Groups Take Anti-water Privatization Protest To Lagos Ministry..

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  • Lament State Running Waterworks Aground To Justify Need For Privatization
  • Lagos Waterworks Producing At 10% Of Total Installed Capacity — NLC Reveals

The Lagos State government has been asked to reject all forms of corporate control of water and privatisation of water services, including through the so-called “public-private partnerships,” with a call on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration to mobilise enough resources needed to address the infrastructural decay which had brought water production to record low at the public waterworks in a state of over 24 million people.

This much was said by Civil society and labour activist groups under the Our Water, Our Right movement. The movement includes Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), and the Joint Action Front (JAF), among others.

The groups made the call in a petition to the Lagos State Government through the Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Tunji Bello after a protest march to mark the commencement of the Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatisation which is billed for 11-15 October 2021.

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The week of action was convened by the Our Water Our Right Africa Coalition comprising labour and civil society groups from Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, among others.

The protest march which culminated in the delivery of the petition started at the Marwa Gardens with activists chanting solidarity songs and displaying placards with inscriptions such as “Water is not Deal”, “World Bank Stop Pushing Water Privatisation or PPP on Africa”, “World Bank, Take your hands off our water”, etc.

In a speech at the premises of the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, CAPPA Executive Director, Comrade Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “the decision to deliver this petition to the Lagos government is informed by the body language of the Lagos government which seems to favour privatization at a time that there is a growing Afro-wide resistance to privatization.

“The messge for us in Nigeria, in Lagos and other states is for us drop privatization or whatever guise and that the Federal Government and the National assembly should reject the National water bill.” CAPPA Executive Director told The New Diplomat. He also urged members of the National Assembly to disregard any back-door plan to reintroduce the controversial water bill that had been hitherto thrashed by the federal lawmakers.

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Lagos State Secretary of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Abiodun Bakare told The New Diplomat that water production at the public waterworks owned by the Lagos government has dropped to 10% of their combined installed capacity.

“If I’m to access the level of production at Lagos water works in terms of percentage, it is below 10%. I am saying it categorically, it is not interesting, it is not impressive.” Bakare said.

The New Diplomat had in the past exposed infrastructural decay and endemic corruption that had crippled the Lagos water sector for years, but the Lagos NLC Secretary said Lagos government has continued to watch as decaying facilities at the waterworks remain unattended to despite public outcry calling on government to take urgent action.

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“The Supply of water in Lagos state has not changed, infact it has reduced to beyond what we experienced at that time.” He added that the state government is currently pushing its water privatization agenda with no recourse to transparency.

“Presently, they have not really come out fully because we requested that they should give us the documents.. (for the water privatization plan) and up till now they have not given us. Infact, we wrote to them several times and we have not gotten any response. So, we understand that if the government is for the people, there is no reason why they will he hiding it. There is nothing transparent about it (the water privatization plan), that is why we are saying no,” Bakare added.

Vice Chair of Joint Action Front (JAF), Comrade Achike Chude said previous history had shown that oftentimes there are people in government who are always bent on running public infrastructures aground to justify the need for privatization.

“The effort of government has clearly shown the government has made up their mind to run that place down to justify their intention for privatization. We are seeing situation whereby government deliberately neglected  the sector. Last month, they called labour union in the sector, and discussed with them on the way to go about the privatization. They told them that they are going to handover the entire sector to private hands for efficiency.” Chude revealed.

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But in a petition delivered to the Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Tunji Bello, titled: AFRICA WEEK OF ACTION AGAINST WATER PRIVATISATION – UPHOLD HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER, the Our Water, Our Right movement, said they were worried that the “Lagos State Government is yet to present its blueprint on how to develop the water sector that will guarantee universal access to the people of Lagos and that comments from some government officials indicate that there is a fixation with the idea of water privatization and the Public Private Partnership (PPP).”

They noted that experiences from cities where water has been privatized show rates hike, job losses, low water quality, shut offs and ultimately government thrown into perpetual debts. Most of these cities have embraced remunicipalisation- another word for taking back water from privatizers and putting it where it should be -under public and democratic control. Buenos Aires, Berlin, Ghana, Gabon, Jakarta, Paris, Tanzania, and lately Cameroon are some examples to note.

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The demands made on the Lagos Government is that it “reject all forms of water privatization and fulfil its obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil the human right to water for all people by prioritizing robust public investment, ensuring meaningful public participation in water governance (with particular focus on the perspectives of those typically left out of decision-making, namely women, low-income, and rural communities), and enshrining the human right to water in law.

Other demands include “the state government respects and protects the livelihood of workers by ensuring safe working conditions, protection from retribution for raising complaints, and investment in salaries and pensions reflective of the public service these workers undertake every day.”

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The Our Water, Our Right movement also want the Lagos government to resist pressure from international financial institutions, private water corporations, and other financial actors to commercialize the water sector and, instead, ensure universal access to safe water regardless of the ability to pay.  To prevent a revolving door or conflict of interest, they want the state government to prohibit public officials from holding positions in the private water industry for 10 years preceding and after their tenure in the public sector.

The groups urged the Lagos government to adopt solutions to the Lagos water crisis within the public realm, adding that such solutions are found in the document – Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector, copies of which have been delivered to relevant key ministries and the Ministry of Environment office.

Signatories to the petition are CAPPA, AUPCTRE, JAF, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Child Health Organisation, the Africa Women Water Sanitation & Hygiene Network and Centre for Human and Socio-Economic Right.

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