Policy Process Discourses of the “Cleaner Lagos Initiatives” (CLI): Towards De-Coupling of the Marginalised Perspectives

Esv. Dr. Aminu G. Waziri, PhD, ANIVS, RSV, CSPM, FOSHA

Head, Department of Building, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Nigerian Army University, Biu, Borno State.



Apparently, the goals of sustainable development are designed for complementarities in the trio of environmental – economic – social dimensions. Part of the policy thrust is to ensure that no one is left behind while implementing one or more of these components. Pro – environmental practices and initiatives has been on the rise globally (Waziri et al., 2015). Developing countries are onsistently challenged on the circumstances surrounding the enablers and determinants of environmental protection policy process (Keeley and Scoones, 1999). The inefficiencies with environmental management strategies and systems especially on solid waste (Agunwamba, 1998), has consistently exposed most Nigerian cities to environmental pollution. This is because of widespread indiscriminate dumping of garbage on the streets (Sridhar et al., 2017). Lagos, which is Africa’s largest city, and Nigeria’s commercial center generates about 13,000 metric tons of solid waste per day (LAWMA, 2015). This figure is higher than that of New York City and about 3 times that of Ghana as a country (Ogunbiyi, 2018). The inefficiency of the prevailing waste management strategy and the exposure of the city to environmental pollution constrained Lagos State Government to devise a policy change on waste management.

The “Cleaner Lagos Initiative” (CLI) was conceived and launched in the last quarter of 2017 by the Lagos State Government as a modern solid waste management policy. The policy target was to make the city environmentally friendly, boost economic fortune and create job opportunities with a target to become Africa’s greenest city by the year 2025. The initiative was a government led policy with the involvement of Private Sector Participants (PSP’s) and covers all aspects of solid waste management. Waste management stakeholders workshop convened by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2006 recommended among others, the Integrated Waste Management (IWM) approach in collaboration with the private sector (Sridhar, et al. 2017). Notwithstanding, the policy incited a conflict arising from the marginalized perspectives of waste pickers, scavengers, field laborers’ emoluments and inordinate collection and disposal mechanism. This article explores the listed issues:

a. Is the CLI in conformity with sustainable development paradigm?

b. Are the CLI goals realisable through the existing policy framework?

c. What impacts for marginalised informal sector value chain?

To achieve these, a syntheses of policy process discourses, and the STEPS pathways approach be used to show how political power relations shape sustainable development policies. This article examines CLI with reference to the 3D’s of Direction, Diversity and Distribution.


Sesan, (2018) observes that, the CLI process neither consulted public nor sought the input of key waste management stakeholders and operators. It is a government led, linear top – bottom approach which came into effect through executive order. Though, CLI was primarily designed as an environmental sustainability policy, its focus pointed to three main directions:environmental sanity through Integrated Waste Management System (IWMS), economic prosperity through waste to wealth generation and social security in form of job creation, that all points to the policy direction of change. However, the policy eventually narrows mostly to economic gains which is not only inconsistent but negates the principles of plurality in sustainable development, by focusing on neo-classical economic agenda, placing high premium on economic return. It did not consider key industry players at its inception and did not allow for multi- perspectives direction that encompasses every interest as it should with the STEPS pathways. Direction for sustainability policy should be consistent, reliable and democratically designed for optimum and satisfactory outcome.


This implies a multi-dimensional but interrelated approach to sustainability (Stirling, 2007). In the context of CLI policy, diversity suggests that there are multiple approaches for the implementation of the policy that is able to moderate the complicity and intricate nature of the solid waste management approach. In contrast the diversity approach however, the core implementation of the CLI policy was left to the Private Sector Participants (PSP’s) and private firms. For instance, Visionscape was in charge of waste collection/disposal and the resuscitation and management of dumpsites in Lagos State while the Lagos State Government, through the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), were to regulate and enforce the policy and collects waste from public places respectively. This system makes the entire CLI initiative to be ‘locked-in’, thereby making it impossible for diverse pathways of multiple actors and strategies. This was evident by the non-inclusion of other form of sustainable waste processing guidelines such as reduce, reuse and recycle (3R’s) at source. In addition, the input of traditional waste management value chain at the dumpsites was excluded.

For example, multiple opportunities presented by waste in agrarian developing countries such as the utilization as local manure for crop production was not explored. It is well observed that, governments in the global south tend to pay limited attention to waste minimization resulting into all waste being evacuated to the dumpsites with an overwhelming increase in the cost of logistics (Jessica, 2015). Appreciating and integrating the diversity dimension approach on the CLI policy is important if key industry stakeholders are required to make input towards the realization of the policy objectives.

Distribution: This assesses the CLI using the lens of distribution, which promotes just and equitable arrangements and categorization of opportunities. The CLI has limited approach as conventional and informal sector were not fully and clearly integrated, thus exacerbating the tendencies for poverty and hunger among marginalized groups. The policy framework promoted inequality as the means of livelihood of more than 3000 families became threatened, which prompted protests seeking for redress by the affected groups. However, Stirling, (2010) contends that, any approach with a resultant effect of poverty as an outcome is difficult to manage. In the case under review, opportunities were not given to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who were hitherto part of the prior waste management for loan guarantees, as was issued to the few selected PSPs, hence edging them out of the business.

Assessment through Social, Technological and Environmental (STEPS) Pathways to Sustainability:

The STEPS pathway requires multi-dimensional approach to addressing sustainability issues. This includes cost-benefit-analysis, application of enhanced innovative technologies as well as socio- economic cohesion applicable within the context of CLI. Developing countries are consistently challenged on the circumstances surrounding the enablers and determinants of environmental protection policy process (Keeley and Scoones, 1999). These factors need to be clearly identified and explored, if meaningful waste management policies are to be realized. CLI policy has left key industry players either partially or completely displaced from their primary source of livelihood. Researchers across the globe appreciates the need for all-inclusive participation as a tool for sustainable waste management (Marello and Helwege 2014). The policy predicated on environmental concerns, and for political power to appease their subjects by making them to be seen as solution providers, as evident in the whole process.

The influence of the Federal Government on the policy is felt through the waste management stakeholders workshop convened in 2006 which recommended among others, the Integrated Waste Management (IWM) approach in collaboration with the private sector (Sridhar, et al. 2017). The CLI has limited the key operators of the IWM to Government and some PSPs without due recourse to the input of informal sectors with decades of experience in the waste management value chain. For instance, the activities of waste pickers, trucks drivers and scavengers on the dumpsite have impacted significantly unto the lives of their families. They depend on these activities to provide their basic necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing for their families and also send their children to school while meeting other social and economic needs. The policy which sought to displace these informal sector participants did not consider multiple and sustainable pathways to integrate these classes including access to funding.

Furthermore, the STEPS also suggests that government, through its various participating agencies should play the role of coordinator and regulator, relinquishing most of the implementation strategy to the private sectors. There is no clear sustainable road map on how jobs will be created and, how affected community will be carried along. This indicates the absence of the application of the social components of STEPS. The selection mechanism for PSP operators focus on technological and financial capabilities, techno- fixes, without regards to the roles of traditional norms and culture in the waste management value chain. It is worthy to note that, studies across disciplines have recognized the dynamic relationship between the environment and development. This relationship is complex in nature and can be contextually defined differently from what traditional bureaucratic policy processes uphold (Demeritt, et. al, 2011).

The Conflicts in CLI:

A careful assessment of the environmental justice Atlas (2019) indicates sustainability conflicts on the part of waste pickers and scavengers. These groups of stakeholders are identified as an integral part of secondary stakeholders in the waste management policy. Successful waste management depends largely on the input and involvement of stakeholders (Phong et al., 2018), irrespective of their categories. Sustainable environmental management policy should consider the interest of both policy receptors, implementers and the complete value chain. This participatory process is able to promote socio-economic harmony, reduce inequality, enhance synergies and avoid non “trade-offs” displacements.

Certainly, waste pickers and scavengers are left behind in the CLI policy. This is against the spirit of sustainable development guidelines, and results in the marginalization of critical stakeholders. This has resulted in unnecessary conflicts, as is the case of Lagos which has constrained other stakeholders including government to propose what we call “after thought” proposals that will likely not yielding desired outcome. This was after a protest march to the State House of Assembly by these marginalise informal sector under the auspices of Waste Recyclers Association of Nigeria

(WRAN), Scavengers Association of Nigeria (SAN) and National Association of Solid Waste Dealers of Nigeria (NASWDEN). Sesan (2018) reported that although the combined waste management value chain engaged over 10,000 workers prior to the implementation of the CLI, this figure has gradually declined to less than 2,700 after privatising the sector.

The policy tends to be a neoliberal capitalist, which has globally continued to threaten waste pickers livelihood, see for example (Hartmann, 2018) that has invariable derailed the true intents and meaning of sustainable development. The top bottom approach in the CLI policy has delivered less than expected, with tendencies for more conflicts from legitimacy of scope and jurisdiction between Lagos State and Local Governments Authorities, especially on accruals and sharing arrangements. Political power relations is required to strengthen the entire framings, given credence to diverse perspectives. The need for a framework and approach with a clearly defined pattern of democratic processes-participatory, open ended, bring us back to the notion that, sustainable development requires integration with political process in addition to knowledge and expertise to actualise.


Marello and Helwege (2014) observes that, waste management policy that integrates waste pickers has the propensity for creating jobs, promote pro-environmental practices and reduces public expenditure on landfills. Three years into the program concerns on the effectiveness of the CLI policy has continued to emerge at macro and micro levels doubting realization of the set goals. The elements of political power play that influences the interaction of human-society and environment, dictate path way to this policy in contrast to the 3D’s and STEPS doctrine that advocates for plural pathways. The article further concurs with (Mbah, et. al. 2019) on the emphasis for the need to integrate “informal” sector participants, explore diverse pathways for a pragmatic policy on sustainable solid waste management in Lagos State. A framework should anchor and allow equitable participation and therefore there is need to review CLI policy including prioritising outcomes and periodic evaluation on the implementations mechanism. An “afterthought” arrangement for an informal sector participant negates the principles of sustainable development. The assertion of Raina & Dey (2020) on the need for dogmatic policy promoters who understand the working matrix of public interactions for a definite policy framework is reinforced.

We submit that, CLI is state-centered, non-participatory, government-led linear approach, with inordinate direction, limited diversification and inappropriate distribution pattern. STEPS pathways have revealed the myopic view of government singular influence to initiate and promote the policy with a more neo-classical economic perspective. The necessity to conceptualize a reformatory and holistic sustainable development policy framework at all levels which promotes wellbeing is identified by Mortensen, et. al. (2016).

This paper therefore, present a preliminary conceptual framework for waste management policy in developing countries, on a simple but complex interaction of Government-Needs-Concerns- Systems relations as described in Figure 1.

The political power through government mechanism considers and integrates special sustainable development needs, within the purview of the concern stakeholders including professionals and knowledge-based expertise, provides holistic waste management approach in line with the set-out goals. Political power relations are a key catalyst in determining pathways to sustainable development. The need for multi-dimensional approach for a successful waste management policies, regulations and guidelines especially in developing countries were stressed by McAllister, (2015). Synthesising STEPS pathways with the 3D’s of Direction, Diversity and Distribution to assess the CLI policy constrained us to conceptualize a framework in Figure 1. Comprehensive application of the proposed framework facilitates de-coupling of those informal sector adjudged marginalized, hence reduce conflicts in the area of policy implementation for living no one behind.


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