Everyone now knows that the widely touted #CleanLagos mantra which gained much ground in 2018 was just a PR ruse to give credence to the below par job the company has been doing since they took over the management of waste across Lagos. The CleanLagos hashtag trended across social media from the sheer effort of influencers; beautiful pictures littered electronic media eulogizing the good works which VisionScape had done in relatively short time of taking over waste management in the State of Excellence. Little did we know that most of the CleanLagos campaign was propaganda to cover up for the mess which the environment has become.
While people still largely vowed to keep Lagos clean and continue to be cleanliness champions in their respective environments, a lot of citizens already knew right then that there was no way that Visionscape would be able to replicate the effort and success of agencies, bodies or persons such as the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Private Sector Participants (PSP) operators and Dr. Ola Oresanya who designed the template which cleaned up Lagos years back. Unfortunately, the governor and the Lagos House of Assembly members enabled Visionscape takeover full management of waste in Lagos even with supporting legislation to back up the ruse.
So it was on another layer of shock that citizens received the revelation on Tuesday, 5th March, that the Lagos State government which had guaranteed the bond issued by Visionscape in 2018 had been defaulted. The fixed rate 5-year bond which was worth N27 billion and due 2022 at 17.5 percent was hugely subscribed when it launched in 2018. Incidentally, investors must have been moved to jump on the bond issuance because Lagos state was reported to have guaranteed it.
The information memorandum of the bond projected that the waste management company will utilize about N16.3 billion of the proceeds to acquire fleet for the transfer loading stations, strategic acquisitions and related infrastructure. Containers and other operational equipment were also to cost N3.13 billion while waste facilities upgrade and working capital were both estimated to gulp N2.58 billion and N2.5 billion respectively.
But the more intriguing fact is that these investors chose to rather blindly follow the lead of the Lagos state government guaranteeing their investment but ignored the tell-tale signs pointing to the incompetence and inexperience of the purported waste management outfit – evidently, they ignored doing thorough Due Diligence on Visionscape. According to an investigative report, and despite being registered in complex Trusts spread in locations such as London, Dubai and even Lagos, Visionscape had no prior industry experience and technical know-how with respect to the magnanimity of Lagos state waste management.
So it begs the question, who is out to benefit from this forceful foistering of Visionscape on the citizens of Lagos as their new waste managers? Who has skin in the game of deceiving the public to the tune of such bogus amounts?
Of course, the Lagos state government has distanced itself from any obligation concerning the bond. At a time when government at the federal and the state level depend largely on bonds of these types to fund infrastructure projects, it will take bringing down the heavens to convince investors to back newer projects henceforth. For such a matter that is so laid out plainly in public knowledge, for both Visionscape and the Lagos state government to keep shifting responsibility and passing the buck for the bond default is a setback to fiscal policy and responsibility. The fact that the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act too is not domesticated within Lagos also makes the finances, transactions and accountability of the government even more doubtable.
It is hoped that the incoming government, whoever takes up the mantle of leadership from the embattled Governor Akinwumi Ambode, will make urgent changes to government transparency while the citizens actively demand for accountability from public and elected official too.
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