By Lexan Ali

In the midst of economic hardship being faced by citizens of Lagos state as a result of the high cost of living caused by government anti-poor policies, the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, has declared a hike in the cost of waste evacuation. Effective from January 2024, Lagosians will be expected to pay double what they currently pay. 

However, residents of Nosamu, Orodu and Goriola communities in Ajegunle have been agitating against poor service delivery and exploitation before now. The rise in charges reflects LAWMA’s apparent insensitivity to the grievances of Lagosians, considering the already challenging cost of living that significantly impacts their limited income. Other communities, including Mushin, Ifako-Ijaye, and Oshodi/Isolo, have also voiced their opposition to the increment, demanding its reversal.

Similar reactions and agitations have also trailed the news and enforcement of the new tariff regime by LAWMA in other parts of Lagos state. This current hike is only the latest in a series of increments in tariffs, which the agency has carried out since August 2022. But just as in previous cases, the reason given to justify the present price increment is the hike in diesel prices, which, according to the PSP operators, has led to a 300% rise in operational cost, devaluation of the naira which brought about an increase in the cost of spare parts of trucks and cost of maintenance of their staff.

The statement from the waste operator reads, “We are all witnesses to the spiraling inflation and the consequent increases in prices of truck maintenance, diesel and cost of living etc. Consequently, it has become inevitable to review the waste tariff as our efforts to improve efficiency, productivity and good service delivery continue to be outrun by the rising cost of serving you.”

The MSA strongly condemns the surge in the waste bill as both insensitive and exploitative, particularly at a time when the working class and impoverished Nigerians are already contending with economic hardships exacerbated by the anti-poor, neo-liberal capitalist policies of the Tinubu regime. Policies such as removing fuel subsidies, floating of naira and devaluation, privatization of key economic sectors, and commercialization have collectively fueled widespread unemployment and significantly diminished the purchasing power of the masses. This, in turn, has contributed to a relentless increase in inflation across the country.

These increments are unjustifiable and attempt to use subsidy removal on petroleum products to justify the infliction of more pains and burdens on the Nigerian working masses and the poor. It is worth noting that since the introduction of the Public Private Partnership and Private Sector Partnership initiative [PPP/PSP] by the Lagos state government, many agencies like the LAWMA, profit before people’s needs and services has been the modus operandi of the agency’s operations and areas of coverage.

Despite New Charges, Lagos still Grappling with an Inefficient Waste Management System

With a population estimate of 24 million people and daily household waste generation of more than 13,000 metric tones daily, many parts of the state and communities are far from being environmentally sanitized as piles of dirt and waste can still be seen on major road corners or bus stops because of the inadequacy and inefficiency of the PSP operators. Residents in many communities have complained that the PSP operators operate only once or twice a month to evacuate waste. In contrast, their services and presence are completely non-existent in some other communities. Where they exist, their services are very poor and inadequate and they often don’t regularly come to evacuate waste, which is required daily for proper and efficient waste management, given the rapid nature of waste generation. Many residents outraged by the latest increment and who can barely afford it have threatened to start patronizing individual cart pushers whose charges are affordable and are seen regularly, unlike the PSP operators. Unfortunately, it is on the basis of these obvious shortcomings and inefficiencies that LAWMA have issued outrageous charges, in most cases, for services they barely rendered.

The MSA condemns and opposes the corrupt and exploitative antics of LAWMA; while not being opposed to affordable payment for services rendered, we call on the masses to refuse to pay for corruption, inefficiency and services not rendered. Also condemnable is the threat to use the police to arrest residents who refuse to pay. We call on the working masses and poor to organize themselves and unite to resist these attacks and threat of arrest; we call for mass meetings of all residents in communities through their independent platforms across Lagos to discuss the implications of these attacks, to sensitize the public on what is at stake and what needs to be done.

        A Failure of Private Service Partnership [Psp]

Nothing more clearly demonstrates the failure of the PSP than the piles of dumps seen on major express roads, on major bus stops and on street corners in Lagos state and blocked drainages due primarily to weak and worn infrastructures and dumping of waste in gutters. A condition that has become major contributor to flooding in many communities in the state especially during the raining season.

Imposing exorbitant and outrageous charges on the masses at a time when the #30,000 naira minimum wage passed into law since 2018 and general wage level in the country have continued to stagnate, while inflation has gone up year on year by over 300% and cost of living by over 40%, where the working people and poor masses can barely feed is for us the height of insensitivity and man’s inhumanity to man.

And because it is run on a profit-first before service basis, these operators feel no scruples when deploying their unfortunately poor services to communities where they face least resistance to their manipulative and exploitative antics, deploying insufficient and rickety trucks while using casual or under-staffed labourers who are mostly underpaid and without any gratuity or terminal benefits. This is similar to what the Nigerian working masses and poor people have been forced to put up with since the electricity privatization in November 2013, with a generation of 4000 to 5000 megawatts of electricity, barely enough to serve less than 30% of a population of over 200 million people, Nigerians are being forced by the DISCOs to continue to pay outrageous charges for ‘’Darkness’’. The same practice haas now become fully in operation in waste disposal

Only Unity and Consistent Struggles of Working Masses can Guarantee Victory.

For this commercialisation policy, as well as other anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist policies, to be defeated, it will require that market women, youths, traders, artisans, workers and the poor masses in communities and workplaces must unite in a series of mass actions and struggles to confront the entire corrupt capitalist ruling system. with their own independent programme of a Socialist Alternative with the aim of taking over political power and reorganize society on a socialist basis where production and services to people will not be based on profit for a few corrupt elites as it is under capitalism but will be based on using the wealth of society to meet the needs of workers and the poor masses.

Elect Working Committees to Organise Mass Actions

We must call for a total non-payment of all outrageous abasement bills by LAWMA, fight and demand an efficient and affordable waste management system, for provision of waste disposal kits to each houses in every community and to fight against any threat to use the police to arrest persons who defaults in payment. To achieve this MSA is of the view that a Working Committee, democratically elected in each community should be set up to organise campaigns, resist imposition of outrageous, exploitative bills and demand for provision of waste disposal kits for each houses and resist any arrest or intimidation of residents. This committee should organise public meetings to discuss how to intensify the campaign of Non-Payment of the abasement bills, call for an End to PSP and for a crash programme to revitalise the ministry of works with government funding to procure adequate trucks and hire sufficient labour with a living wage and for a nationalised waste management system under workers and poor masses management to ultimately end the profit agenda of the system of capitalism which is responsible for the exploitation by PSP operators. We also extend our call and appeal for support and solidarity actions to the trade union movement to mobilise their forces through their parent body the NLC and TUC to call for an END to the PSP and to indiscriminate exploitation of the working masses.