July 14, 2024

Gbadegesin Drives Bold Initiatives at LAWMA

5 min read

Bolaji Israel

Lagos, the bustling metropolis of Nigeria, is home to over 20 million people. With such a massive population, managing waste and maintaining a hygienic environment become a daunting task. However, one man has risen to the challenge, not only making significant impacts in that regard but also creating excellent models for neighbouring states of the nation to emulate or replicate.

Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin, the visionary managing director/CEO of the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), has been a key force, spearheading innovative and bold ideas that are transforming the way the city handles its waste and sustains the environment, in line with multiple direct 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – clean water and sanitation (SDG 6); sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11); and responsible consumption and production (SDG 12).

As a cosmopolitan technocrat widely travelled across the globe, well equipped with world class education and quite conversant with how mega cities seamlessly coordinate waste and environment, Gbadegesin couldn’t have offered anything less.

On a broader level though, the overall environmental scope of the SDGs also covers natural resource management, climate change, water-related and marine issues, as well as biodiversity and ecosystem.

But LAWMA, within the ambit of its vision and mission focus, has given a good account of its stewardship under the guidance of successive leaders over the years, especially the current Governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu. Operating under the supervision of the state’s Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, it has with renewed commitment, fueled by the dynamic leadership of Mr. Tokubo Wahab, carved a niche for itself, as a lead agency for environmental concerns. This is propelled by Gbadegesin’s new thinking, leadership, grit and gravitas, and consolidating on the agency’s operation and growth, since its establishment in 1977,formerly as the Lagos State Refuse Disposal Board (LSRDB).

Over the years, the agency metamorphosed into the Lagos State Waste Disposal Board (LSWDB), due to added responsibilities for industrial-commercial waste collection and disposal, drain clearing and disposal of derelict and scrapped vehicles. And now, the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), backed by a 2006 law, which granted it powers to carry out activities outside Lagos State, as a consultant on waste management matters to other states of the federation. LAWMA has indeed evolved and properly guided to the right path, for optimal performance under its current leadership.

Dr. Gbadegesin, an environmental scientist and waste management expert, as the Managing Director/CEO, has continually injected fresh perspective and wealth of experience into the organisation. With over 20 years of cognate experience in development policy, he has led and supported various initiatives and projects that aim to improve the quality of life and environment.

Armed with a doctorate degree in Neuroscience from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Science degree with distinction from Howard University in Washington, DC, his strong academic background, public service experience and extensive practical knowledge, have been instrumental in driving sustainable waste management strategies in Lagos State.

Under his leadership, LAWMA has embarked on several ambitious initiatives, aimed at driving growth and sustainability in waste management. One such idea implemented under his guidance includes segregation and recycling programmes. Dr. Gbadegesin recognises the importance of waste segregation and recycling in reducing the environmental impact of waste. He has introduced comprehensive segregation and recycling programs across the state, encouraging residents and businesses to separate their waste into recyclable and non-recyclable categories. This initiative has not only reduced the volume of waste going to landfills, it has also created opportunities for recycling businesses and job creation.

Furthermore, public awareness and education on waste management has gained more traction under his leadership. To ensure the success of the waste management initiatives, the LAWMA boss prioritises public awareness, advocacy and education. The agency organises periodic workshops, seminars, and campaigns to educate the public about the importance of waste management and sustainable practices. By fostering a sense of responsibility and ownership among the citizens, he is creating a culture of sustainability in Lagos. He has also effectively used LAWMA Academy, the educational arm of the Authority, as a veritable tool to educate and orientate school children on best waste management practices. As part of the academy’s school advocacy drive, over 10,000 pupils across 55 primary schools in the state had been sensitised on proper waste management.

Enforcement efforts to deter unrepentant residents from unlawful practices such as dumping refuse in drainages and street littering as well as clearing shanties and pedestrian bridges of hoodlums, have also yielded tangible results. Since the enforcement against indiscriminate dumping began, over 500 environmental offenders had been arrested at various locations in the state, while 420 of them have been sentenced to community service by the magistrate’s court, serving as a deterrent to others. As part of this holistic enforcement campaign, various plazas and corporate entities have been shut for flagrant disregard of the state’s environmental laws. The ban on cart pushing across the metropolis has also been enforced, with arrest of recalcitrant cart-pushers and seizure of their carts.

Moreover, Dr. Gbadegesin understands the role of technology and innovation in modern waste management. Under his leadership, LAWMA has embraced cutting-edge technologies such as waste-to-energy systems, smart waste bins, and GPS tracking for waste collection vehicles. These technological approaches have improved efficiency, reduced costs, and minimized the environmental impact of waste management operations.

Recognising that waste management is a collective responsibility, Dr. Gbadegesin has also fostered collaborations and partnerships with various stakeholders, including government agencies, NGOs, and private enterprises. By leveraging these partnerships, LAWMA has been able to optimise resources, share knowledge and expertise, and develop innovative solutions to complex waste management challenges.

Under his watch, the agency has stepped up its state-wide operations to clear noticeable black spots across the cityscape, with about 106 of such spots cleared so far, and a sustainable system put in place to prevent a recurrence. The authority has also intensified operations to rid water bodies in the state of waste debris, through the activities of its Marine Waste Unit. The street sweeping scheme is also not left out, as the authority has continued to organise regular training for sanitation workers, ensuring they have the necessary skills to carry out their duty of keeping the environment clean. He also prioritised their welfare.

With a strong belief in the power of waste management as a tool for economic growth and poverty alleviation, LAWMA has implemented sweepers’ programmes to empower local communities and create employment opportunities in waste management. By training and employing local residents in waste collection, environmental cleaning, recycling, and related activities, LAWMA is not only addressing the waste management needs but also contributing to the socio-economic development of Lagos State.

In conclusion, Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin’s bold ideas and visionary approach have significantly impacted waste management policies and efforts in Lagos State and by extension, other states. Through his leadership, LAWMA has achieved remarkable progress in driving growth and sustainability. His emphasis on waste segregation, recycling, public awareness, technology adoption, collaboration, and job creation, has set a new standard for waste management practices across the country.

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