Home » Articles, Columnists, Lagos, NNP Columnists, Philip Ikomi, State News » An Open Letter to the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Babatunde Fashola and Lagos State Legislators – By Dr. Philip A. Ikomi

An Open Letter to the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Babatunde Fashola and Lagos State Legislators – By Dr. Philip A. Ikomi

By Dr. Philip A. Ikomi | NNP | July 19, 2014 –

Your Excellency and Honorable Lawmakers:

I salute your hard work and diligence in the art of your exemplary executive rule and legislation respectively, in Lagos State. I lived in Lagos beginning in1967 when I was an Upper Sixth student at King’s College, Lagos, until I left in 1982 when I left for the United States for further studies from Nigeria Airways where I was a fleet captain and instrument rating examiner. Over the years, I have paid attention to what goes on in Lagos. I was elated shortly before I left when the governor of the day, His Excellency, Alhaji Lateef Jakande introduced among other novelties, parking meters in Lagos and the metropolis was witnessing rapid development in all spheres of life. I promised my American friend that I would invite him to Lagos when our country was even better than it was during those momentous days.

Little did I know that a few short months after, in December, 1983, a shrill voice on the radio would announce the arrival of the duo infantes terrible, Generals Mohammadu Buhari and Idiagbon. The duo as you probably recall turned the whole country of Nigeria into a barracks inhabited by the lowest level of soldiers in our military, the newly recruited men and women of the Army. They commanded all and sundry Nigerians to fall out in the sun and do manual labor cleaning and dusting our roads, culverts, and what have you, as if there were no workers whose duty it was to do such menial labors in our country. Unfortunately, this practice of getting everybody out on so called environmental days to do what amounts to a disservice to our economy and social life has continued unabated decades now since the duo introduced it in 1983.

It is unheard of that a whole country would stand still for no other reason than for the cleaning of the environment. All movements cease, including airplanes, motor vehicles of all types, even trains and pedestrian traffic are by law prohibited. This exercise is carried out in some states several times a month, and in Lagos it manifests several days a month including days of the week when it is observed for a few hours in the mornings. State officers or their proxies are out making sure that nobody violates it by moving around, going to the markets and selling any wares, traveling on our roads by public or private transportation or doing any kind of business outside one’s home during the period of “environmental.” Since we have now returned to a democratic dispensation it is high time we stopped robbing ourselves of the opportunity to improve on our lot by voting down this bad law that robs us of our productivity. Nigeria is somewhere at the bottom of the list in terms of gross domestic productivity. The gross domestic product of a country is the sum total of all economic activities engaged by all people, corporations, businesses and governments in a country. Countries are rated rich or poor based on their gross domestic product (GDP). Enforcement of “environmental” may be the reason our GDP is so low that we are rated among the poorest countries in the world.

When we cease activity on any day for only a few minutes, it diminishes the size of our output and we suffer a loss of productivity. This has recently been confirmed by no other than a minister in the present federal government Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, who said, in a BBC interview, that adjustment has been made in the estimated growth because of the reduction in domestic productivity from three states, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, under emergency rule due to the ravages of Boko Haram. For this reason, countries that have advanced economies do not grant holidays indiscriminately. What we have in these environmental days is granting undue holidays to all and sundry in the name of working to keep our environment healthy. I have no quarrel with keeping our environment healthy. We can still keep the environment healthy without constraining our businesses and all people to take an unearned holiday. Prior to Buhari and Idiagbon coming on stage and putting everybody to work on the streets, nobody thought that we were not doing a great job taking care of our environment. We can return to taking care of the environment the way we used to which was by having those whose duty it was, clean the environment while everybody else did their personal and private environments the way they wanted them. We also had public inspectors who dealt with persons whose private surroundings constituted eyesores and nuisance to the public good. Buhari and Idiagbon recognized that, but they wanted to be sensational about their work having taken over the reins of government, unauthorized, in a military coup d ‘etat that toppled an existing civilian government.

The country as a whole has suffered incalculable losses in gross domestic productivity for the past thirty years since this “environmental” decree has held sway in various forms throughout the country. Lagos State should lead the way by returning the state to the status quo ante by abolishing the so called environmental law that stipulates that certain days should be set aside for the enforcement of the law on all citizens of Lagos State. It makes no sense to restrict the free movement of people in a free and democratic country and in this case, to do what people would normally do without constraint. Traders and other low earners do not like it when they cannot go out and trade freely as soon as they wake up in the mornings and their shops have to remain locked for a better part of the day. This price is too much for a country to pay when we are at the bottom of the economic pile.

While one is on the topic of sanitation, it is pertinent to point out that a lot still has to be done with regard to the environment. In this regard, this writer has observed that the Lagos State government has employed street sweepers. It is quite disheartening to see the sweepers expending energy on the streets sweeping sand and dust from the streets while the gutters are clogged with dirt and decaying carcases of animals and stench. It would be far better and promote the health of residents of Lagos if the gutters are cleaned daily rather than the streets because the streets do not really need to be swept since the dynamism on the streets mean that litter do not remain on the streets but are swept away naturally with the speed of passing vehicles and end up in the gutters any way.

That is why sweepers end up with bags of sand stacked on road sides, rather than debris. The law setting up the sweepers’ functions should stipulate that they sweep or clean the gutters instead of the streets. When gutters are clean, mosquitoes and flies will not breed and transmit diseases and the citizens of the state will be healthier. However, with the present sweeping of the streets, there is no health benefit, just aesthetic outcome and showmanship that the streets are swept here just as in London or New York. Well, in those cities, there are no open drains. Nigerian cities should move away from open drains too but our modern Abuja has seen fit to have open drains side by side with the covered ones for who knows why?

The Lagos State ministry of the environment has some vehicles on which are written “Zero Tolerance” for noise and other pollutants. It is unclear what they mean by “Zero Tolerance” when, taking noise as an example, one hears a lot of noise all day long in the metropolis. This writer complained once about noise in the environment and was told that the officers of the ministry came to the noise polluter and told him to lower the volume of his noise to a certain level. Short of cutting it out entirely, this does not constitute “Zero tolerance.” By zero tolerance, this writer understands the absence of noise, not any level, in the environment. People who trade by singing or playing music loud in the public airspace do not have a right under the constitution to rob other individuals of the peace of the environment simply because they are trading.

They are not to disturb others in any way with their noise because one person’s music is another’s noise. If people want to buy a particular music piece they can still buy it without it being played to the annoyance of another person. Those who want to sell have to have a way of making the buyer hear the sound individually. Such persons can use ear phones. A barber does not have a right to deprive the public their right to a quiet environment because the barber wants to provide music to his or her clients. He/She would have to restrict his/her music to the shop environment, not outside that environment and constitute a disturbance in the public domain. Bars in the metropolis are in the habit of playing their music to whole streets well into the nights and early hours of the next day. This is no “Zero tolerance” either. One can only imagine the untold havoc such bars wreck on children in the neighborhoods in which they exist. Such bars would also be causing a lot of damage to the health of the adults in the area. Such noise usually would be treated by the human psyche as an anxiety provoking sensation. Unknown to a mother, her child could be hearing noise which the mother takes for granted and reacting to it by crying ceaselessly during the day or night. Children are more sensitive to noise than adults and noise is frightening to infants and toddlers, but in Lagos State, bars are allowed to play music as loud as they wish and openly in the public airspace for as long as all through the night. The government is apparently insensitive to citizens’ need for peace and quiet at night for greater productivity and health.

Thus one wonders what the ministry of the environment is set up for. I hope that His Excellency the Governor of Lagos State and his legislature would react speedily to correct the problems I have adumbrated here. I have written about these because I feel that their solution would lead to a much healthier environment for the people of the state. Imagine not hearing noise from danfo and taxi horns during the day, and not hearing noise from mosques, churches, and beer palours at night, and without “environmental!” Lagos would have arrived in the 21st Century.

Sincerely,

Philip A. Ikomi, Ph.D.
Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and Retired Airline Captain and Instrument Rating Examiner

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Posted by on Jul 19 2014. Filed under Articles, Columnists, Lagos, NNP Columnists, Philip Ikomi, State News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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