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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Legislators asked to remove probing water provision in Lagos budget

Civil society and labour activists have demanded that the Lagos State House of Assembly (LSHA) should reject a recommendation in the 2017 budget proposal which suggests Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) as the arrangement to improve the water sector in the state.

The activists say that privatisation of water will be a burden on the people of Lagos
The activists say that privatisation of water will be a burden on the people of Lagos

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, while presenting the 2017 budget proposal of N812.998 billion to the LSHA recently, noted that “in the area of environment, we will improve water supply through PPP and increase the capacity utilisation of water treatment plants….”

The coalition of civil society and labour unions on the platform of the Our Water Our Right Campaign appear to be uncomfortable with the submission, insisting that it does not reflect the genuine yearnings of Lagos citizens who believe that only democratic control of water under the public sector will guarantee access and affordability of water in the state.

The groups include: Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Peace and Development Project (PEDEP), Citizen Centre and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE).

ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “We find it strange and disturbing that despite the position of local communities, activists and unions that what Lagos really needs is public investment and democratic control of water, the spurious provision on PPP was smuggled into the budget proposal for 2017.  This suggestion should be discarded by the State Assembly if the honourable lawmakers truly represent the people.”

Oluwafemi pointed out that “since the budget is an agglomeration of recommendations from all the ministries it has become very clear that the PPP idea is being floated by a ministry in the state that knows it is a myth but wants to foist it on us purely for profit motives. We have provided the state government a simple alternative in the document ‘Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector’. We believe the recommendations can be implemented by the Lagos State Government and Lagos State Water Corporation over a short and long-term.”

National President of AUPCTRE, Comrade Solomon Adelegan, said: “It is absurd that despite the successes of the Ambode administration in many respects, it may have been conned into buying into the PPP myth. Under a PPP regime not only will the rights of our people to a free gift of nature be violated, workers will also be shown the way out.”

Adelegan insisted that PPP has failed in all the poster countries of the World Bank such as Manila, Nagpur, and even Paris, even as he added, “Keeping water in the public sector under Public-Public-Partnership (PUP) is one of the tested alternatives.  We want the PPP proposal totally removed from the budget proposal.”

Executive Director of PEDEP, Francis Abayomi, said: “The budget proposal in relation to water is a bad idea. It has all the marks of prioritising profits over human rights which will further burden our people. Clearly, the governor has been misadvised by those who want to spring this through the backdoor just like the water courts and the recent imposition of high charges by the Lagos State Water Regulatory Commissioned which has led to substantial increase in the cost of water and threats to sue the state government in places like Okokomaiko and Ikorodu.

“The State House of Assembly must stand by the people by rejecting the PPP proposition. The House must demand adequate budgetary allocations to the water sector and stand by the people in upholding the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people. The PPP proposal does not have the blessing of Lagos citizens. It is unacceptable.”

The group further pointed out those comprehensive alternative arrangements to the PPP have been clearly enumerated in the book: “Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector” publicly presented in the state recently.

“Again, we reiterate our call to Governor Ambode to take a dispassionate look at our recommendations in that book which include roadmap for sustainable funding of the sector and how Lagos public water utility can collaborate with other public utilities to share expertise and knowledge as a more sustainable solution to water crisis in Lagos in the short and long run,” Oluwafemi added.

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