We’ll Ensure Cleaner, Greener Rivers – Adeogun

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Mr Ade Adeogun, Sole
Administrator of the Rivers State Waste Management Agency, a new agency created by law to succeed the Rivers State Environmental Sanitation Authority. In this interview, with the Chairman, The Tide Editorial Board, Dagogo Clinton, he spoke on why the new agency was created and what his administration is doing.
The Rivers State Environmental Sanitation Authority has just been changed to Rivers State Waste Management Agency, what has the transition been like?
You are aware that we used to be Rivers State Environmental Sanitation Authority and that’s what I met when I started working here and sometimes in early 2013, an executive bill was sent to the Rivers State House of Assembly proposing a change of nomenclature and then some measure of changes in the responsibilities from Sanitation Authority to Waste Management Agency. The Sanitation Authority was created in 1984 and it had this expansive range of activities and overtime, some of these activities have been taken over by other agencies. It used to be in charge of traffic management, they created TIMARIV, it used to be in charge of pollution and other matters, Ministry of Environment was created out of it, so you just find out that there was now a period of overlapping of responsibilities and conflict of interest. Unfortunately, when you have this conflict, it is the people of the state, the innocent business people in Rivers state that were suffering because they have to encounter people from different agencies, asking them to pay the same levy, the same rate. So the Waste Management Agency is specifically established to be able to focus on the core activity of sanitation which is managing waste, managing sanitary habit and making sure that the city of Port Harcourt and its environs remain very clean.
With the signing of the bill into law, can you give us an insight into what members of the public should expect?
The difference between the old and the new specifically is that, first, activities have been streamlined, we are no longer involved in omnibus activities and then we have become more professional and we are more focused than previously. In addition to that, we are delving more into being private sector driven, rather than just a social service agency, we are moving from being a social service into actually being a business. The whole idea is that over the next few years, we want a situation where government can exit completely from the sector and let it be driven by the private sector. So people will have to pay for the waste they generate, for the waste we manage for them and then we on our part we try as much as possible to see how we can convert part of the waste generated into wealth generating businesses.
The sanitary situation in Port Harcourt has improved greatly. What did you do?
A lot has changed, especially after we introduced a lot of reforms aimed at ensuring a cleaner and greener Port Harcourt city and its environs. One of the things we did upon assumption of duty was to look at the capacity of our service providers or refuse contractors. We defined service delivery parameters in line with global best practices. We eliminated usage of open trucks and specified minimum service delivery standard acceptable. This singular effort increased the number of compactors in Rivers state from less than 40 to close to 200. What this translated to was that we had capacity to simultaneously evacuate refuse from all our zones.
We have consistently provided avenues to improve the human capacity of all our service providers through trainings and knowledge sharing on how best to work. We have consistently evolved ways and means of overhauling our operations to meet day to day challenges. We were also able to restructure our own internal operations in such a manner to change the orientation of our workers towards efficient service delivery. This has greatly affected the way and manner even the workers see the sanitation authority.
In addition to these, companies that have been found wanting have been sanctioned, while those who couldn’t meet the service delivery benchmark were asked to leave.
Several workshops and seminars have also been organized to sensitize and inform all our service providers, civil servants and ad-hoc staff on the vision and mission of the present administration. This is to ensure that everybody is on the same page as far as keeping the state clean is concerned.
We have also created two new departments. The Public Affairs unit is saddled with the responsibility of moving from street to street, market to market, local government to local government sensitizing and informing members of the public on how best to manage their waste and proper disposal method, as well as the PRS department saddled with the responsibility of data collection and research.
We are not where we want to be but we have modestly shifted from where we were and looking forward to creating enormous impact that will ultimately lead to a new change of culture amongst the people.
You started a campaign on clean Port Harcourt. How would you assess its success?
We are gradually getting into the consciousness of the people. The aim of the campaign was to get the people to take responsibility for their actions as regards waste generation and disposal. I think we are beginning to see some results but we believe in that in the long run, people will see the need for proper management and disposal of wastes they generate.
The ESA under the last leadership marked some illegal structures for demolition. Why has the demolition not been done?
Well, upon assumption of duty, one of the first things  I did was to streamline the operations of the authority, to make it respond to its core function of waste evacuation and management.
The issue of demolition of illegal structures rests with Ministry of Urban Development which has the responsibility under the law to regulate urban development.
There was a time dis-used vehicles were removed from Port Harcourt streets. The problem still exists, is there anything your authority can do?
This was a project we embarked upon to add value to what we are doing. There are so many abandoned vehicles on the streets of Port Harcourt and its environs and we cannot be in all the places at the same time. We have largely concentrated our efforts at removing those that constitute immediate nuisance and those disturbing free flow of traffic. I can assure that we will continue to work within the limits of our capabilities.
Your Agency operates mainly in Port Harcourt and parts of Obio/Akpor. Is there any plan to reach out to other LGAs?
We actually operate in five local government areas. We operate in Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Oyigbo, Eleme and some parts of Ikwerre local government areas. Our efforts are concentrated in these areas for now, especially as they are the key entry points into the state. The funds required to cover the entire state are quite enormous and the government will not be able to bear it all alone.
Going forward, our plan is to begin to reduce the level of government expenditure and involvement in waste management. All over the world, waste management has become private sector driven with waste generators paying for the volume of waste they generate. In the long run, residents in the state will be made to pay for the refuse they generate. What we are doing for now is to lay the foundation upon which people can have trust in us in terms of efficiency and gradually be made to see reason why they should pay.
Would you say all your refuse contractors are meeting your expectation? What changes would you like to make in the nearest future?
I think the service providers as we call them have been trying to meet up with our roadmap to waste management in the state. A large majority of them have been up and running in terms of service delivery but we have had challenges with some, who we sanction as they default.
Do you think your agency is making enough enlightenment to make residents more responsive in the area of sensitization?
I think one area we have invested heavily in is in the area of sensitization and enlightenment. We created the Public Affairs department to liaise with stakeholders in the society. So far, they have been going round and doing just that. I have also held and met with various stakeholders, from welders to mechanics, market women and men to block moulders, landlords and tenants associations to transport workers’ union. This process has been ongoing and will continue to go on.
Also, we have live radio programmes on several stations in Port Harcourt, where we interact with members of the society and who in turn ask questions, make suggestions and comments on how best we can serve them. People are gradually partnering with us and we are beginning to see changes.
What is the level of cooperation between the ESA, RSEPA and the Ministry of Urban Development?
We are all governmental agencies and we collaborate as the occasion arises. Our ultimate desire is to see a cleaner and greener Rivers state where individuals and companies will have respect for the environment.
How can the public reach your office with reports on fraudulent officials, dirty neighbours and sanitary hazards?
Well, our office is always open to members of the public everyday of the week. Our office is located at Km 6, Ikwerre road, Mile 4. At any point in time, you will always have somebody around in the office. Also, we have two hotlines that are available every hour of the day, every week. The hotlines are 08138443873 and 08052905758.
Our website address is www.riwama.com, while our e-mail address is info@riwama.com. We are also available on facebook: www.facebook.com/cleanph and on twitter:@cleanph.

Adeogun
Adeogun