Ensuring a clean and healthy environment is a vital responsibility for every Nigerian, and not just the government's obligation. The challenges that come with poor waste disposal and management pose a threat to good environmental sanitation and sustainable living of the citizens. Proper waste management has been a constant concern for many Nigerians, especially the people of Oyo state. Before the administration of Governor Ajimobi, Ibadan was judged as one of the dirtiest cities in Nigeria. Today, the story has changed as it has become cleaner to a reasonable extent.
On the 5th of May 2017, Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi took a giant step by terminating the contract of private waste contractors and appointing WestAfricaENRG, an environmental management company to be in charge of the Oyo State Solid Waste Management Authority (OYOWMA). Mr Paul O'Callaghan, who is the Chief Executive Officer explained that before the intervention of WestAfricaENRG, there was ineffective practice of hiring rickety trucks which hindered proper waste collection. According to his analysis, only 30% of all the wastes that got to the dumpsites were collected by contractors and 70% by the government. However, the private contractors were getting more revenue than the government. The waste management by private contractors was termed as "unsustainable", hence its termination.
Throwing of wastes in canals, court cases, manipulation of diesel tanks, retrenchment of non-resourceful employees and frustration were the challenges he highlighted in regards to his job of managing waste in the state. In spite of these challenges, Mr Paul O'Callaghan expressed optimism in ensuring a clean Oyo state. In his words;" When you are making changes, you have to be headstrong about it. Don't make changes for the sake of making changes. You have to be determined with a vision, get people to buy into your vision, carry them along and it will eventually change what happen".
He acknowledged that there were still illegal private waste collectors in the state and explained that illegal dumping at the dumpsites was a criminal act. When caught, their vehicles are impounded and the offenders are taken to the magistrate court. These offenders include both the illegal collectors and individuals who patronise illegal PSP.
How to identify legalized collectors
On how to identify legalized collectors, he said they have Oyowma stickers on their cars with official telephone numbers that can be reached, as they have manned help desk trained to ensure effective customer care.
Addressing the issue of untimely evacuation of waste, he asserted that they have commercial contractors on assigned schedules. They negotiate price and collection frequency with the parties involved. For domestic collection, evacuation is done twice a month. Wastes in commercial areas are evacuated once a week, while industrial areas are evacuated as required. For instance, food dealers or producers would require evacuation 2 or 3 times a day. If the contractors do not show up as expected, Mr Paul urged residents to reach out to his office and the necessary actions will be taken. He assessed the failed collection process in the markets and proferred the solution of getting a dedicated contractor who will handle the price and collection frequency in the markets. He however praised the clean and epidemic-free state of the markets and urged the traders not to go back to their old ways
One House, One Bin
Sensitization is on for One House, One Bin as one of the measures to be used in ensuring proper waste management in the state. Mr Paul stated that the Commissioner of Environment Mr Isaac Ishola recently held a media conference, in regards to this initiative. Effective from 15th of January 2018, any house without a bin will attract a warning, after which a fine between fifteen and thirty thousand naira has to be paid. Considering how cheap a bin is, Mr Paul believes people would prefer to get a bin than pay the fine.
On the hopes of introducing a recycling culture to the people, he agreed that implementing the use of bins will eventually lead to proper recycling in the state. He ascertained that there are already 15 companies in Oyo state recycling plastics, metals, bad tires, PET bottles and other waste materials. He also said that proper collection will lead to volume, which will encourage recycling and he placed emphasis on huge opportunities that come with recycling.
He listed Ogun, Osun and Lagos states as the other states WestAfricaENRG is handling, aside Oyo state. In Oyo state, he mentioned that operations had begun in Oyo town, Ogbomosho and the next target is Saki. He gave low finance as the limiting factor for WestAfricaENRG reaching the rural areas in Oyo state, and said they are working on a way to manage them efficiently and effectively. WestAfricaENRG has also consulted for Sierra Leone and Togo, planning to engage Ghana.
Speaking on his plans for Oyo state in 2018, he said WestAfricaENRG is charged to make Oyo state beautiful, attract investments, generate employments and keep Ibadan city clean. He urged the people of Oyo state to assist WestAfricaENRG and OYOWMA in making these dreams a reality.
Packaged by Joy Nzei for CEOAfrica