Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State on Wednesday signed the sweeping Environmental Management and Protection Bill into law, thereby empowering the state to overhaul the state’s environmental, waste management and handling practices. The environmental bill harmonizes all existing environmental laws and takes on environmental concerns that were not expressly addressed in the previous laws governing the sector.
At the signing ceremony, Governor Ambode said, “I am delighted that our bill has been signed into law. Under this initiative we have (referring to the public and private sector) worked collectively to make laws that will result in historic environmental victories.Our major environmental laws are outdated and do not address our present-day challenges”.
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 on coming together despite the push back and disagreements. “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.
Governor Ambode added that the new initiative would “create 27,500 new jobs and deploy over 500 vehicles during the concession period. We are bringing in the expertise of world renowned environmental groups to construct multiple engineered landfills and transform our water and wastewater treatment sectors.”
The newly signed bill will also drive the adoption of innovative technology to tackle existing environmental problems specific to the state, allowing for private sector participation in the management of the environment, therefore opening the sector to foreign and domestic investors.
The law gives Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) the authority to review and regulate all waste management activities within the state while a rebranded KAI (Kick Against Indiscipline) which will be transformed into the Environmental Sanitation Corps Agency will spearhead enforcement of stringent penalties imposed on defaulters.
In the new dispensation, the Lagos State Environment Corps (LASECORPS)’s performance evaluations and remuneration will be tied directly to the number of actionable fines they issue for non-compliance. Also, LASECORPS 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.
In attendance at the bill signing were the private sector, SEC regulated trustees who will manage the Environmental Trust Fund including FBN Merchant Bank, Stanbic IBTC, United Capital PLC, STL Trustees Ltd, United Trustees Ltd, Camden Yards Ltd, Union Trust, Afrinvest, Exczellon Capital and APEL Trustees.
The passage of the bill and its signing into law signify a monumental victory for environmental and public health advocates who have prevailed on the government to tackle the environmental crisis in Lagos. Supporters of the bill agree that this is an important first step in the right direction for Lagos State.
The Lagos State Government recently announced the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, a scheme to create value and empower those at the bottom of the value chain. It allows citizens to finally be a part of the solution by taking responsibility for their immediate environment while solving the challenge of poor waste management in their communities. The central focus of the initiative is the cleanup of the environment and a poverty alleviation scheme that will create about 30,000 new jobs and almost 500,000 indirect jobs.
A report presented to the executive council of Lagos State on March 3rd 2016 by an inter-ministerial committee showed that there were significant environmental degradation and alarming levels of pollution in the water, air and physical environment of Lagos State. This galvanized the decision that the solid waste management system of Lagos State needed to be fixed.