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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Campaigners seek clarification on water privatisation from Lagos

Akinbode Oluwafemi, deputy executive director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), in statement during a media briefing in Lagos on Thursday, June 7, 2018, attempts to alert Lagosians on seemingly conflicting reports regarding private sector related water projects allegedly undertaken by the state government

Lagos water privatisation
L-R: Activist, Ayodele Akele; Akinbode Oluwafemi of ERA/FoEN; and Taiwo Opaleye, chair of Lagos chapter of Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), at the briefing

On Wednesday, May 9, 2018 when the World Bank team visited Governor Ambode, the governor was said to have remarked that the various budget support initiatives of the bank in the water sector in Lagos had supposedly resulted in “stronger ties with the institution” and urged the bank to plough more funds into water and other key projects in the state.

At the time we had cautioned that the Ambode administration continues to present Lagos as a state ready for any form of private investment with water being one of the sectors it is pushing for so-called investors to take control of.

Our fears that something was in the offing was confirmed on May 15, barely a week after that visit, when Global Water Intelligence magazine – a high value business information for the water industry – disclosed that multiple PPP projects are in the works for Lagos, some moving quickly.

Surprisingly, no such disclosure was on the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) website as we speak. Some of the identified projects – Adiyan II, Igbonla, Yewa I, Odomola II, Ibeshe I, Ibeshe II and Yewa II – have project lengths of up to 35 years were only updated on GWI water tracker a week after the World Bank execs visit and Engr. Mumuni Badmus, the helmsman of the LWC, is personally listed as the contact person for the project listing on GWI.

Lagos State has a target of 745 million gallons per day water treatment capacity by 2020. We are worried that if these PPP projects should move forward it will translate to private control of a gripping 57% of the entire Lagos water system target capacity.


Corruption and lack of transparency intertwined?

With the GWI revelations, the Lagos State Government has awarded the Igbonla project to   Brio Resources Technologies and ACUAMED. The project, ironically, is listed as a water treatment plant in GWI but described as a desalination plant by Brio Resources Technologies.

In addition, Brio Resources Technologies is also claiming that they are in “Ongoing PPP Development with the Lagos Water Corporation” on the Odomola II project, with Acuamed and a corporation called Tramasa (also Spanish) as the technical partners.

Brio says that this Odomola II project is for a 25 year concession to build a desalination plant, at an estimated cost of $288 million. Brio says it is a desalination plant and GWI says it is a water treatment plant. What this shows is a lack of transparency from the LWC management on these projects. This conflicting information, plus the fact that Acuamed is under investigation over allegations of corruption by the Spanish government and the European Union’s European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), should cause Lagosians to worry. Several executives of the company were arrested in 2016 in relation to the allegations. In April 2017, the Spanish parliament called for reform and eventual replacement of Acuamed following the scandal.

The EU’s OLAF launched a case to coordinate with Spanish investigators because of the alleged use of EU funds in the alleged corruption scandal.


Visionscape Again

Many here are now conversant with the drama over refuse management. Our own Lagos is now home of filth. But here comes the real bad news! Among the list of companies handpicked by the Lagos government to manage Adiyan II, which is anticipated to deliver millions of gallons of water to residents when it becomes operational, the name Visionscape has popped up again.  In GWI the Adiyan II project is listed “to be awarded June/July 2018. This is strange to us.

The consortium of Visionscape Water Solutions Limited/Metito is listed among other consortiums of shortlisted firms for PPP. Others are AG Gold Trust Nigeria Limited, Vision Scape Water Solutions Limited/Metito, Veolia/Shoreline Group and Abegoa and Naston & Partners.

As must have been observed, the waste management sector was practically handed over to Visionscape in 2017 when the Lagos government paved the way for the company to take over waste management under a PPP arrangement after it introduced a bill that merged all waste management agencies in the state into one.

Nearly one year into its operations, the streets of Lagos are replete with uncollected waste littering major roads and front of residences in inner streets. Most residents have been on an endless wait for their refuse to be evacuated, to no avail. The situation has equally sparked fears of a major epidemic if nothing is done soonest.

The prospects of a Metito-Visionscape consortium to manage Adiyan II are very bleak. The Our Water Our Right Coalition will not relent in the use of all legitimate means to demand that our water remain within public and democratic control.


The TRUTH is what Lagosians want

The corruption ties and conflicting statements above have bolstered our demand for absolute transparency from the government on these projects. The Our Water Our Right Coalition uses this medium to ask Governor Ambode to now come out in public and inform Lagos citizens his plans for the Lagos water sector.

We are demanding:

  • Full disclosure of its PPP projects in the water sector and a halt to the projects
  • Disclosure of all IFC and World Bank activity and discussions with Lagos government officials regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.
  • Broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water and the need for the state government to hearken to our demands that it uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people.
  • The Lagos government builds the political will to prioritise water for the people, through a comprehensive plan that invests public funds in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, which will create jobs, improve public health, and invigorate the Lagos economy.

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