Barring the unforeseen, the implementation of the harmonised Environmental law will start. BUNMI OGUNMODEDE writes on the dos and don’ts of the new environmental policy
WITH the Environmental Management and Protection Bill signed into Law by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the stage is set for the implementation of a new policy on the environment in the State of Aquatic Splendour.
The relevant ministries and agencies are bracing for the implementation of the law signed by the governor on March 1.
A source at the Ministry of the Environment told The Nation yesterday that the take-off date will soon be announced by the government.
After appending his signature, the governor expressed optimism that the law would go a long in securing the public health safety of residents, especially children. Ambode recalled how his administration, in its early days, decided to overhaul the state’s environmental, Waste management and handling practices and also to harmonise all existing environmental laws.
The governor said the sanitation law, as bequeathed to his administration, needed to be reworked in line with Lagos’ mega city status.
The law, when operational, will drive the adoption of innovative technology to tackle existing environmental problems in the state.
According to him, since the provisions of the inherited environmental laws were outdated and no longer applicable to modern-day realities, the government swung into action and came up with a model that would have sanitation as its centerpiece.
The governor said: “While charting a new direction, it became quickly apparent that the government on its own would struggle to bear the cost of wholesale changes while meeting its other obligations in other equally vital sectors.
“It was necessary to make investor-friendly laws that attract the type of capital we need to advance our development agenda and achieve our sustainability goals. We believe it is worth the risk involved in changing the legislative framework if the reward is a healthier and cleaner Lagos for our children – our future.”
Under the new dispensation – the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI), the commercial sector would be serviced by licensed as waste managers. A consortium of environmental service providers, among them some globally-acclaimed Waste Management companies, will provide waste collection, processing and disposal services for residential properties under a long-term concession arrangement.
The consortium will be expected to deploy a large multi-dimensional fleet of over 20 landfill and Transfer Loading Station (TLS) management vehicles, 590 rear-end loader compactors, 140 operational vehicles and about electronically-tracked 900,000-litre bins that would be monitored by Public Utilities Monitoring Assurance Unit (PUMAU) of the Environment Ministry.
“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,” Ambode said after signing the bill.
New role for KAI brigades
The new law mandates the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) to review and regulate all waste management activities within the state. It has also rebranded the sanitation police – Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) – and gave a new identity – Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LASECORPS).
According to the provision of the law, the agency will oversee the enforcement of ‘stringent’ penalties to be imposed on defaulters. The governor said that LASECORPS’s performance evaluations and remuneration will be tied to the number of actionable fines they issue for non-compliance with the law.
The agency will be saddled with the responsibility of monitoring and maintaining surveillance on the highways, streets, public drainages, canals, markets and parks. It will also have the primary role of ensuring that citizens fulfil their civic duty by paying the Public Utilities Levy (PUL). The PUL is a property-based charge payable by tenements for the management of solid and liquid waste, waste water and environmental intervention for the state.
It an annual charge that will take effect as the rollout commences will replace all service fees previously paid to the waste management authorities.
Zero tolerance for street trading
One of the highlights of the new law is the prohibition of street trading. It stated: “It is an offence to engage in street trading on the major highways and streets of Lagos and sell in an unapproved market in Lagos while every owner, tenant and occupier of any shop, kiosks, space or stall in any market within the state shall, on a regular basis, ensure the cleanliness of his space.”
To ensure sparkling streets and a dirt-free environment, commercial vehicles operating within the metropolis must carry litter bins to discourage indiscriminate dumping of waste from the vehicle.
The law states: “If the driver fails to provide the litter bin, the driver will also be penalized alongside the passenger or the occupier of the vehicle who commits the offence.”
War on illegal structures
The law has further empowered relevant government agencies to clampdown on all illegal structures. House and kiosks built on sewage systems and drainage alignments would be demolished.
The office of drainage services will henceforth approve boreholes and any other structure connected with water supply.
According to the governor, there would be no compromise on the application and implementation of the new policy.
He said: “Compliance is the key. The burden of the cost of providing these services will remain low if everyone does his or her part and pays the Public Utilities Levy (PUL).
“With the repositioned LASECORPS, we will work within the community to enforce the new laws. The state will have a zero-tolerance policy for offenders because disregarding payment of your PUL or flouting the new regulations ultimately promotes activities that lead to the loss of lives.”
“We have worked closely with the public in determining the rates and have succeeded in keeping this levy relatively low.”
Trust Fund coming
The PUL will be a major contribution to the state’s ongoing efforts at addressing severe challenges that are peculiar to Lagos because of its rising urbanisation. The money will be held in the Environmental Trust Fund (LSETF) being proposed and managed meticulously by a Board of independent Security Exchange Commission (SEC) regulated trustees.
The Trust Fund, which will be chaired by the Commissioner for the Environment, is aimed at promoting the development and sustenance of the state’s performance in managing its environment.
It will create a system that can attract funds from persons, organisations and authorities in tackling environmental issues. The trust fund will also promote the creation of job opportunities for the youth in waste management and waste recycling, among others
LASECORPS’s performance evaluations and remuneration will also be tied directly to the number of actionable fines they issue for non-compliance. The sanitation Corps will be supported by the PUMAU.
Defaulters of these laws will face stiff penalties, including payment of fines, ranging from N250, 000 to N5, 000,000 and/or imprisonment.
Ambode said: “The primary driver of the new bill and the initiatives that we have undertaken is not just cosmetic but to save lives. Therefore, we will unapologetically prosecute offender to the full extent of the law.
“We will make Chief Executive Officer (CEOs) accountable, from the very top to the bottom, and the law is very specific about the consequences of non-compliance.”
Toxic waste, smoke-emitting vehicles, generators banned
The harmonisation of the various environmental laws and the signing of the bill, the governor has secured the needed legal teeth to turn into reality his vision of ensuring that every resident’s access to a right to a clean, safe and healthy environment.
In the newly promulgated law, no person or group of persons shall dump over any toxic waste capable of causing harm in the state and all emissions from vehicles, plants and equipment including generating plants in residential, commercial and industrial areas within the state must mandatorily meet air emission standard.
Similarly, the new law will ensure that no manufacturing of chemicals, lubricants, petroleum products, gases, quarry, cement (except for those used in construction), takes place in a residential premise. The law prescribed that any manufacturer of such items will procure an insurance policy from an approved insurance company.
Also, under the law, every owner or occupier of a facility who uses, stores, keeps and maintains underground storage tanks and surface storage tanks shall register such tanks with the enforcing authority while a facility monitoring and inspection exercise shall be carried out on all sites with surface or underground tanks periodically to determine the integrity of the facility involved while the soil test of the immediate environment shall be carried out as required.