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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Communities flay privatisation agenda in Lagos, USAID water partnership

On April 5, a delegation from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reourtedly visited the leadership of the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) to promote the partnership between the parties. Lost in the free flow of commendations during the visit was any mention of the water privatisation agenda being shuffled through as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between USAID and LWC in December 2021.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State

Despite numerous attempts by Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) to obtain a copy of the agreement from the Lagos State Government, the MoU, according to CAPPA officials, remains out of the public eye nearly a year and a half later

Through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in the United States, CAPPA said it recently obtained a copy of the MoU and is able to shed light on the plans within it.

According to the group, the MoU appears to contain an unpopular plan to fundamentally restructure the Lagos water sector and push forward privatisation under the guise of “private sector participation.”

Speaking in Lagos, CAPPA’s Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafem, wondered: “How many times will the people of Lagos be simply ignored and left in the dark in critical decisions made in their name under the guise of ‘collective interest’, but ultimately to the benefit of multinationals and states which have long exploited Africa?”

According to him, the MoU outlines as an “Obligation of the Government” that Lagos State “explore options for private sector participation for the development and management of capital improvements, such as the development and management of Igbonla waterworks…”

Lagos State, he added, has already stated its intention to privatise the Igbonla waterworks through a “public-private partnership,” as described by private water industry trade publication Global Water Intelligence in October 2019.

Further, USAID and Lagos Water Corporation agreed that “there may be instances where due to regional sensitivities, the role of USAID/the Government may not be publicised as a participant in an activity under this MOU.”

This, adds CAPPA, indicates a clear, predetermined plan to limit true transparency about who is involved in various activities carried out through this partnership.

The group noted that the USAID-LWC event on April 5 also heralded the announcement of an American corporation as a contractor.

“This is just the latest example of decisions related to Lagos’ water sector happening behind closed doors, while transparency to the people of Lagos is considered an afterthought, if considered at all, in a supposedly democratic system. Too long have decisions that will impact generations of Lagosians been made without the participation of the public, who will ultimately pay the price.

“CAPPA, a leader of the community and labour-driven Our Water, Our Right Coalition, points to the worldwide track record of water privatisation’s failure in its latest appeal to Governor Babjide Sanwo-Olu to not walk Lagos State down the same dangerous path. The abuses of private water corporations from Flint to Paris to Dakar, among many other communities, make it clear that there can be no fruitful ‘partnership’ with this industry.”

Oluwafemi and other representatives of the Our Water Our Right group further reiterated the demand of Lagosians  for Governor Sanwo-Olu to terminate the pro-privatisation MoU with USAID and instead fulfil his government’s obligation to Lagosians who yearn for democratic ownership and public control of the future of their water.

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