The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has commended the Federal Government for declaring a state of emergency in the water sector, but disagreed with the government position that private sector participation will reverse the sector’s woes.
Minister for Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, announced recently that the declaration of emergency in the water sector was an effort to address the current crisis and re-prioritise the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector for investment and revitalisation.
Unveiling a 13-year revitalisation strategy for the WASH sector, Adamu said there would be an 18 months emergency phase and five years recovery plan that would compel concrete actions to be taken by both Federal and State Governments under five components comprising governance, sustainability, funding, financing and monitoring and evaluation.
Global Water Intelligence, the private water industry trade journal, noted that Adamu declared he “wants to see much greater private sector participation to improve performance going forward.”
But ERA/FoEN, in a statement issued by its Head, Media & Campaigns, Philip Jakpor, said that proposals that put the private sector in the driver’s seat in fashioning solutions to water shortages across the country are built on “debunked theories” promoted by the World Bank and international organisations that see water only as a commodity and not as a human right.
ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “We are in total agreement that the water sector in Nigeria is in dire need of critical intervention. We however differ on the way forward because the crisis in the sector is as a result of faulty policies promoted by the World Bank Group and international agencies that were adopted by the government.
“Countries that experimented water privatisation in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) or other forms have started taking back their water from the privatisers. It is a story documented in Buenos Aires and Paris, and it is happening across Africa from Tanzania to Cameroon, Ghana and more recently, Gabon. It is Tsunami of remunicipalisation. It is therefore worrisome that Nigeria is not learning from these lessons of corporate water failures.”
He insisted that the pressure on the Nigerian government to finacilaise the water sector is coming from international finance institutions that continually create false narratives about so-called solutions that will only rake in more profits for multinationals at the expense of the larger population who will be presented with options of paying huge costs or getting cut off for not being able to.
On the way forward, the ERA/FoEN boss urged the government to shun all contracts designed by, involving, or influenced by corporate interests – including by the World Banks private arm, International Finance Corporation (IFC) which operates to maximise private profit – while integrating broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.
“Parliament should also pass a resolution declaring water as a human right with the obligation on the state to ensure access to all citizens irrespective of their ability to pay or not,” Oluwafemi insisted.