Nigeria: Groups kick against planned water privatisation policy

Representative of the Assembly Speaker addressing the civil society groups
Representative of the Assembly Speaker addressing the civil society groups

By Ugonma Cokey

Civil society, community-based groups and unionists in Lagos, Nigeria have petitioned the Lagos State House of Assembly, asking it to halt plans by the  State government to embark on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model of water privatisation in the state.

The groups – Environmental Rights Action, Public Services International (PSI), Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and representatives of Epe, Ikorodu, Ketu, Agege and Shomolu communities staged a protest march to the House of Assembly to deliver a petition to the Speaker.

In the petition titled PRIVATISATION IS NOT SOLUTION TO LAGOS WATER PROBLEM, presented to Segun Olulade of Epe Constituency 11, the representative of the speaker of the Lagos House of Assembly, the groups said they were deeply worried that the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC), with the support of the World Bank and private water corporations, had been pushing very hard for a PPP model of water privatization that has failed in other parts of the world.

The groups noted that despite the December 2015 pullout from the project by World Bank, the Lagos State government was still bent on pressing ahead with it. According to the group, failures in water PPP models have been recorded across the globe where, as part owner of water corporations that win PPP contracts, the World Bank has positioned itself to profit from this model.

The   group   insists  ”this   conflict   of   interest   drives   the   Bank’s   misleading marketing,   especially   its   promotion   of   key   “success   stories   “like   Manila, Nagpur, Paris, and Dar Es Salaam that have attempted to solve water crisis with PPPs that failed and have instead rolled back water privatisation and advanced down the road of remunicipalisation. ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi while speaking said

“We urge the Speaker and the entire members of the House to side with the people rather than promoters of privatization who put profits before the right to water which is upheld as a human right by the United Nations”

According   to   Comrade   Sani   Baba,   Sub-regional   secretary   of   PSI   said:  “PPP promoters in the water sector advance arguments that are tailored to dousing apprehension of workers towards the initiative but time and again, global experience shows that workers get laid off and rate hikes follow. The Lagos House of Assembly should reject this initiative because that is the path this PPP arrangement will follow.”

In the same vein, Comrade Abiodun Bakare, the state secretary, AUPCTRE said that   the  Lagos  state   government  must   as  a   matter  of   priority  ensure   adequate funding for the water sector.

“This administration must also investigate funding that was expended on  expansion of  water infrastructure by the  immediate past Group Managing Director of LSWC” he said. The groups asked the Speaker to take the lead in putting the people first.

Key demands

Among the key demands, the groups urged decision-makers to stop any form of water privatization in Lagos, including PPPs that are based on a model that has failed   to   uphold   the   human   right   to   water, locked   governments   in   long-term contracts,   enslaved   people   and   .prevented   cities   from   making   crucial   progress toward real solutions to water access challenges.

In   the   petition,   the   groups   urged   the   Speaker   to   use   his   good   office   to   lead Lagosians in developing real solutions that truly address people’s access to water from the prism of human rights. It urged the Speaker to ensure that the Lagos State Government reject all forms of water privatization and commodification, revise all water sector laws that promote’ PPP3, make adequate budgetary allocations to the water sector and fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government,representing the people.5. Integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.

Other demands include rejecting contracts designed by, involving, or influenced by the IFC, which operates to maximize private profit, disclosing all IFC   and   World   Bank   activity   and   discussions   with   Lagos government   officials   regarding   water,   including   formal   and   informal advisory roles,  building the political will to prioritize water for the people, therefore leading to a comprehensive plan that invests  in the water infrastructure necessary to provide   universal   water   access,   which   will   create   jobs,  improving   public health, and invigorating the Lagos economy.

Responding, Olulade assured the group that government would not take any decision that is anti- people.

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