Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Incessant Market Closures by Lagos State are Unjustifiable

Privatisation of Solid Waste Management Responsible for Poor Sanitary Condition of Markets

By Gideon Adeyeni

DSM Ifako-Ijaye Branch

Recently, there have been incessant closures of markets by officials of Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) in partnership with Lagos Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offenses and Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC). This is following the order of the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab, over what has been described as “poor waste disposal practices, non-payment for waste disposal and general environmental sanitation infractions”. But the reasons adduced by the Lagos State Government are a smokescreen to cover up for the extortionist agenda of the leadership of the Ministry of Environment who obviously have failed in their oversight functions but forced the traders to part with undeclared huge sums of money before the markets are reopen.

As a consequence of the callous closure of the markets, the livelihood and living conditions of many traders, who have already been impoverished by the swift unleashing of anti-poor and anti-worker policies by the Tinubu and APC-led government such as the criminal hikes in petrol prices and devaluation of the Naira, have been excruciatingly worsened.

This action is reflective of the government casting the blame for its failure on the poor and working masses and of the government’s lack of dedication to the welfare of the people. As far as we are concerned the purported unsanitary environmental conditions are a product of inefficiency in waste management service, and therefore it is not correct to blame it on the poor masses, who are basically deprived of this service as a result of its privatization.

The inability of the traders to keep up with the demands of the environmental and waste management regulations and bodies as claimed by the respective government ministries and agencies simply exposes the illogicality of running an essential service like waste management in the hands of profiteers who are more concerned about profit than anything else. It is also evidence of the unworkability of the regulations which are too often made without due consultation with the people, and which only serves the profit interest of cronies of the government.

Besides, the leadership of these markets is imposed on the traders by the Lagos State Government through its self-serving top politicians. These imposed pro-state market leadership are useful in coercing traders to vote for the ruling party during elections and also allow anti-trader policies unchallenged.

A recent report by the World Bank ranks Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and India as the top three countries, accounting for nearly 50% globally, with people who are exposed to the most unsafe levels of pollution and environmental hazards. This further underscores an urgent need for the government to develop an efficient waste management system, which has to be publicly run together with democratic control, rather than placed in the hands of a few profiteers.

The fact that private waste management service providers find areas occupied by many poor and working people rather unprofitable is well established. They don’t care a hoot about the possibility of  such neglect leading to an epidemic in the areas.

By and large, the incessant closure of markets in the state following the unjustifiable claim that the environment is kept in unsanitary and unsafe conditions by the people is condemnable. We reiterate that the reported unsanitary conditions in these markets signify the inefficiency of the waste management system which is dominated by private interest. Therefore, the working people should demand that the waste management system, especially in the markets and other areas occupied by the poor and working people, should be publicly run, anchored on the premise of environmental justice and social equity rather than profits. Also importantly, the demand must also include democratically run public markets wherein the rank-and-file traders and elected representatives of the communities manage the markets in the best interest of the traders and the public.