By: Ebenezer Adeniyan
Ten years ago, Akure, the Ondo State capital, was widely considered as one of the cleanest State capitals in Nigeria. This was a product of the meticulous combination of effective waste management and urban renewal initiative of the government.
With the State government adding aesthetically pleasing bus stops, road dividers, beautiful roundabouts and mordern markets, Akure was fast becoming a model city.
New car parks were created, car sellers along major roads were relocated, Arakale Road was dualised, the heart of the city was getting a better breathing space that made it easier for street sweepers of the Ondo State Waste Management Authority to operate and keep the State capital clean.
The Waste Management model was becoming such a huge success that the State government considered engaging more private participants to extend the cleanliness from the heart of the city to the inner parts and other major towns in the State.
With the successful engagement of smaller private participants by the waste management authority, the State government extended the invitation to major private firms to help the State in managing its Waste to Weath initiative, with particular attention on the operation of the waste conversion site along Igbatoro Road in Akure.
Then, in 2015, came a private company called Zoom Lion Agency, which boasted of having the wherewithal to invest billiins of naira in the waste to wealth initiative, create jobs and generate huge resources for the government just by converting waste to useful materials such as plastics, fertilizers, etc.
“Under the arrangement, the firm (Zoom Lion Agency) would engage in picking, managing and recycling of over 80 per cent of the waste to create job opportunities as well as re-cycling of composed waste to organic fertilizers in the state.”
However, from that point in 2015 to the end of the Dr. Olusegun Mimiko administration in February 2017, the waste to wealth partnership with Zoom Lion Agency did not really take off but the government maintained its record of keeping the State clean.
When the administration of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, came on board in February 2017, it didn’t take long for that waste to wealth initiative to get his attention. The Governor had wanted to build on the waste management record of his predecessor.
In fact, within a couple of months, that same company that could not get the job done under Mimiko, had approached the Akeredolu admimistration. But this time around, Zoom Lion Agency had undergone a change of name to become ZL Global Alliance, once again telling the new administration how it would turn waste to unlimited wealth if engaged.
Thus, the old/abandoned contract signed by Zoom Lion Agency under the Mimiko administration was revised, repackaged and re-signed by the same company now known as ZL Global Alliance under the Akeredolu administration.
A LAND OF WASTE: HOW AKURE BECAME THE DIRTIEST STATE CAPITAL IN NIGERIA (2)
It was all pomp when the government of Ondo State signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ZL Global Alliance Ltd early 2018 to begin what was expected to revolutionise waste management in Ondo State. Safe to say the government, in encouraging private sector investment, bought into the too-good-to-be-true promises sold to it by the company.
With the arrangement, which was a reviewed version of the one that did not take off under Mimiko, the company was to spearhead what was to be a N7billion waste management project in Ondo State, which will provide between 5000 and 20000 direct and indirect employment opportunities for youths and generate additional revenue for the government.
Under the 5-year concession arrangement (which was drafted by the officials of the Ondo State Investment and Development Promotion Agency, ONDIPA), as signed with the company, the onfield activities of the Ondo State Waste Management Authority would now be handled by the company, which included public waste.
Some of the core features of the concession contract include:
- Establishment of a N7.12b Waste Management project.
- Effective clearing and disposal of public waste and coordination of PSPs for residential waste.
- Provision of between 5000 and 20000 jobs.
- Payment of N60m annual revenue to the State Government, at N5m per month.
- 20 percent share of annual profit made by the company to go to the State Government.
- Management of government’s fleet of equipment and introduction of new/modern equipment in waste management.
Speaking in an interview shortly after the take off of the contract, the Chairman/CEO of ZL Global Alliance Ltd, Mrs. Abiola Bashorun, said: “We are injecting N7 billion. …The overall employment in this contract is 20,000 youths. …The people of Ondo State will enjoy clean, safer and hygienic environment which will lead to healthy living.
“So, under our waste-to-wealth drive, we package waste with which materials are refurbished. We have one in Akure now and we are also building another one in Owo and Ondo towns. …Also, we will reuse domestic waste like eba, rice, garri and others, as we introduce our biogas from dustbin, which we will change to electric fertilizer, while the gas from that composition will create bio fertilizer.”
However, barely one year into the execution of the contract, the company became overwhelmed and struggled to keep up with the terms of the agreement. The inherited waste casual workers complained of not being paid, smaller private participants refused to operate under the company and public waste began to pile up in major parts of Akure, the State capital.
On September 28, 2019, one public commentator, Mr. Rotimi Ogunleye, wrote on the situation: “From the comments of the people in Akure, the waste management system needs to be reorganised, expanded and with increased monitoring. From what it is at the moment, it has not delivered on its intended mandate. The Waste Management experience could best be described as a failure.”
On December 21, 2019, members of the National Association of Ondo State Students (NAOSS) embarked on voluntary packing of the refuse along the popular Oba Adesida road in Akure. Other organisations soon followed in an attempt to savage the ugly situation. This came just as stakeholders called for urgent intervention from government.
Disturbed by the worrisome situation, rather than cancel its concession contract with ZL Global Alliance, the State government, in January 2021, set up a 7-man Committee “to tackle waste management and other related matters.” Members of the committee included a representative of ZL Global Alliance Ltd.
Among others, the Committee’s terms of reference included “To reform, revamp, restructure and review the present systems, structures and processes driving waste management service delivery in the State, with a view to, if necessary, making relevant adjustments to meet the aspirations of the present administration in the sector.”
In a swift response, members of the committee, after their inauguration, stormed Oba Adesida road and other major parts of Akure on a 3-day mop up operation. The operation saw the removal of dirts from roadsides and other spots hitherto filled with dirts and wastes.
However, a few months later, they system returned to ‘default setting’ and the piles of refuse began to emerge even after the new committee intervened and reviewed the concession arrangement with ZL Global Alliance. As reported in March this year in Punch newspaper, traders struggled to find hygienic environment on major markets and streets in Akure.
When the consession contract was reviewed in line with the demands of the company after complaining of facing many unexpected challenges, the responsibilities of the State government and the company were adjusted.
Under the new arrangement, rather than pay the State government monthly/annual revenue as stated in the initial arrangement, the government would now be paying the company on monthly basis for its public waste management.
A LAND OF WASTE: HOW AKURE BECAME THE DIRTIEST STATE CAPITAL IN NIGERIA (3)
After the terms of the concession contract between the Ondo State Government and ZL Global Alliance Ltd were reviewed, the government agreed to convert the company to a major PSP and carrier of public waste and start paying it a sum in the region of N30m (THIRTY MILLION NAIRA) every month for its public waste management.
This is a luxury of a privilege that was not extended to other smaller private participants (PSPs) who are to collect rates from residential waste. Unlike ZL Global Alliance Ltd that has access to government equipment, facilities and funds, the other PSPs have to use their own equipment and charge a regulated amount from residential building owners every month. They still have to pay annual fee to the government.
The fact that ZL Global Alliance Ltd collects huge amount of money from government every month while other PSPs have to struggle to remain in business without a bite of the apple, as most of the money they make goes to diesel for trucks and payment of workers, destabilised the waste management system.
In the last couple of years, some of the smaller PSPs have pulled out of the business, leaving people to push out more residential waste to public places for ZL Global Alliance Ltd to deal with. This led to many parts of Akure and major towns being underserviced.
It was gathered that when new operators applied to join the PSP scheme in the State, the State government had upgraded the requirements for granting of licence for operation and since such operators would not be paid by the government, they felt the investment was not worth it.
Meanwhile, on many occasions, officials of ZL Global Alliance Ltd were said to have blamed delay in monthly payment to the company by the government as part of the reasons public waste sometimes pile up for days before being evacuated. Leaving the waste unpacked, it was gathered, is often used to force the government into making payment.
Representatives of traders at Oja Oba in Akure and others were said to have told the government and the company to provide them with permanent waste trucks where they would be dumping their waste instead of dumping it by the side of the road for it to be evacuated. This request, they said, has not been answered by the company or the government.
The government has spent a lot of money on orientation to tell people to obey waste disposal laws in order to make the company’s job easier. However, the traders along Oba Adesida road said they are not being given the opportunity to obey those laws as the government or the company has refused to provide them where to dump their waste. The roadside, they said, becomes the only option when there are no provisions made by the government or the company.
This is just as hundreds of staff of the State Waste Management Authority have remained in the office with absolutely no work to do as majority of the budget of the Authority goes into funding of the concession contract. Shortage of fund, it was learnt, has made it difficult for them to carry out enforcement and monitoring duties.
CONCLUSION: MY TAKE
The waste management crisis in Ondo State today was a non-existent problem that arised from the decision of the government to concession the system. Under the public servant-run waste management system, Ondo State was one of the cleanest in the country.
The concession idea with the company was accepted by the government because of the promises made by the company to invest billions of naira into recycling, employ thousands of youth and make money for the government.
Buying into such good proposal was not a bad decision on the part of the government. However, what will be a bad decision on the part of the government is to refuse to change a system that has proved over the years to be unproductive.
Waste management should not be about cleaning the site when it’s dirty, it should be about not allowing the site to get dirty in the first instance. That’s why prevention is said to be better than cure.
Simply put, the current system is not working. It’s time for the government to amend its concession arrangement with ZL Global Alliance Ltd or cancel it and return the system to its old, effective status.