Essays / The Pontifical Papers


Several days ago, on a trip from the Lagos mainland to the Lekki peninsula, I saw a sprawling heap of trash by the Obalende junction. It seems absurd to call garbage ‘unkempt,’ but this one did look neglected. It was even more surprising that the waste oozed, spilled and piled around and out of several shiny trapezoid garbage bins. Printed on the sides of the bins were the words ‘CLEANER LAGOS,’ self-glorifying in unconscious irony.

I had been away from Lagos for most of 2017 and so did not know that the state’s waste management authority – LAWMA – had been downgraded (or upgraded, depending on your perspective) from providing waste disposal services to a purely regulatory role. Meanwhile, the state government had partnered with a foreign-owned company to handle LAWMA’s services. If newspaper reports are any guide, many Lagos residents do not think this a sensible policy.

Naturally, the state government has refused to admit misadventure. Instead, it has alleged sabotage and other humdrum rationalisations. Still, the entire scenario remains curious. Constitutionally, waste disposal is a primary function of the local governments. Not only has the Lagos government usurped the role (and pushed out small businesses in the process), it has also ultimately abdicated responsibility to big business.

This unnecessary ‘fix’ of the waste collection and disposal system is just one of the many instances of the growing Corporatocracy of Lagos state. The Otodo Gbame evictions sacrificed the people for estate developers. Similarly, Lekki toll sacrificed the people for corporate concessionaires. My personal grievance is with Freedom Park in Lagos Island: supposedly tax-funded and sheltering paying commercial tenants, yet it is anything but free to public access.

Economic classism is the underlying norm in Lagos policies.

It seems to me that the Lagos state authorities have finally lost their identity as a government and fully morphed into a corporate board of directors. The state is one huge market, and the government seems more concerned with maximising profit from market gaps than in providing functional public services and utilities.

There is something rotten in the state of Lagos. And it is not just the undisposed waste.

READ THE REST in the originally published article here in my monthly column for The Guardian.

Also, watch my interview on this and related issues with Sahara Reporters:

Follow @ayosogunro on twitter for more engagement, buy my books, and—if you really like stimulating, if sometimes annoying thoughts on socio-legal philosophy—enter your email in the right sidebar to get notifications of fresh talk on this fine blog.

Ever wondered about the class structure of Nigerian society? Read the mini-series on the Hierarchy of Nigerian Policy.


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