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.
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.