Cleaner Lagos? Ambode’s Flawed Visionscape Gamble Has Produced a Dirtier Lagos Instead

A new report has highlighted the lengths to which the Akinwunmi Ambode government went to secure the services of Visionscape to prosecute its Cleaner Lagos Initiative.

Nicholas Ibekwe, in a Premium Times investigation, documents that Visionscape was a previously unknown and inexperienced company before it was awarded the waste management responsibility by the Lagos state government in 2017.

With a population of over 20 million persons occupying 1,171 square kilometers, the density of people in the metropolis living and working at the intersections of markets, minor roads and residential areas, present a potential for large quantities of waste of domestic and commercial variants. The intractable management of these wastes has undergone various strategies, the employment of PSPs (private sector participants) being the latest move.

Ambode’s vision was that Visionscape will be the golden bullet that buries the waste management problem once and for all. According to the Premium Times investigation, the Governor was so confident about Visionscape that his meeting with the PSPs to intimate them of their dismissal only lasted 10 minutes and was largely “dismissive” of their questions. This he did without regard to the fact that the PSPs were making some progress in their waste collection duties even if they faced infrastructural deficits in terms of compactors and carts, as well proper road networks into inner communities.

The Governor also did not mind that this “foreign company” Visionscape, this being their first ever job as a waste management company (despite posing with Dubai, Johannesburg and Essex offices) would be kicking off at only 30% capacity and that it would still need the collaboration of the PSPs for the state to actually remain at its state of cleanliness, talk more become “cleaner”.

The consequence is that nearly everywhere one goes, from Shitta to Tejuosho, Obalende to Oshodi (there is a dump just across the road from Visionscape’s facility there) and in parts of the Island too, “Cleaner Lagos” anything but a reality. There is indeed a feeling that it is failing, along with the fear that the ubiquity of open dumps on many streets could lead to an epidemic. The rains are coming, meaning that every dump becomes a better breeding ground for rodents and vectors.

So why did the government award the waste management of a mega city to an inexperienced company?

According to the investigation, it’s the names behind the Visionscape, Adeniyi Makanjuola and Christoffel Ackerman, that we should follow. Both men are a favoured duo who happen to be involved in other businesses with the government including security surveillance, energy for the Lagos State Urban rail project and the 70MGD Adiyan Phase II Water Scheme. Hence, there is the suspicion that the tender that landed Visionscape the waste management gig may have been a fixed one.

Hiring a company without previous experience managing any city talk more one like Lagos based solely on the authority of its registrars hardly fits into Ambode’s claimed motivation for restructuring previous waste collection and management practices into the new Environmental Management and Protection Law. It has not achieved what it aimed at: “protect the environment, human health and social living standards of Lagos State residents” according to mission statement on the Cleaner Lagos Initiative website. Visionscape’s allegations of sabotage against it by PSPs may not be totally dismissed but its failures so far are much the consequence of its lack of capacity as also from the lack of competition in the sector. With the full support of the state making it a monopoly in the business but significantly lacking capacity, it is the people of Lagos who are at the receiving end, with dirtier streets than were promised them.

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