By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has asked the Lagos State Government to terminate any agreement it may have entered into with Visionscape in the water sector as its performance in waste management has shown that it will also throw the water sector into crisis.
The environmental justice group made the call following general outcry that has greeted the poor operations of Visionscape which the Lagos State Government contracted to implement its Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI). The Lagos government paved the way for the company to take-over waste management under a PPP arrangement after it introduced a bill that merged all waste management agencies in the state into one. The law was passed by the state House of Assembly in April 2017 and the company took over refuse management operations from local operators on September 1, 2017.
Four months into its operations, the streets of Lagos are replete with uncollected waste littering major roads and front of residences in inner streets. Most residents have been on an endless wait for their refuse to be evacuated, to no avail. The situation has equally sparked fears of a major epidemic if nothing is done soonest.
The Lagos State government had also announced last year that it has entered into a Public Private Partnership (PPPs) agreement with Visionscape for the management of Adiyan II water project.
In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said that the poor outing of Visionscape does not come as a surprise to civil society and grassroots groups who have not relented in their call for the state government to quit its “PPP misadventure”, which unfortunately also targets the water sector.
ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “The embarrassing showing of Visionscape despite the publicity blitz about its waste management prowess is a reflection of how PPPs fail to deliver. It is disheartening that the state government has picked the same company along with its consortium partner –Metito to manage Lagos water”
Oluwafemi pointed out that the speed with which the Lagos House of Assembly signed the bill that opened the door for Visionscape to become a major operator in the waste management sector in Lagos is in itself an anomaly.
“At the time Lagosians were alarmed that the state government put forward a PPP in the waste management sector as the solution to some observed inefficiencies by the local operators. Now it is clear that the PPP thing is a myth just like we had all along warned”
The ERA/FoEN boss revealed that, “Visionscape’s operations has been so embarrassing that at a point the Lagos Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode forced newly elected local council chairmen to take clearing of waste within their communities as a major duty”.
Oluwafemi stressed that beyond the existing chaos, the models upon which PPP is based has failed to uphold the human right to water and locked governments into long-term contracts, even as he cautioned that the firms shortlisted under the Adiyan II project, because of their track-records, will also bring the chaos into the Lagos water sector.
The shortlisted firms are AG Gold Trust Nigeria Limited, Vision Scape Water Solutions Limited/Metito, Veolia/Shoreline Group and Abegoa and Naston & Partners.
“Just like we provided details of the violations by the other firms handpicked by the state government, considering Visionscape’s demonstration of unbridled incapacity in management of solid waste in Lagos, the prospects of a Metito-Visionscape consortium to manage Adiyan II are very bleak. Lagos residents will not relent in the use of all legitimate means to demand for the human right to water to be fully upheld as an obligation of the government, representing the people,” he insisted.