The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has expressed worry over the water scarcity in Lagos communities and cautioned that if the situation is not speedily addressed residents might become susceptible to water borne diseases and hamper efforts at combating the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CAPPA raised the alarm following a radio interview by the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) Group Managing Director, Badmus Muminu, on Traffic FM 96.1 where he blamed water shortage in Lagos on customers allegedly breaking water pipes. The interview was aired to coincide with the second anniversary of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration.
In the last three months Lagos residents have been lamenting the water shortages and supposed abysmal performance of the waterworks in the state. In April and May, the two major water works in Lagos – Adiyan and Iju – reportedly did not produce up to 10% of their installed capacity.
Investigations by CAPPA revealed that power outage in the Adiyan waterworks was caused by fault on a feeder line and the plant is now limited to one raw water pump. At Iju, the silt and sludge treatment plant require maintenance which has not been carried out.
In a statement issued in Lagos, CAPPA described the allegation against Lagos residents by Muminu was untrue, even as it added that fact finding visits by CAPPA to a host of waterworks across the state showed @deliberate and unacceptable@ abdication of responsibility by the state government.
CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “It is disheartening and very disturbing that rather than lay the blame of the acute water shortage in Lagos on mis-prioritisation by the Lagos government, the helmsman of the Lagos Water Corporation who should know better blames it on the victims. It is double jeopardy.”
Oluwafemi pointed out that the state government is yet to acknowledge and act on two reports that CAPPA presented to it. The reports are “How Acute Water Shortage May Jeopardise the Fight Against COVID-19” published in 2020 and “Nearly One Year After, Water Shortages Still Persist in Lagos” published in March 2021.
“Both reports showed the deplorable state of all the waterworks in the state that have been overtaken with weeds and turned to ad-hoc car parking spaces,” Oluwafemi stated, revealing that the lack of public water particularly in the poor communities is already creating apprehension among the Lagosians who fear that in their struggle to look for water for domestic and daily use, they may be susceptible to contracting the coronavirus.
On the way forward, Oluwafemi said that it is time for the government to shift its gaze from the Public Private Partnership (PPP) and other privatisation arrangements proposed by the World Bank and other International financial institutions in addressing the Lagos water crisis.
“Two years into Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration we urge him to present a blueprint on how he is going to resolve the state’s water crisis. Instead of shirking its responsibility, the Lagos government should consult and involve citizens in ensuring that public water works in Lagos. Further delay will only set a chain of negative impacts that no one desires,” Oluwafemi stressed.
Some community members spoken to by CAPPA shared their experiences.
Samuel Deborah, U-Turn, Abule -Ebga, said: “We do not have public water. No single waterworks is in this entire axis. I have children. If I have N200, I use N150 to fetch water from it and that is not enough. I still need to eat. I usually buy a bucket of water of N50, and we can fetch up to 200 buckets in a day. Because I could not afford to continue patronise the expensive water vendors, I now sneak into people’s compounds who have boreholes to fetch water for my children and family.”
Oguntimirin Adesanya, Poka Community, Epe: “It has been so difficult to get water. The two waterworks in Epe are not working. If you approach water vendors, they sell a truck of 10 kegs for N400 (four hundred naira only) and if there is no electricity it goes as high as between N500-N700. Another option we have is to go to the stream to fetch water.
“But at the stream we are always struggling in the queue and the government is telling us to maintain social distance. How can we do that when we do not have a basic thing such as water for proper hygiene and sanitation?”
Bankole Adisa, Cardoso Street, Mushin: “We do not have public water in our community. It has become a security challenge for us also because we all patronise the water vendors and these guys know the way to everyone’s apartment. That alone poses a security risk to us. We buy a bag of sachet water for N250 and if we are to buy a truck of water it costs between N500-N600.
“The few privileged ones among us who have boreholes do not allow us to fetch water freely because of lack of electricity to pump water. They complain that they are paying too much for fuel to pump water and it is understandable. We plead with the government to take us back to the era of public water.”
Bukola Adepetu, Demurin Road, Ketu: “Since I have been living here, I have not seen running public water. I have always bought water from private water vendors. I used to buy a jerry can for N40 but now it has jumped to N50 and if you are living upstairs, they will charge you more. A truck of 12 – jerry can cost me between N700- N1000 and most times I do not have a choice than to buy.
“The situation is even worse for us ladies because we must ration water in maintaining proper hygiene especially during our menstrual cycle. It has not been easy. We are suffering. Water is essential and we want the government to help us.”
A resident preferring anonymity: “I have just completed typhoid treatment, which my child is also now combating. This is not unconnected to the unsafe drinking water that we consume, and we keep consuming because we have limited feasible alternatives. Government should please rise to its responsibilities and save our lives.’’