Environmental Corps will be supported by PUMAU (Public Utilities Monitoring Assurance Unit) a unit that will have oversight responsibility by using innovative monitoring tools to ensure the new standards are effectively enforced.

The Lagos State Government said defaulters of these laws will face stiff penalties from the government which include heavy fines ranging from N250,000 to N5,000,000 and/or imprisonment.

“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 unapologetically 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.” The Governor expressed emphatically.

Another strong highlight of the new law is the prohibition of street trading as it specifically stated that “It is an offence to engage in street trading along the major highways and streets of Lagos and sell in an unapproved market in Lagos while every owner, tenant and occupier of any shop, kiosks, space or stall in any market within the State shall on a regular basis ensure the cleanliness of his space.”

In a similar vein, it is now mandatory for every commercial vehicle in Lagos State to carry a litterbin for the use of the passengers so that passengers will not throw waste onto the road from the vehicle. “If the driver fails to provide the litter bin, the driver will also be penalized alongside the passenger or the occupier of the vehicle who commits the offence”, stated the law.

The government is also planning a clampdown on all illegal structures on sewage systems without approval as such structures will be demolished. Also in the new law, anyone who wants to a sink borehole or any structure connected with the supply of water must obtain permit from the office of drainage services.

Benefits Of The New Law To Lagosians

In addition to creating 27,500 new jobs, the new policy will fast track the process of metamorphosing Lagos State into a cleaner megacity by decisively tackling the problems of air and water pollution, preventing diseases and halting the deterioration of the environment to avert adverse effect on socio-economic activities.

The new policy has also made a very special provision for the thousands of Community Sanitation Workers (CSWs) who will be directly employed to work on the scheme by making their salaries tax free.

The new environmental regime will provide numerous insurance benefits including Life, Health, Accident & Injury cover to the 27,500 CSWs who will also enjoy a pension scheme.

In a carefully articulated strategy to enhance the quality of lives of the sanitation workers who will be saddled with the task of keeping Lagos clean, an arrangement has been made to ensure that the sanitation workers will only work in their immediate communities, thereby eliminating transportation cost.

Admitting how precarious environmental sanitation issues have become in Lagos State, the state government said: "Lagos is at critical levels of pollution. We must change course because our children’s lives and future depend on it.

The State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State expressed optimism that the new law would result in historic environmental victories for a state which over the years has struggled with effective management of the 10,000 metric tonnes of waste it generates daily.

At the signing ceremony, Governor Ambode said, “I am delighted that our bill has been signed into law. Our major environmental laws are outdated and do not address our present-day challenges”.

Stressing the importance of the bill, Governor Ambode said “we exist in a world where the protection and preservation of public health and the environment have evolved and are primarily driven by data. We cannot compete if our laws are based on obsolete information.”

 The governor commended the Lagos State House of Assembly for shelving their differences in the best overall interest of the state  to align and pass the bill. “I know that the process of change may seem daunting at first but ultimately this shows that we can achieve a lot on our own and we can join with others for the common good of Lagos State. We have taken everyone along the value chain into consideration from the existing PSPs, to the cart pushers and the scavengers on the landfills. Everyone will be accommodated under this new environmental scheme,” he said.


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