On the occasion of the 2020 World Water Day observed on Sunday, March 22, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has advised governments at all levels in the country to declare emergency in the water sector giving the significance of the resource in checking public health emergencies like the ravaging Covid-19.
In a statement issued by ERA/FoEN and endorsed by its Head, Media and Campaigns, Philip Jakpor, the group said that though the United Nations World Water Day 2020 theme is “Water and Climate Change”, the urgency of checking the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the importance of hand-washing to the fore, and places availability of clean and portable water at the centre of the campaign to check the virus’ spread.
ERA/FoEN noted that it is shocking how the federal and state governments are re-echoing the hand-washing message when, in fact, they have failed to make that same public good available for citizens.
ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “As Nigeria’s Covid-19 confirmed cases continue to grow, this year’s World Water Day is a wakeup call to government at all levels paying lip-service to the water sector to work the talk.
“We are being told to wash our hands with water and soap when the taps in our communities are all dry. Most of our communities lack water for consumption and for basic hygiene and this makes checking public health emergencies much more difficult.
“It is unfortunate that a city like Lagos which has a population of nearly 21 million people, rather than making substantial investment in the water sector, is eyeing the failed Public Private Partnership (PPP) model promoted by the World Bank.
“PPP model will further worsen the water crisis in Lagos as that infamous path can only lead us to situations like the Flint and Pittsburgh water crisis in US and water shortages that will make local communities vulnerable to the COVID-19 and other illnesses.”
Oluwafemi expressed concern that nearly one year into his administration, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is yet to accede to the demands of the “Our Water Our Right” movement and concerned Lagos citizens to unveil a blueprint on how to ensure adequate and democratically controlled water for Lagos citizens.
“As the state with the most cases of the COVID-19 we expect the Lagos government to be proactive and lead the way by ensuring adequate public investment in the water sector and innovative recommendations such as a Water Trust and others within the realm of human rights.
“Governor Sanwolu and indeed other state governments across the country should act speedily on access to public water to stave off the kind of pandemic we are battling currently,” Oluwafemi insisted.