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Cablegate: Lagos Pilots New Waste Mgt Scheme with Some

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: The Lagos State Ministry of Environment
has begun a new waste management program in 24 of 57
local government areas. Under the program, 17 waste
management companies provide trash collection services.
A separate company handles customer billing, and the
ministry provides oversight and enforcement. Though
not glitch free, the program appears more successful
than previous schemes: trash is collected, most
customers are paying their bills, and the areas served
are noticeably cleaner. The ministry continues to
refine the program but has no concrete plans, yet, to
expand the scheme to the whole state. The pilot
program, however, shows the ministry has a reasonable
understanding of some of the steps needed to ameliorate
the trash problem in Lagos, though funding and capacity
building remain critical needs. End summary.

2. At the start of Governor Tinubu's second term, the
Lagos State Ministry of Environment vowed to review and
revamp the waste management program. To that end, the
ministry has begun a pilot program in 24 of the state's
57 local government areas (LGAs). The ministry has
contracted 17 waste management companies and a billing
company to execute the program, with ministry oversight
and enforcement.

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3. Trash is a ubiquitous problem here. It lines the
streets, clogs the sewage ditches and waterways, and
smolders on piles throughout the city. Until 1998, the
Lagos State Waste Management Authority and the Local
Government Councils were directly responsible for waste
collection and disposal. The old system could not
accommodate the population explosion in Lagos, however.
Trash piled up and indiscriminate dumping occurred
where there were waste disposal attempts. To rectify
the situation, the Ministry of Environment began to
involve private service providers (PSPs). The more
than 600 registered providers were responsible for
collecting both trash and fees. The ministry also
tried to integrate individual wheelbarrow operators and
"cart-pushers" into the collection arrangement,
especially in densely populated areas. According to
the ministry, this system showed "unimpressive
achievement" due partly to lack of appropriate
facilities, non-payment by residents, and inadequate
enforcement. Because of the failure of this plan, the
state has introduced the new pilot scheme.


4. Under the pilot program, the billing company
assesses residential and commercial properties in the
pilot LGAs and assigns monthly fees according to the
rates set by the ministry. Monthly rates range from
N50 ($0.38) per room for homes to flat rates of N1000
($7.50) for schools and religious buildings and N25,000
($188) for restaurants. The fees can be paid at any of
26 designated banks. Frequency of service also varies:
one pick-up per week for homes and daily collection for
restaurants and markets. The ministry pays the PSPs
based on the amount of trash brought to designated dump
sites; this pay-by-weight system discourages the
otherwise common practice of indiscriminate dumping by

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5. The ministry's director of environmental services,
Dr. Titi Anibaba, told econoff and econspecialist that
most people have been paying their monthly bills,
confirming the ministry's long-held assumption that
people are willing to foot the bill when reliable
service is provided. In some of the pilot LGAs the new
scheme has begun to produce noticeable results, with
noticeably less trash on the streets or piled beside
buildings. Residents of the areas also appreciate not
having to employ push-cart operators to haul away their
trash. The push-cart approach yielded unreliable,
inadequate service, added to traffic congestion, and
left residents wondering whether their trash was just
being dumped down the street.


6. Though encouraged by the results of the pilot
scheme, Anibaba realizes the ministry is far from
solving Lagos' trash problem. Even the pilot program
needs refining: the ministry receives up to a hundred
calls a day from residents reporting that their trash
was not collected or their bill was miscalculated. A
contact in Lagos told econoff the service they receive
under the new scheme is so poor that they continue to
employ their previous collector, in hopes that between
the two services, their trash will be collected on a
regular basis. The ministry has asked the public to be
patient as they work through the "teething pains," and
they have made some adjustments to the scheme. For
example, a ward structure was instituted when it became
clear that a single PSP could not service an entire

7. Anibaba said the program's biggest area of need is
better training and more funding for monitoring and
enforcement. The ministry created a Monitoring,
Enforcement and Compliance Department (MECD) to ensure
service delivery by PSPs and prompt payment by
customers. The task has been an uphill struggle. In a
recent enforcement action, the MECD closed a prominent
restaurant for several hours for not paying its bill.
Officials hope this example will demonstrate their
resolve and encourage compliance by other corporate
customers. Some MECD efforts at enforcement among
private citizens, however, have prompted allegations of
officers' collusion with the police in unlawful arrests
and extortions.

8. Expanding the pilot program to all of Lagos would
more than double its scope, requiring a commensurate
increase in capacity and funding. Beyond improving
this trash collection component of the waste management
system, the ministry also wants to upgrade its 3 dump
sites into sanitary landfills and rehabilitate its 2
transfer loading stations. Officials estimate the
state needs an additional 3 landfills and 2 transfer
stations. Anibaba said the ministry also is working on
a program to recycle the plastic bags in which drinking
water is commonly sold. Soem estimates measure plastic
bags as 30 percent of the trash generated in Lagos.
According to Anibaba, all efforts are hampered by
inadequate funding. Ministry staff continue to seek
funding, equipment, and technical assistance from
outside sources.

NGO Groups Try to Bridge The Gaps

9. Meanwhile, some local NGO groups are trying to
bridge the gaps in service by encouraging citizens to
dispose of refuse properly and "keep their own
backyards clean." The Center for Values and Leadership
(CVL), led by one of Lagos' most civic-minded public
intellectuals, Professor Pat Utomi, organizes monthly
clean-up campaigns in impoverished areas. Pol-chief
participated in one such session over the weekend.
Residents joined business leaders and others in a day
of cleaning up the neighborhood. After four hours,
dozens of trash bags were full, but the area remained
so dirty, it was hard to tell a clean-up had occurred.
Also, residents asked for payment for their services
after the clean-up. CVL volunteers explained that
keeping the environment clean was our collective
responsibility. Some accepted this rationale, while
others vowed not to participate in future such efforts.
CVL hired trucks to remove the trash following the
clean-up intervention. However, they had not arrived
but the time most participants departed. A volunteer
stayed in the community to ensure that the residents
were not left with bagged trash instead of dispersed


10. Previous meetings with Anibaba and other ministry
staff and consultants have left us sure of their desire
to improve waste management in Lagos but doubtful of
their capacity to do so in a meaningful way, due to
inadequate funding. However, success in implementing
the pilot scheme and achieving some noticeable results
shows the ministry is moving in the right direction.
Efforts to refine the pilot program further show
commitment and responsiveness. Ultimately, though, the
ministry will need a lot more funding and Lagosians
will need further education on the responsibility they
owe to themselves to make their own backyards cleaner.


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