Lukman Ajayi

One of the major preoccupations of Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, especially in his second tenure in office, is environmental renewal. Understandably, his government is challenged to invest heavily in the environment because of the status of Lagos as a coastal State that is greatly exposed to environmental abuse due to intense economic and social activities.

The government has been embarking on integrated mass enlightenment and social mobilization on the maintenance of a sanitary environment in the State.

Also, the government is taking a leading role in its approach to the climate change phenomenon through an integrated tree-planting drive across the state.

However, a lot still needs to be done, especially in terms of enforcement and enlightenment for the efforts of the government in regenerating the environment to achieve sustainable impact.

It is in this regard that one must commend the efforts of the Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC), popularly known as KAI, in its enforcement activities as well as advocacies. Under the leadership of Major Olaniyi Olatunbosun Cole (rtd.), the Agency has been at the forefront of re-orientating Lagos residents toward achieving a sustainable environment.

With the renewed efforts of LAGESC, there seems to be no hiding place for miscreants who indulge in activities inimical to achieving a sustainable environment in the State. Thanks to the renewed efforts of the Agency, some of these scoundrels, who are in the habit of converting public spaces into negative usages, no longer operate without restraint.   

Across the State, they are now being apprehended and dealt with in accordance to the spirit of the law. For instance, 17 miscreants were recently held by men and officers of LAGESC for converting pedestrian bridges into negative uses, thereby causing deliberate damage to the facility. They were subsequently convicted by a Lagos Magistrate Court sitting at Bolade-Oshodi, Lagos.

Reacting to the development, Major Olaniyi Cole (rtd) expressed delight, stressing that it would serve as a deterrent to others who chose to wilfully defy the State’s Criminal and Environmental Laws.

The ultimate goal is to stress the need for Lagosians to desist from street trading, and refrain from displaying wares for sale in traffic, on channels, setbacks, road verges, medians, and kerbs.

In continuation of its zero tolerance for environmental infractions, the Agency also apprehended and secured the prosecution of 27 miscreants for breach of peace and unlawful conversion of public property.

According to Major Cole (Rtd), the trial and eventual conviction of these individuals is a testament to the resolve of LAGESC to ensure that there is total compliance with environmental laws, particularly as it relates to pedestrians’ safety across major highways in Lagos.

Cole insisted that there would be no hiding place for miscreants fond of dispossessing pedestrians of their valuables as operatives of the Agency have been mandated to ensure voluntary compliance.

Reading the riot act against street trading and hawking, the KAI Marshal noted that there would be consequences for defaulters. He also advised residents to have a valid waste collection contract with an approved PSP operator to foster appropriate refuse disposal.

As part of ongoing efforts to keep miscreants out of vital public spaces, KAI recently conducted an enforcement operation to dislodge touts and criminal-minded elements constituting a nuisance on the Oshodi and Ikeja-Along pedestrian bridges.

It is part of efforts aimed at removing all human and environmental infractions that pose threats to the appropriate usage of vital public assets across the State. It demonstrates the resolve of the Agency to consolidate its ongoing enforcement.

Universally, behavioral change communication is a continuous thing. What is required to maintain a sane and friendly environment is not just about what the government is doing but also about the people’s attitude.

Lagos residents need to understand that the quality of our lives as human beings is substantially a reflection of the quality of the environment that we inhabit. Many still seem not to comprehend that the environment that we inhabit, like kola in Igbo culture, is life. Or how else can we explain the attitude of our people who persistently make their living abodes unsanitary and inhospitable environment? It is still common to see people throwing things out on the highways from their cars.

On our streets, stagnant gutters still occupy pride of place next to conveniently located food hawkers – all the easier for garbage disposal. Even some of the fanciest areas are not exempt – “pure water” sachets (which surely rank very high on the list of the most environmentally unfriendly products ever invented!), bottles, and unofficial garbage dumps circle the gated walls of posh homes and well-manicured lawns.

This dirty habit is not justifiable in a state where the government is doing so much on environmental sanitation. It is detrimental to our common good. Certainly, no one has ever died from walking around with a banana peel or pure water sachet in their pocket or car until it could conveniently be disposed of!

Despite efforts being put in place to sanitise the environment, some still prefer to continue to live in the past as they still get involved in actions capable of frustrating the government’s investment in the sector. In some houses, sceptics are channeled directly into the drain!

To redress the situation, the people need to change their attitude to the environment. It is whatever we give to the environment that it gives back to us. Community leaders, Traditional rulers, NGOs, and other stakeholders should work in partnership with the state government to ensure that current gains in the sector are sustained. It is only in doing this that the government’s massive investment in the environment would not be a waste.

Most cities of the world experience environmental abuse as a result of people’s ignorance toward ecological matters.It is, therefore, important that Lagosians support LAGESC in its drive toward environmental renewal by preserving trees, parks, gardens, lawns, and railings put in place across the State. They were provided with taxpayers’ money for the good of the people. They should not be abused. Parks should not be turned into marketplaces, toilets, refuse dumps, or places where animals graze.

With natural disasters occurring across the world, as a result of gross abuse of the environment, this is the time for everyone to rethink our attitude to the environment.  That we have not experienced monumental environmental tragedy should not be taken for granted as being immune from such.

Thus, we must take our destiny into our own hands and do all the needful to ward off avoidable natural calamities. Hence, there is a need for everyone to support LAGESC and other relevant agencies of the government in protecting the environment.

Ajayi is Head, Public Affairs and Advocacy Unit, LAGESC, Oshodi, Lagos.