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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Lagos urged to declare state of emergency in water sector

The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has urged the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to immediately declare a state of emergency in the water sector. The group also demanded that the Lagos House of Assembly convene an emergency session on the reported production status in nearly all the waterworks in Lagos.

Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA)
L-R: Veteran unionist, Comrade Sylvester Ejiofor; Associate Director, CAPPA, Aderonke Ige; Executive Director, CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi; and Director of Programmes, CAPPA, Philip Jakpor at the press briefing

Unconfirmed reports indicate that nearly all the waterworks in the state have been grounded in the last three weeks and no production going on.

CAPPA made the call at the public presentation of the COVID-19 and Water report titled: “One Year After Damning Report, Water Shortage Persists in Lagos”, which coincides with the commemoration of this year World Water Day.

The theme of the World Water Day 2021 is “Valuing Water”, in recognition of the crucial role of healthy ecosystems in maintaining water supplies around the world.

In his address to the media, CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said this year’s theme reinforces man’s conviction that the water sector must be salvaged from for-profit entities and their promoters in government who have made it virtually impossible for people to access safe and affordable water.

Oluwafemi explained that it is contradictory for a government that embarked on public health messages broadcast on radio and television, asking residents to maintain a high sense of hygiene by regular washing of hands to curb the spread of COVID 19 and yet, refuse to invest public funds in water infrastructure in the state.

According to him, some of the waterworks visited include Alimosho, Amuwo Odofin, Maryland, Mushin, Ikorodu, Ikoyi, Obalende, Otta-Ikosi and Onikan. None of them are functioning in optimal capacity.

Oluwafemi warned that the dire water situation in the state is already causing apprehension among Lagos residents who fear that, beyond COVID-19, they may be exposed to the diseases while sourcing for water from unwholesome places.

His views were corroborated by Comrade Sylvester Ejiofor, a veteran unionist, who decried the lack of investment in the Lagos water sector, even as he revealed that the first waterworks in Nigeria situated in Iju was also one of the facilities facing neglect and possibly extinction.

Ejiofor said the depiction of privatisation as efficiency and public sector as failure continues to be the clog in the wheel of achieving sustained funding of the water sector, even as he stressed that Lagos was far better than other states of the federation that had “audio votes” for water yearly and nothing on ground to show for yearly allocations.

Vice president of the Joint Action Front (JAF), Comrade Achike Chude, also took a swipe at the national and state governments in the country for collecting huge loans from the World Bank and other institutions with nothing to show for it.

He stressed that the convening by CAPPA and the report on the status of the water infrastructure in the state was to stair the consciences of those in power to action.

According to him, “If Lagos gets it right, other states will follow but unfortunately, Lagos is still toying with a failed privatisation initiative promoted by institutions that want to keep Africa in perpetuity of debt repayment.”

CAPPA Associate Director, Aderonke Ige, said the document, titled: “One Year After Damning Report, Water Shortage Still Persists in Lagos” was carried out as follow-up to a similar exercise in 2020 which observed rot in the waterworks in 11 local government areas of Lagos.  

She said it was unfortunate that the situation had deteriorated to such extent that Lagosians now resort to self-help at a heavy price.

Corroborating her view, CAPPA Director of Programmes, Philip Jakpor, said that the neglect of water infrastructure in Lagos is already causing apprehension among residents who fear that beyond COVID 19, while sourcing for water from unwholesome sources they may be exposed to other diseases.

Jakpor frowned at the fact that excepting the Alexander Waterworks in Ikoyi which serves the elite and functioned optimally, every other visited water infrastructure across the state is begging for attention.

Flowing from the visit, the group made some recommendations to the Lagos State Government. They include:

  • Need for urgent declaration of a state of emergency in the water sector.
  • Lagos State House of Assembly convene an emergency session on the water crisis in the state.
  • Lagos State Government show seriousness in addressing the water challenge through integration of broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.
  • Lagos State Government probe of funds released since 1999 for the rehabilitation of the existing waterworks inn Lagos, including the N1.6 bn released under the Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode administration
  • Lagos State Government reject all forms of water privatisation and commodification.
  • Lagos State Government fully upholds the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people.
  • Lagos State Government build the political will to prioritise water for citizens, leading to a comprehensive plan that invests in water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, jobs, improved public health, and invigoration of the Lagos economy.

The group said that beyond Lagos, they restate opposition to the National Water Bill because of its many anti-people and pro-privatisation provisions and called on all the states that are currently toying with the privatisation agenda to jettison such and instead initiate concrete actions to revamp public water infrastructure to make water available and accessible for all Nigerians.

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