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Friday, May 24, 2024

AUPCTRE, RDI, JAF blame management team for Lagos water crisis

The Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI) and the Joint Action Front (JAF) have called for a thorough probe of the successive management of the Lagos State Water Corporation (LWC) from 1999 till date to unravel the cause of poor water supply in the state.

Lagos Water Corporation
Lagos Water Corporation

The three organisations made the call even as they urged the Lagos State Government to immediately recall the 391 staff of the corporation disengaged allegedly on the grounds of redundancy on 15 April 2024.

In a joint media briefing held on Monday, May 6, 2024, they described the disengagement of the staff as illegal and insisted the action, coming barely four months after 450 contract workers were also booted out, is an escalation of a well-choreographed process which started more than ten years ago when the state government conceived plans to privatize water resources and services.

Reading the joint statement by the organisations, AUPCTRE National President, Comrade Benjamin Anthony, said that the action of the Tijani Muktar-led management breached Section 20 of Nigeria’s Labour Law which explicitly requires an employer to notify the trade union or workers’ representative of the reasons for and the extent of redundancy before terminating the employment of its staff on account of redundancy.

Comrade Anthony said that successive management imposed on the LWC by the Lagos State Government was responsible for the poor performance of the water corporation in the state, even as he listed some of the projects needing probe to include the sum of N4 billion voted for construction of Otta-Ikosi waterworks in 2007 yet it is not working, and N3 billion expended on the construction of an Independent Power Plant (IPP) for the waterworks in Adiyan in 2010 which also included an additional N180 million expended monthly on fueling.

Others are N897 million released by the Lagos State Government in 2018 for rehabilitation of Iju and Adiyan Waterworks even though they are still not working, as well as the sum of N789 million released by the Lagos State Government in 2018 for rehabilitation of mini and micro waterworks across Lagos.

They also alleged that, between 2022 and the present, a whopping N2.7 billion was voted by the Lagos State Government and expended on the rehabilitation of Ishasi waterworks supervised by Mr. Governor with no visible result.

The probe, according to the text, should be extended to the purchase of chemicals for year 2023 which was N950 million yet there was nothing to show in terms of water production that year; N315 million paid as 50% advance payment to contractor for the supply of liquid alum in October 2023 which is yet to be supplied; N1.2 billion voted for purchase of chemicals in 2024 and yet no production of water since the beginning of the year.

Others are the N9.5 million for repair of chemical store gate at Iju and Adiyan and another N7.3 million for construction of falling fence at Apapa waterworks.

In his intervention, AUPCTRE Lagos Chapter Secretary, Comrade Abiodun Bakare, said that there was no going back in the demand for the unconditional reinstatement of all disengaged staff of the LWC.

Comrade Abiodun said that the decision of the workers to press on with lawful actions to achieve their goals is being misconstrued as trouble making as he has been invited to meet with the Nigeria Police possibly to stop a planned march to the House of Assembly to intimate the lawmakers of their plight.

He said that the deaths of three of the disengaged staff within a period of one week is indicative of the trauma that most of them were passing through while those who were not laid off have to live with the fear of job security.

Taking a cue from him, Executive Director of RDI, Philip Jakpor, said that employment is a right in the same manner as access to water is even as he added that the LWC management sacked staff on unfounded grounds of redundancy at a time the staff strength of the corporation was just a mere 588 and needing more hands.

Jakpor said the entire exercise is a grand ploy to finally ram through water privatisation plans by the Lagos State Government and would be resisted by Lagosians through legitimate means.

His views were also amplified by Comrade Achike Chude of JAF who said the poor masses have had enough of being victims of the excesses of the thieving political class. He reiterated the commitment of organised labour and civil society to defeat the systematic march towards water privatisation.

On the way forward, the three organisations demanded the unconditional reinstatement of all disengaged staff of the LWC, probe of all the water contracts in Lagos since 1999, blacklisting of identified contractors and recouping of all monies diverted, halt to the ongoing privatization of water in Lagos and termination of all partnerships and any other collaboration that aims to foist water privatisation in Lagos.

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