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Friday, May 24, 2024

Labour, CSOs march on Lagos Assembly over sacked water corporation staff

In fulfilment of their promise to press home their demand for the reinstatement of the over 400 staff of the Lagos State Water Corporation (LWC) disengaged by the corporation on the grounds of redundancy, labour and civil society groups on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, staged a protest to the Lagos State House of Assembly.

Sacked water corporation staff
Protesters march on to the Lagos State House of Assembly

The groups, led by the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies (SSASGOC), also urged the Lagos House of Assembly to probe alleged sleaze enabled by management of the corporation and blamed the practice on the collapse of water services in Lagos.

The protesters, who started the march from Ikeja under bridge, carried placards with inscriptions such as “Sanwo-Olu Employment is a Right!”, “Recall Sacked Staff of Lagos Water Corporation”, and “Mr. Speaker, Speak for the Masses! Your Silence is No Longer Golden!”, among others.

Comrade Sikiru Waheed, AUPCRE National General Secretary, who read the position of the union while the march was on, said that the disengagement exercise which breaches Section 20 of the Nigeria Labour Act is a culmination of the planned privatisation of Lagos water resources and services which started over a decade ago.

The union leader pointed out that billions of naira for rehabilitation of the ailing waterworks in the state, repairs, chemical purchase were not used for the purposes but, instead, contractors and friends of successive management of the corporation got to the contracts and did nothing.

He noted that, till date, no contractor has been probed or sanctioned for diverting taxpayers’ money, even as he insisted that the sack of the workers was to pave way for the privatisation agenda of the state government.

The culmination of the protest was the delivery of a petition to the Speaker Lagos House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, detailing a list of sums allocated for keeping the waterworks running but were allegedly diverted.

They include N4 billion for construction of Otta-Ikosi waterworks awarded in 2007 yet the facility is not working and N3 billion expended on the construction of an Independent Power Plant (IPP) which also included an additional N180 million expended monthly on fueling the IPP.

They alleged that, in 2018, about N897 million and N789 million was released by the Lagos State Government for rehabilitation of Iju and Adiyan Waterworks as well as rehabilitation of mini and micro waterworks across Lagos.

In similar a vein, between 2022 and the present a whopping N2.7 billion was allegedly voted by the Lagos State Government and expended on the rehabilitation of Ishasi waterworks supervised by Mr. Governor yet there is no result.

Other alleged sleaze is the budget for purchase of chemical 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 a contractor for the supply of liquid alum in October 2023 which was not supplied, N1.2 billion budget for chemical in 2024, the sum of N9.5 million for repair of chemical store gate at Iju and Adiyan as well as the sum of N7.3 million  for the construction of falling fence at Apapa waterworks, among others.

Speaking in support of the protest march and petition, Executive Director of Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI), Philip Jakpor, said that the Lagos State House of Assembly must do the needful in investigating the alleged sleaze at the Corporation which has cumulatively crumbled water services in Lagos.

“If the allegations are confirmed then Lagosians will see for themselves where the fault lies. Definitely it is not with the workers who are now the scapegoat for a succession of management that were imposed and only did the bidding of their masters,” Jakpor stated.

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