• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Why KAI’s method is inappropriate in sanitising Lagos

Why KAI’s method is inappropriate in sanitising Lagos

… ‘You can’t achieve legality through illegality’

In their drive to sanitise Lagos and prevent people from running afoul of the law, officials of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC), formerly known as Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), have been deploying tactics that run contrary to their mandate.

KAI was established in November 2003 by the Lagos State government, with a collective objective of enhancing public health, maintaining environmental standards, and creating a conducive living environment for the residents of the state.

However, the law setting up the agency was consequently repealed and signed into law by former governor Akinwunmi Ambode on March 1, 2017, changing the name of the agency from KAI to LAGESC.

Though there was a change in name, the mandate and objective of the agency did not change, which was to support the overall policy of the state government in regards to its war against indiscipline across Lagos.

The agency, no doubt, plays a vital role in maintaining environmental and social order in Lagos State. However, the high-handedness that greeted the renewed drive of the state’s Ministry of Environment to discourage Lagosians from crossing major highways where there is a pedestrian bridge by the KAI officials has called for more reorientation on the part of the agency.

That an agency of government set up to enforce discipline and compliance with the state’s environmental laws to run afoul of the same law is a call for an overall societal rebirth. The agency in enforcing compliance is sadly putting a wedge on innocent Lagosians and luring them to fall into traps they were not supposed to fall into.

In its bid to arrest offenders who violate environmental and street trading laws, especially the ‘no crossing of the highway’ law; officials of KAI like other agencies of government in the state would rather lure unsuspecting Lagosians to cross the express for extortion purposes.

Many of the KAI officials prioritise punitive measures far above preventive in carrying out their primary mandate. While, the law empowers the agency to arrest offenders where and whenever they run afoul of the state’s environmental laws; it does not allow for tactics that contravene the law.

It would have even been better if those arrests were made for genuine offences and not what is being experienced in many parts of the mainland where pedestrians were lured to break the law by the same people who are meant to enforce the environmental laws.

Similarly, the fact that many of the arrests happen under the radar is also another reason for the state government through the state House of Assembly to revisit the mandate of the agency with clear guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for KAI.

Many people say the brigade officials are not disciplined in the way they go about their work and called for large-scale reform.

In recent times, many Lagosians have expressed concerns about extortion from brigade officials in their quest to generate revenue for the state government.

From encounters in various parts of Lagos, there are several people who have tales of woes, with many accusing the brigade officials of being overzealous.

“I agree we need that sort of agency to put us on track, especially knowing how Nigerians are, but it is apparently these guys could be overzealous and corrupt,” Lucy Onoh, a trader said.

Although evidence abounds of positive changes in the conduct of the citizenry and is noticeable in some parts of the state, there have also been complaints about deliberate efforts to extort money, especially from ignorant citizens in society who break the civil law of the state.

The brigade has come under heavy criticism for using brute force, the quest to arrest and extort money or to generate revenue for the Lagos State government.

In their quest to effect arrest, confiscate traders’ wares, and extort money many traders have been wounded, or chased into harm.

Wasiu Ogunwale, 30 years old, narrated how she almost lost her leg to an accident when KAI officials chased her toward an upcoming vehicle on Ikorodu road.

Ogunwale admitted to breaking the law by crossing the express road, but stated that the manner the KAI officials were carrying out their work was scary and dangerous.

“I was almost knocked down by a running vehicle on Ikorodu road, all of a sudden, I saw two men chasing me from nowhere and I was also running too not seeing the vehicle in front of me.

“I actually did not know they had stopped people from crossing the expressway in Lagos.

“I injured my leg and was still arrested, when we got their vehicle, they asked for N20,000 or else they would take me away to their office. After much pleading they took N5, 000 and released me.”

Similarly, in Cele, Oshodi-Apapa expressway, Micheal Paul, job-hunting fresh graduate, narrated how he had a bitter encounter with KIA officials recently after crossing the expressway without knowing they were standing around.

Paul said that he was taken into their black maria vehicle to be taken to their office, but was saved by a colleague, noting that it was apparent that the officials were only after money.

“I really do not know if they are after generating revenue for the state government or just for their pockets, because they would be hiding, suddenly they just come out from nowhere to arrest you.

“That is what they do across the state. It is sad, targeting ignorant people to make money out of them. That is what you see when an agency is set up and there is no due supervision”.

But many people have called on the Lagos government headed by Babajide Sanwo-Olu to sanitise the agency so it can redirect its focus to its primary objectives.

More complaints

For instance, many Lagosians have complained about how some KAI officials around the Oshodi-Along corridor, especially at Ladipo bus stop, lure pedestrians to cross the expressway rather than taking the advisory route of urging them to use the pedestrian bridge to prevent them from crossing the highway.

Also, KAI officials who are meant to enforce environmental laws along the Lagos-Badagry corridor themselves contribute to messing up the environment. In many instances, officials of the agency urinate in the open at Mile 2 and other places, and also turn a blind eye to traders who occupy the road and walkways to display their wares.

In other places, officials of KAI collect levies from roadside traders on a daily or weekly basis just as they do the same during the weekly Thursday’s environmental cleanup exercises where businesses get locked up for extortions.

While the state government and the ministry of environment are busy pushing forward initiatives to promote a cleaner Lagos; it’s high time the corps marshal of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps Agency (KAI), Olaniyi Olatunbosun Cole is called to order on the need to re-orientate his kick against indiscipline brigade.

It is commonplace that KAI officials require clear guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure consistency and fairness in carrying out their operations across Lagos.

Similarly, there is a need for the agency to revisit the internal disciplinary measures of the agency in developing a comprehensive handbook outlining their powers, responsibilities, and protocols.

Also, the corps marshal must regularly review and update the SOPs to reflect changing circumstances across the state, which will ultimately establish a clear chain of command and accountability among the men on the fields.

According to public commentators, KAI can minimise confusion, ensure transparency, and maintain public trust by having clear guidelines and SOPs. Similarly, it is said that the agency would require sufficient resources and funding to effectively carry out its functions.

Accordingly, it is said that the state must step up its investment in KAI by allocating sufficient funds for training, public awareness campaigns, and operations on the back of providing adequate personnel, vehicles, and equipment, to ensure timely maintenance and replacement of equipment and vehicles of the agency.

“By investing in KAI’s resources and funding, the Lagos state government can demonstrate its commitment to a cleaner, more disciplined environment,” Oke Araino, Lagos based media professional, told BusinessDay SUNDAY.

According to him, the Lagos state government must re-orientate the agency to make it fit for purpose as it used to be. He said further that Lagosians no longer regard the KAI officials because of their corrupt tendencies.

“You know how Lagos is; everything in Lagos is all about bribery and corruption, and most of these officials go as far as liaising with ‘Agberos’ to collect money from hawkers, sellers on the highway, on the streets of Lagos. That is why our markets are not clean, which is also the reason people do not make use of the pedestrian bridge because of the practices of KAI officials,” he said.

According to him, the KAI brigades are no longer as effective as they used to be on the streets of Lagos. He said many of the officials often look away rather than carry out their function. He said further that oftentimes in front of the KAI officials, people cross the highways and sell on the streets.

“Of recent, they just carried out a responsibility in Mile2; as I was passing through Mile2 the other day, I saw the Hausa boys fighting the KAI officials. Why would they fight KAI officials? Because of what they have indulged in.

“Some of these KAI officials go as far as collecting money from these people, and these people selling under the bridge in Mile2 pay lots of money to KAI officials; that is why they took it upon themselves to fight the officials. So, they do not have respect anymore because they indulge themselves into what they are not supposed to indulge themselves into,” Araino said.

However, Chinyere Okoroafor, told BusinessDay SUNDAY that it is very important for Lagosians to respect the state’s environmental laws, and urged the agency to bring to bear human-face in their enforcement drive.

“Because of the nature of how we are as Nigerians, the method in which they apply to catch offenders is okay; but then, there are also disadvantages. In the process to apprehend an offender, the official chasing the offender or the offender could get injured. In other cases, an aggressive offender could attack an official as reported recently,” she said.

However, it must be noted here that KAI’s success relies heavily on public cooperation. But, to achieve this, KAI should engage in extensive public awareness campaigns to educate citizens about the importance of environmental and street laws.

This can be done through various channels, including social media, radio, and television. By raising awareness, KAI can encourage citizens to take ownership of their environment and report violations, thereby increasing their effectiveness.

According to Araino, KAI officials require regular training and capacity building to effectively enforce laws. He said that the training should focus on areas such as conflict resolution, effective communication, and human rights. “By investing in their personnel, KAI can ensure that their officials are equipped to handle situations professionally and efficiently.”

Need for collaboration with other agencies

KAI’s efforts can be amplified by collaborating with other relevant agencies, such as the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA). By working together, these agencies can share resources, expertise, and intelligence, leading to more effective enforcement and a cleaner, safer Lagos.

Beyond the collaborative move with other agencies, there is also a need for the KAI brigade to leverage technology to enhance its enforcement and overall operations. Similarly, the agency should utilise drones for surveillance and monitoring, coupled with adopting data analytics to identify hotspots and optimise patrols, just as it considers implementing a mobile app for citizens to report violations.

Accordingly, by embracing technology, KAI can streamline its operations, increase efficiency, and respond promptly to violations. But, in responding promptly to violations, the agency must deepen community engagement and partnerships.

Therefore, KAI should engage with local communities and partner with stakeholders to develop tailored solutions for specific areas that prioritise collaborating with community leaders to identify and address local issues.

Similarly, KAI will have to ramp up partnership with private organisations to support clean-up initiatives at the grassroots levels, and the establishment of community-based programs to promote environmental awareness.

By fostering strong community relationships, the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps can build trust and encourage collective responsibility for a cleaner, more disciplined Lagos, where the overall mandate of the agency could be realised. Also, it is crucial for the Lagos state government to support the KAI brigade in their efforts and work together towards a better future for all citizens.

Although many Lagosians have commended KIA for the visible orderliness in some notorious locations in the state, like Oshodi, Mile 12, Mile2, Cele on Oshodi-Apapa expressway, Ikotun among several other parts of the state, but many have questioned the method used to achieved the progress.

It is not clear if money generated by KIA officials is accounted to the Lagos State government or it ends up in the pockets of the officials.