PRESS STATEMENT BY WestAfricaENRG ON THE AWARD AND TERMINATION OF ITS WASTE MANAGEMENT CONTRACT BY THE OYO STATE GOVERNMENT.

In his quarterly address to the people of Oyo State, held today Saturday, December 21st, 2019, the Governor of Oyo State, Engr. Seyi Makinde was reported to state amongst other things, that the waste management contract awarded to WestAfricaENRG “was not awarded correctly” and that our company was holding the government to ransom. The reports further quoted the Oyo State Governor as stating that WestAfricaENRG ‘settled’ those that awarded the contract and did not know the job by telling people to bring their waste to the roadside.

WestAfricaENRG wishes to state categorically and respectfully that His Excellency, the Governor of Oyo State was not correct in his statements and assertions on WestAfricaENRG and the state of waste management in the State during the period preceding his administration.

For the records, WestAfricaENRG is a UK registered company and as such its owners and agents are subject to the Bribery Act 2010, under UK Law. This law makes it a criminal offence for any person representing the company to bribe a foreign official. A law which is punishable with imprisonment in the UK. We therefore wish to place on record that No settlement was made to any person(s), politically or otherwise for our contract or at any time during its tenor.

WestAfricaENRG is an international company working throughout the ECOWAS region and more recently other parts of the continent of Africa. We work extensively with international Governments, aid agencies and have a cherished reputation for excellence, knowledge and community engagement in all aspects of the solid waste value chain. We work extensively with the UK government to attract investments into the Solid Waste Industry in Nigeria. Our reputation is something we cherish and will protect.

WestAfricaENRG is the largest private investor in the solid waste management sector in Nigeria; a fact with which we pride ourselves and will continue to hold on to dearly.

Whilst we know that any contractor serves any state at the pleasure of the Governor, and we accept that a Governor might want to appoint his own contractors to specific areas, it is not charitable and gubernatorial to slander any contractor to justify a bad decision.

As a responsible corporate citizen, we have never held the Oyo State Government and will never hold to ransom any government on any matter in the course of our business relationships. How can a servant lock up the masters house? As matter of fact, on our termination we did attempt to stick to the contract which enabled a handover process, and would have avoided the declaration of the “state of emergency” in solid waste in Ibadan, the only time in modern history such an action has been taken.

So why were we sacked? Firstly, lack of continuity in governance syndrome is a big issue in Nigeria. WestAfricaENRG has been caught in its web. Secondly, with a fresh and significant investment coming into the solid waste sector in Oyo State we would have ensured it was spent judiciously and transparently hence we were eliminated from the configuration.

There is no doubt much more needs to be done to create a sustainable solid waste management sector in Oyo State. To borrow the phrase “Mapo hall was not built in a day”, but our trajectory was the correct one, and certainly one which did not require a state of emergency.

Once again, we strongly recommend the publication of the Ad-Hoc Committee report received by His Excellency, Engr. Seyi Makinde on October 16th, 2019 which was a detailed report into our activities and those of the state government.

We wish the good people of Oyo State a healthy environment, and advice on the cessation of this propaganda from the Oyo State Government against WestAfricaENRG.

Signed

Paul O’Callaghan
CEO
WestAfricaENRG

We categorically deny any material breach of our contract

WestAfricaENRG make this unfortunate step to release this press statement in reply to the announcement of the Honourable Commissioner of Environment and Water resources that our contract with Oyo State Government has been terminated due to material breach.

We categorically deny any material breach of our contract and this is the first we have heard of any such matter. WestAfricaENRG is an international company working in waste management and recycling in countries throughout the ECOWAS region including many States across Nigeria, of all political persuasions.

WestAfricaENRG is among the largest private investors in the waste management sector across Nigeria. Since the political appointment of the Honourable Commissioner we have fought frustration and inaction within Oyo State.

We were correctly subjected to the contracts review committee from which no fault was found; latterly we were called to the ad-hoc committee on waste management presented and accepted by His Excellency Eng. Seyi Makinde on October 16th 2019, where the government was found amongst other matters to have failed in its enforcement efforts in all local governments of waste and street trading, the ad-hoc committee also found the politicisation of waste management to be a factor in the menace of solid waste in Ibadan specifically.

In fact, the only mention of WestAfricaENRG was to say that we have made “tremendous achievements in regards to cleaning the city”, from the immediate post-election challenges.

Stating that our company had not lived up to the expectations of the contract is a gross distraction of the truth, any PPP contract is as the name implies a partnership between Private and Public; it is the Government of Oyo State which will be found to be in significant material breach of the contract. Through the inaction of the Ministry of Environment have significantly failed the good people of Oyo State.

This move can only be described as a political move, and one which we believe will not serve the people of Oyo State well.

“Implementation? I only write long reports”

Despite all the ‘shenanigans’ in America now, if I published a report today (March 2nd 2017) on the economic condition in America, quoting the statistics of 2003, 2008 and based on discussion in 2015 I think we would all know it was irrelevant. Yet in Sub-Saharan Africa [SSA] it is common that such things happen, I have often said “bad data, leads to bad analysis, leads to bad decisions which leads to bad investments”

Despite world funding agencies being a platform of reference they often are staffed by consultants whom while knowledgeable are also required to prove their value, without having a real customer. I find it is often the case that they ‘arbitrage’ the knowledge gap and sensationalise the wrongs in Africa to paint a more glorious picture of the progress they make, frequently unjustifiably.

There is no doubt that Africa is in need of infrastructural assistance; I am certain if many of the countries hand not sold off their natural resources for a pittance and a promise, the West would be making plans for ‘regime change’ here too. Is Africa in need of western consultants justifying their day rates? Is Africa in need of funding institutions conducting ‘consultation workshops’ but not examining the findings? I think not.

In the days now of digital cameras, it is easy to capture and portray and image which is lasting and often forbearing on our minds, it is also easy to publish poorly research documents on a platform which portrays accuracy and rigour of research, but as we often hear nowadays we also live in an era of ‘fake news’. To me this era is becoming defined by not just a rush to be the first, but also to jump to a solution without full examination of the facts and without rigour of examination of those facts, perhaps this is the colonial mentality of “we know best” or a consultant’s rush to be the ‘saviour’ of problem.

I for one expect global funding agencies to be far more responsible in their publications, and be exact to the nature of the issues and not jump to a solution and certainly use accurate and timely data to justify their position.

I recently had the privilege to talk at a conference arranged by DAWN Commission, a non-political (if that’s possible in Nigeria) organisation set up to structure long term development for Western Nigeria. http://dawncommission.org/. The conference was on the development of open data for the region and its use in developing prosperity; it was arranged jointly by DAWN and DFID, and despite my initial reservation about the topic, the event proved to be a very enlightening and thought provoking couple days.

At the conference the problems of getting access to data in Nigeria was raised as a very significant challenge – often therefore people, agencies, NGO’s etc. resort to generating their own data, sometimes duplicating and frequently contradicting official sources. In some cases, collation can renew the data, and where rigour of data collection can be proven it often enriches decision making processes, but were the data is collected via desk studies and ‘projections’ (i.e. guesses) are overlaid and then wrapped with digital pictures and Microsoft graphs, users need to examine substance over form.

When I was in banking, which feels like a life time ago, we had what we called the weight test for reports, that is if you dropped it on a table did it make a ‘thud’. Despite pitch books or investment memorandums being hundreds of pages long, only the front four page executive summary was read. The weight test often gave the illusion of rigorous analysis, among the banking analyst is was simply a competition to prove who could fill the most amount of paper in the shortest period of time, often working 24 hours a day for days on a stretch for no other reason other than to prove levels of testosterone and coffee consumption.

In a situation such as SSA, where data is often already deficient, to have cause to question the motivation of those that publish reports, in addition to the validation of their data is a costly distraction from the problems faced from communities, government and business, what is more it cannot aid the process of problem solving.

As I write I am reminded of the early lessons of computing some 30 odd years ago, the qualities of data are; Completeness, Validity, Accuracy, Consistency, Availability, and Timeliness. One might have the platform to make the data available, it does not ensure the that the other five qualities are fulfilled.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, it is certainly a fact that any global agencies have a perspective and lessons learnt from other parts of the world which can be applied; but ultimately many of those such agencies are commercial agencies, one needs to remember that information come at a cost, and like all commercial banks they’ll lend you the money for you to buy that information. So the issues become, does the cost justify the benefit, well only time will tell, but time to date suggests it is not.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/implementation-i-only-write-long-reports-paul-o-callaghan

In God we trust, all others must bring data – W. Edwards Deming

Recently twitter and the like were abuzz with the warnings of catastrophic proportion in relation to air quality, World Health Organisation (WHO) produced some lovely artistic videos of the nearing apocalypse, (are you starting to detect my cynicism??) and political bodies of all persuasions started to raise up and army, equal only to that of the wildlings in size and cause….

Hang on a second, I am not a climate change denier and I am certain that the effects of mass urbanisation and desertification are causing very significant harm to our planet; historical anomalies in industrialisation and globalisation have meant that the distribution of growth is unequal and wealth is not evenly distributed, but a blog ain’t going to fix that, and let’s face it life is not fair to all either, and it would be boring if it were.

The #1 city for air pollution, according to the WHO Data  is in Nigeria – Onitsha, Anambra State, certainly a city with a lot of environmental problems, the facts were that Onitsha air quality was almost twice as bad and cities such as Beijing or Kabul which spring to mind when one thinks of air polluted cities, and air quality was more than 25 times worse than London.   But it only had 1 testing station, London has 50 and the data was from 2009!!! population density is 2.59x greater in Onitsha than in London.

Is this a good set of data to base any planning decisions, let alone generate publicity  about?

I am not in anyway proposing Onitsha is economically or developmentally equivalent to London.  I am simply trying to show that bad data will lead to bad decision.  Onitsha is like most SSA urban centres a magnet for rural workers looking for employment.  The speed of migration far exceeds any ability to undertake planning and public service development.

Development aid if granted, from my experience is predicated on grand master plans written by favoured consultants, often teleported in with boiler plate presentations of how it should be done contra to that is local consultants saying ‘this is xyz, that won’t work here’.

Solving the problem, is not just about cleaner fuel, disposing of garbage better or even growing more trees.  I have already seen three (3) presentation sent to me, quoting the WHO proposition that Onitsha is the worst polluted city in the world, just read the national news headlines; like a virus these headlines spread and actually cause panic and paralysis to governing institutions.

The problem will not be solved through bad data, leading to consultants bad proposals, leading to bad policy, leading to poorly designed investment proposals, leading to abandoned projects.

The hardest part of environmental management is getting it onto the political agenda, once it has sustained political backing it WILL BE resolved.  The case for environmental management is NOT saving the environment, it must be economic.  The time horizon for an environmental case is too long, the economic case fits within the political horizon of elections and campaigning; a better cleaner environment will lead to investment, leading to jobs, leading to wealth creation, leading to security, leading a cleaner environment.

Organisations such as the WHO, UNFCCC and other multi-national, and their national (quasi international) partners DiFID, AFD, USAID etc. have a duty to act responsibly, headline grabbing stories are just headline grabbing – they must stand up to scrutiny, even at a local levels which they often ignore.

As one local official put it to dismiss the WHO findings;

“We know pollution is very bad here. But this city must be much better than Lagos,”

Why we are partnering Oyo govt –WestAfricaENrg

The Oyo State government is doing all it can in ensuring that the state attains a reasonable level of cleanliness in all its environs.

This was proved recently with its partnership with the WestAfricaENRG Limited, in a programme aimed at starting an integrated waste process in Oyo State, especially in Ibadan, the state capital. The partnership came about from the idea of developing a material recovery facility in the state capital.

Speaking with Ecoscope, the CEO, WestAfricaENRG Limited, Paul O’Callaghan, noted that awareness programmes are ongoing both from the company, as well as the state government to educate people on good waste management activities.

“We met with the Oyo State government to talk about the idea of generating energy from waste and providing electricity for critical services such as schools and hospitals, among others. So we came up with a waste collection and awareness process to address the issue of waste disposal in the state,” he said.

Domestic solid waste disposal is one of the major environmental problems faced by many states in the country, as the quantity of waste disposal in many households has increased tremendously over the years. This is as a result of an upsurge in the population density, as well as the unavailability of conventional waste disposal methods to promptly clear thee waste, among other issues.

 

With various negative sides to inappropriate waste disposal, addressing people’s attitudes towards dumping of refuse in drainages and river channels is most timely with the rainy season gradually setting in, as this singular act subsequently result in flooding.

“Based on some history from what I understand, there was some serious flooding in Ibadan in the late 80s because people were filling their gutters with trash. So at that point, people were told to bring their waste to the road and the state will collect it. But now, that needs to be reversed. There is an ongoing awareness that addresses the idea of putting trash in the street; it is not good, and at the same time, people have to pay for their waste to be treated properly.

“So our role is basically establishing an environmental conscious Ibadan city,” he said.

According to him, skips will be reintroduced across strategic areas in the city and with enough awareness and enforcement, over time, people will realise that the step is actually for their own benefit.