The Lagos State House of Assembly is unhappy over a recent viral video showing some street sweepers engaged by the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), through some service providers, protesting the non-payment of their salaries. The lawmakers also expressed concern over the increasing rate at which COVID-19 pandemic is spreading, especially in the state. They made these known at the last two plenaries on Monday, July 6 and Thursday, July 9.
The two issues, which bothered the legislators, forced the Assembly to ask Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to take proactive measures to contain the pandemic from further spreading. The governor was also directed to investigate what led to the protest by the street sweepers.
The lawmakers were bothered by the sudden death of their colleague and Chairman, House Committee on Information, Strategy and Security, Hon. Tunde Buraimoh, who represented Kosofe Constituency 11. He passed away last Friday, reportedly due to coronavirus-related infection. The Assembly placed the figures of infected COVID-19 patients in Lagos alone at 11, 670 out of over 32,000 across the country. At the time of filing this report, the figure had risen to 12,711.The Assembly said it was imperative of the governor and stakeholders in the country to realise that the pandemic has gone beyond what government alone could handle without involving private medical providers.
The lawmakers therefore urged Sanwo-Olu to direct the state’s Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi to work in collaboration with the state chapter of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) to accredit more private hospitals to treat those infected with COVID-19.
The lawmaker representing Oshodi-Isolo Constituency 1, Hakeem Sokunle, in motion 23, 2020 entitled: ‘Need to allow private hospitals participate in the treatment of COVID-19 patients’, acknowledged as well as commended Governor Sanwo-Olu’s efforts in fighting the pandemic since it started over five months ago. He also commended him for having created over seven isolation centres for the treatment of infected patients. But Sokunle also lamented that despite all the efforts, the pandemic keeps spreading, with over 12,000 people contracting COVID-19 in the state. Sokunle added that private hospitals with the necessary facilities should join forces with government’s health workers to fight the pandemic.
According to him, “Most of the doctors treating the patients are being paid by the state government. NMA once warned their members over treatment of COVID-19 patients. We need to involve private hospitals so that they could support the state government and prevent another lockdown. If the government involves private doctors and members of the state chapter of NMA, and train them, it will be easy to handle.”
He then canvased that doctors in public hospitals should train doctors in private hospitals who would then be certified, adding, “After that, we should screen the hospitals and validate their equipment, certify them and accredit the hospitals. Such hospitals can now admit COVID-19 patients. The government has approved seven private laboratories so far on COVID-19. Once the laboratories start work, we will have a lot of patients hence the need for more hospitals. With this, we will avoid another lockdown to save the economy of the state. It will also encourage private practitioners to join us in the fight against COVID-19.”
The Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa also said it was important that NMA joins hands with government to reduce the spread of the disease. He said; “If we leave it to only doctors in government’s hospitals, the disease would spread further. It will spread more among people living in crowded houses and they are more than people living in flats and other self-contain buildings.”
Obasa further tasked the Sanwo-Olu-led government to call on the chairmen of councils to work with leaders of Community Development Associations (CDAs) across the state to ensure that people living in crowded houses were compelled to wear facemasks as well as those boarding public commercial buses.
Another lawmaker, who represents Eti Osa Constituency 1, Noheem Adams wondered why the virus keeps spreading everyday, just as he lamented that some people were yet to believe that the virus exists.
Other lawmakers, Abiodun Tobun (Epe 1), Lukmon Olumoh (Ajeromi/Ifelodun 1), Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti Osa 2), Mojisola Macaulay (Amuwo Odofin 1), Sola Solaja (Ikorodu 2), AbdulSobur Olayiwola (Mushin 11), Kehinde Joseph (Alimosho 2), Rotimi Abiru (Shomolu 11) and Bisi Yusuf (Alimosho 1) were also of the view that doctors in private hospitals must be trained and that the virus must not be handled with levity since it has entered community infection phase. The Assembly also emphasized the need to set up mobile courts to try those who refuse to use facemasks.
But while the Assembly showed concerns with the rapid rate at which the virus is spreading and its negative consequences on the economy and development, they also indicated that the executive has not been as proactive as the legislators would have expected. Doctors in government’s employment, whom the Assembly wants to train private medical practitioners and join forces to fight the pandemic, with the aim of reducing the spread, embarked on a three-day warning strike over poor remuneration on Monday.
In a joint statement signed by the Chairman of Medical Guild, Dr. Oluwajimi Sodipo and Secretary, Dr. Ismail Ajibowo, the aggrieved doctors said they had drawn the attention of the government to the fact that more than 200 medical doctors and members of the guild had been infected with COVID-19. Many of these doctors, they said, also infected their families with attendant short and long-term complications. They said the guild had also been at the forefront of advocating for priority testing for all healthcare workers and patients on admission in hospitals so as to upscale provision of safe medical services. They said their suggestions had largely been unheeded until the declaration of the strike action. The doctors also raised issues about their wages, salaries and emoluments, saying they were happy that Lagos State Government has now agreed that their federal counterparts in the same state earn much more than doctors working with Lagos State and that the situation had gone on for years without definite action from government to bridge the gap, among others.
But Sanwo-Olu, in response, urged the doctors to call off the strike on the grounds that his administration has done the needful.
A government official, however, said Obasa and his colleagues in the Assembly, who have advocated for more seriousness in the fight against the pandemic, should look into the issue of doctors strike and the points raised in the interest of the citizens of the state.
Street sweepers protests
The Assembly frowned at what it described as deliberate efforts orchestrated by some mischief-makers to rubbish Sanwo-Olu and his commitment to managing waste in the state. They recall the story of Visionscape, a private but foreign-owned waste management company. The lawmakers criticized the idea of dumping LAWMA, the state-owned agency created for the management of waste.
For more than a year, heaps of refuse began to resurface in the state after Visionscape failed to deliver until Sanwo-Olu took over and introduced proactive measures in that area. The Assembly said Sanwo-Olu must investigate those behind the viral video. This was contained in motion number 22 titled: ‘Need to Enhance Waste Management In Lagos State’ and moved by the lawmaker representing Surulere 1, Desmond Elliot, who said the Assembly resolved to commend the efforts of government on waste management, but stressed that the lawmakers condemned those behind the videos.
It tasked the governor to direct the Commissioners of Finance, Environment, Accountant General, State Treasury and the Acting Managing Director of LAWMA to expedite action on the payment of all outstanding allowances of the sweepers.
According to Elliot, “Governor Sanwo-Olu should direct his commissioners to also sensitize members of the public on the need to dispose their refuse properly and the importance of having waste bins in their respective houses, and mandate the Committee on the Environment to investigate the immediate and remote causes of these irregularities in LAWMA, with a view to finding a lasting solution to the matter.”
While stating that the House was mindful of modern technology, which the state could deployed to ensure a cleaner Lagos, he said the governor should mandate the Committee on the Environment to investigate the activities of LAWMA to make its job more effective.
Elliot noted that things were going on well with waste management before the COVID-19 crisis, and that with the pandemic, the state suffered a lot over Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). He was, however, not satisfied in that salaries of street sweepers were being delayed despite the risks the workers are exposed to, especially during the lockdown when they were on the streets carrying out their duties.
Obasa stated that there was need to address the issues raised by the staff of LAWMA. He said the sweepers were employed based on humanitarian grounds despite the alternative of using mechanized ways of removing refuse in the state. He condemned those behind the video, saying there were many ways of making their grievances known.
“The issue started during the break out of COVID-19 and everybody was affected,” he said. “Those behind the video should be brought to book. We should condemn those going to the media to embarrass the government. For those who played roles in the delay of the salaries of the sweepers, the committee should see how they could be held responsible.”
Meanwhile, President of OJB Foundation, Olaide John Bello (OJB), said that the time had come for the fight against Covid-19 to be taken more seriously. He decried the attitude of Nigerians toward the fight against Covid-19, saying, “It is rather disturbing that a good number of people still don’t believe in the existence of the virus ravaging countries of the world. It shows in our daily attitudes; for many nothing has changed. They still go about their lives as if nothing has been happening.”