In the last 4 months that Ibrahim Odumboni was made the new Managing Director of Lagos State Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, the agency has undergone visible reforms that have been felt in every corner of the state.
Ibrahim Odunbomi took over the mantle of leadership after the resignation of erstwhile Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin, and has been building on the existing structure with a clear vision to turn Lagos State waste to wealth
Ibrahim was the Executive Director (Business Development) in LAWMA, in which capacity he had been deeply involved in the rebirth of the Waste Management Conglomerate.
He said Odumboni’s appointment showed Mr. Governor’s confidence in his capabilities and demonstrated the administration’s commitment to quality service delivery, considering particularly Odumboni’s contributions to the growth of LAWMA as part of its management in his previous position.
His administration opened LAWMA Academy on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 and City People was there to cover the event. The MD also spoke to City People on the challenges and opportunities in investing in the process of creating wealth from Lagos waste.
What is your overall assessment of LAWMA in the last 4 months?
I think for me it’s a bit of psychoanalysis of what do Lagos and Nigeria need in terms of setting the pace for waste management. Different measures have been taken, but I realize that the foundation is very key. Inasmuch as we say, don’t put waste on the streets, don’t put waste in the drainages, we have to start by creating awareness. The key thing for us is to look at the education area. Although, we have started the awareness. We have seven ambassadors. We have launched our ambassadorship program on the 3rd of September,2020. And now we decided to launch the normal academic program. The reason for the LAWMA academic program is to ensure that the growth in education from the adolescent age, all till the age that you become an adult in waste management is covered. So from age 3 onwards we can teach them on the need to look after the environment. And ensure sustainability. Sustainability cannot thrive without dealing with the foundation. We can’t continue to maintain a house when the foundation is weak. So that’s why we’ve gotten back to the foundation.
What we have started here is not only the foundation for Lagos, its everywhere in Africa; Nigeria, and in sub-Saharan Africa generally. So that people can earn qualifications and make a living from an adequate understanding of waste management.
We have people that are stakeholders in the business, coming into the business with the limited knowledge of what it is about and then overtime becoming a growing concern. We want a situation where they can sustain themselves and generate wealth. So, its an avenue to engage yourself if you are interested in the business and knowledge of waste management vis-a-vis recycling, collection or disposal, you can come there, pick the required knowledge, with a lot of technological and financial support from our partners like Polaris Bank, Access Bank, Heritage Bank and co.
They will be able to give you all the needed business plan and the finances that you need. Whereas the educative partner in terms of knowledge like the University of Lagos, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Lagos State University and co, and we have other technology partners in the UK as well. They will be able to give you all the basic and intricate knowledge that you need. And LAWMA will give you the practical side. You’ll hear from the horse’s mouth on how we run all the departments from the field executives Our job is 24 hours a week. As I am sitting down here, somebody is doing my appraisal, as the appraisal is done on regular basis. So you just have to make sure that you don’t leave anything to chance. And the only way you can deliver is to understand what you are dealing with.
In LAWMA academy, if you have done your GCSE, you are waiting for JAMB result to get admission into the university, you can come and do an internship or short program here to prepare you for the future ahead. Or if you are a graduate and you are working on setting up your own business. All of us cannot work in the private sector or public sector, some of us have to be the entrepreneurs that grow this economy. Nigeria has to grow his economy and the only way you can do that is to look for ways to explore. You can come here and learn about waste management. Get to learn the modules and get involved in the big business of this world.
And also if you are a retiree, or about to retire, and you want something else you can do while you rest at home, you can come and invest your money in the waste management business. But don’t just buy trucks or assets, it’s not about that, you have to understand all the technicality and support required.
Also, we want different corporations, businesses, and organizations to send in their staff to come and to certification on waste management. We don’t want a situation where people are co-mingling, like American facilities where people are co-mingling. The pandemic period has taught us a lot of lessons and so we need to move on from there. Also in terms of certification, the big organizations all over Nigeria and the big banks can send their staff here. They get trained, they go back and then train others.
What we have also done with LAWMA academy is to take it beyond the classroom, it will also be online. You can access it through www.lawmaacademy.com or go to the LAWMA app, download it on play store or iOS. Go there and choose the one that is of interest to you, depending on what you want to learn. Some of the materials are free, you can download and read through. You can also get the premium, pay for it, do your assignment and course works to get the certification. If you pass it, you print the certificate for yourself when you are certified by our certificating partners. So, we are going seamlessly.
LAWMA is coming to every phone in your hands, it’s coming into your laptops and desktops, and we are making our educative sector seamless and easy to access. That’s why I said it is not restricted to Lagos, but across Nigeria.
The trainers, are they part of the LAWMA executive?
Most of the trainers we are using as you can see with professor Alo and co are renowned in the field of environmental services. Interestingly, between LAWMA and the Ministry of Environment, we have a lot of PhD holders in waste management. A lot of them. Everyone around us has a PhD. I won’t be surprised if I’m going in that direction as well.
So we have a lot of in house staff that knows the practical side of it..the Doctor Sanuth, Dr Tijani, Dr Lukman, we have a lot of them around that are in the academic side, but what you cannot beat is knowledge. Apart from the academic experience, we have staff that have spent over 30 years in the field, those that all they ever know is LAWMA, that we need to take as much from. For example, we have one of our first drivers in LAWMA. He’s here with us. He can tell all the experience from open trucks all the way down to the system that we are deploying today.
So, there is more room for development as we go along the way and there’s more to come in the future.
There’s no age limit to acceptance of students into the academy?
We are starting from age 3. We will soon be having some animations. You know nowadays you can see 18 months kids playing with phones already. So they will be able to access the animations when it is developed. And I will recommend you visit the LAMWA academy website, it’s really fantastic.
How did this work start for you?
I consider myself as an evolving person, I am evolving. Of course, I schooled in Nigeria, did my University in Nigeria. I did my Masters in the UK, then I trained myself in everything all over again. I trained myself in Leadership Management, so it doesn’t matter wherever you put me. I will still evolve. So if you tell me I will be doing this job, even involve in waste two years ago, I’d say it’s not possible. Like I remember how I used to joke with my kids. More like a daddy talk, when we go to the car wash, we always see the compactor. The guy that owns the compactor will come there and wash it. And every time I see that man, I’ll say to them, “if you don’t study, you’re going to be a bin man. So make sure you study very well, every time I threaten them with this bin man. Funnily today, I’m a bin man (laughs). And I think I am doing very well. So for me, I believe the knowledge of leadership that I have got from a youthful age till now is what makes me evolve. And most importantly like an investment banker, you need to evolve. Whatever we are doing, we put in our best.
So, I’m trying my best, I know I have been an MD since the 18th of May. But it’s not how long but how well. And I think there’s a lot of things we still need to do. Aside from the knowledge, there is a need for us to also do the awareness which is the focus of the ambassadorship program. And of course the rebranding mission. We want to be known like Coca-Cola. So anytime you see waste, you think LAWMA, even if its outside Lagos, wherever you set your eyes on waste, you think LAWMA.
We are also going to partner with some agencies to help them start their own. We have the executives of Kogi State. They came around, we show them around our facilities. We intend to also provide them with technical support and knowledge support for them to set up in Kogi State.
And also our PSP is helping Ondo set up their structure as well, we’re going to make sure that everyone is connected because you know people move from Lagos to all these places. So it’s very important that we spread this knowledge across to make our lives easier because if they know a very good culture from where they are coming from, they won’t come here and start doing what is not acceptable in Lagos. So, for me, I grow and I continue to grow. Like my management team, I tap knowledge a lot from them. I’m not scared to make mistakes and I’m not scared to correct myself. So, the biggest asset I have is people. And once you have that, the rest will be history.
How lucrative is the waste management business in Lagos state?
The Waste Management business is quite lucrative and there are different parts of it. Say, Solid waste management; you can talk about the general waste collection. We have the generation; that’s the household, we have the collection, then the disposal and treatment, which is landfill management. There’s value in all those chains, but you need to understand which one of it you’ll want to play in. it is not wise to just pick one and throw in your financial weight. You need knowledge, you need understanding. But there’s value in all of it.
For example, for investors that want to come to Lagos, will they need more investors? Lagos generates slightly more than the waste that New York generates. New York generates 12,000 metric tonnes of waste daily. And they have over 1,200 trucks that work and go to their dumpsites daily.
In Lagos, we have about 700 trucks, and from the reform, we have done in the past months, we have moved from about 320 trips per day to 710 trips per day in the last three months. But our target is 1000 trips per day, over the next 3 to six months, we will see a clear difference. But the main goal is to make 1500 trips per day. If we can achieve that, you don’t need to be told, Lagos State will be clean. If we can get 11,000 to 12,000 metric tonnes of waste on a daily basis, that’s a lot. So, we need investors. With the traffic in Lagos, all we need is a truck making just one trip per day and we are good to go. That’s where we need investors to come in. And when you come in, there’s value everywhere. The notion I want to change for waste management is the house of collection. Everybody wants to be in Ikoyi. V/I and Co, you have forgotten that there was a time Banana Island had only one person living in there, and now it’s grown. You can load your base in Ibeju Lekki, Alimosho, Ayobo, Badagry area that are developing. Development is everywhere.
So come into this business, wherever you are, there’s value in there. Grow that value and then you can remain in the business for a long time.
So in the waste management business, you can never record loss. The value is guaranteed. But how you manage the business determines how sustainable and how consistent you are.
If you now move away from there and go to recycling, there’s value in those plastics that you use and throw away. It can be used for different things. If you don’t do anything about them, 450 years from now, it will still be here. 2 to 3 generations will go and it will still be here. So it’s very important that we create a value chain for it, but where we need investors to come and invest is building plants to grind and reuse the plastics. Like I said during the program, we are adopting the adopt-a -in program. We are in talks with one of the biggest bin recycling companies in the world to come and build one of their factories in Nigeria. So they can use these waste plastics to make bins. We also have some guys that came here last week. They are using plastic waste to make paving stones. If we use it on our roads they will last longer than what we have now. So we need off-takers. At the moment we have just two off-takers. The two off-takers are exporting mainly to outside Nigeria, to China. And then they are using our own raw materials to better their economy. So it will be better for us to have investors who can invest in the business to be able to use some of these things. If you check this cushion I am sitting on, it’s made of plastics. It’s made by one of the off-takers. So, by the time we have many off-takers, the value for the pet bottles can go up, and the youths can take the job seriously.
What we are dealing with in plastic in Lagos is enormous. I’ll give you an example. In a lifetime of a man, we use 176 single used plastics a year. If you look at the population of Lagos, let’s say 20 million. So in a year, we’re going to use about 4billion plastics. Separation of waste from source is dealing with the new 4billion generated, what about that of 10 years ago? Or 20 years ago? We are talking about the 80billion plastics in our drainages and our dump sites, in our lagoons. And any plastic that is 50 years old is still as good as the one that I am generating now. It won’t decay, so we need to find a better way to harness them.
What’s the plan of LAWMA for Ikosi Area?
You see, every country in the world has gone through the development stage. Every country in the world has a dumpsite at a point in time. Even up till now, they have dumpsites in the UK and co, but Nigeria is a developing country. We are developing at a very fast pace. So what we have there, is a beginning. There was a beginning of LAWMA before me, but right now I am shaping the future. What this administration aims to achieve with the support of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is to have our first waste to energy plant. We can take some of the raw materials you see there and transform them into things that can be reused. There are a lot of things you can use waste to do. There is energy, and there are other values you can derive from it. So, there are a load of things you can do, but we need a lot of investors.