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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Activists accuse Lagos of being untruthful over water privatisation plans

A team of environmental justice non-governmental organisations opposed to the privatisation of water, the Our Water Our Right Coalition, has described as “extremely disturbing” the decision by the Lagos State Government to press ahead with its Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative in the water sector even with what seems to be an overwhelming public rejection of the idea and repeated denials on the government’s part.

Anti-water privatisation street protest

Responding to the defence of PPP by the Managing Director of the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC), Mumuni Badmus, during a recent live radio interview, the Our Water Our Right Coalition said Lagos citizens are disappointed and find it shocking that after forcing the state government to rescind perceived anti-people sections in the new Lagos environment law, officials were secretly trying to foist the PPP agenda on citizens.

The Coalition comprises the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Corporate Accountability International, Child Health Organisation, Centre for Energy and Environmental Sustainability, ClimateAid Initiative, Center for Dignity, and Peace and Development Project (PEDEP), Africa Women Water Sanitation and Hygiene Network (AWASHNET).

Badmus, an engineer, had during the interview on NigeriaInfo 99.3 FM said that the provision of 18,000 water meters for water users in Lekki and sights set already on Oworonshoki was part of a PPP arrangement between the Lagos State Government and the World Bank.

But, in a statement issued in Lagos on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, the Coalition said: “Not only is the revelation by the LWC disturbing, it means the Lagos government with the backing of the World Bank had all the time been fooling Lagos citizens and the entire world by denying there were deals to put the water infrastructure of the state in the hands of for-profit organisations, some with financial links to the World Bank.”

Deputy Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi, stated: “We rejected PPP in the water sector in our petitions and public protests that culminated in rallies against sections of the Lagos Environment Law. Again, we reject this and any PPP in the state.

“We are convinced that the state government is now using a system of gradualism to introduce PPP in the water sector. The introduction of water meters in the Lekki axis is just a first step. Now that the LWC has openly declared that the views of millions of people who freely rejected the PPP agenda do not count, we are more than determined to defend our right and make the Lagos government listen.”

Vicky Urenma, executive director of Child Health Organisation, said the Lagos government push for privatising was already driving women saddled with getting water to the edge as it had failed to integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.

She explained that the solution to the current water crisis rests within the parameters of upholding the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people.

Among a host of demands, the coalition also demanded the Lagos government:

  • Reject contracts designed by or involving the IFC, which profits from investments in private corporations
  • Prioritise water for the people by investing in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, which will create jobs, improve public health, and invigorate the Lagos economy.
  • Increase budgetary allocation to the water sector
  • Institute a Water Trust Fund that will expand public financing of the water sector.

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