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Monday, March 4, 2024

Rights group criticises Lagos’ World Bank water deal

The Lagos State Government has been accused by a civil society organisation of double-speaking on a transaction on water provision it reportedly got involved with.

Demand for water is steadily on the rise. Photo credit: vanguardngr.com
Demand for water is steadily on the rise. Photo credit: vanguardngr.com

According to the group, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), the announcement by Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) that it is seeking partnership with private individuals on how to meet current demand for water in the state is an indication that the corporation may be pursuing a strategy of intentionally marketing forms of privatisation in the guise of Public-Private Partnership (PPPs) to avoid scrutiny and public resistance.

The LSWC had in a statement signed by its Controller, Media and Publicity, Ronke Famakinwa, disclosed that the partnership would help it meet current demand for water in the state, which is put at 540 million gallons per day.

“Intense local and international demands for disclosure had forced the World Bank to open up on the water privatisation scheme, which centres on the appointment of its private arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to design a PPP water scheme for Lagos. So far, the project is shrouded in utter secrecy, with no input from critical segments of the population that it will supposedly benefit. The bank had initially said it had no deal with the Lagos government and then swiftly announced it had cancelled the IFC contract,” Phillip Jakpor, the ERA/FoEN spokesperson emphasised in a statement.

He added: “Until the recent pronouncement, the LSWC had refused to volunteer any information on the project. It also shunned demands to speak up on the issue.

“Not only has the LSWC shocked Lagosians with its confirmation of a PPP arrangement, residents are deeply concerned by the devastating track-record of water PPPs which include rate hikes, sporadic access, unsafe water, and infrastructure neglect. Clearly this is not a solution.”

ERA/FoEN Director, Corporate Accountability, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “The LSWC announcement has confirmed what ERA/FoEN and allies have been concerned about for months–the city intends to privatise its water system. By expressing interest in pursuing a PPP, Lagos officials are expressing interest in a form of water privatisation that has many of the same consequences as full-scale privatisation.”

Oluwafemi explained that the disorientation of Lagos residents is further heightened by the fact that the corporation has also made contradictory statements regarding the justification for its PPP plans.

“Despite admitting that it does not expect the private sector to find any capital improvements in a potential contract, it is an irony that the corporation still relies on the rationale that the private sector will help fund costly and much-needed water infrastructure improvements. This theory has been thoroughly discredited by experts as well as the World Bank and even the private water sector itself.”

Oluwafemi maintained that water PPPs are water privatisation under a different name and that while government’s primary objective should be equitable access, the private sectors’ major concern revolves only around profit.

He went on: “A true partnership as the name suggests cannot exist with such disparate goals. If the Lagos government allows its water system to be run with profit as a priority, Lagos residents will continue to suffer.

“While we laud the Lagos government interest in solutions to the water problem, we strongly advocate that it commits to real solutions that prioritise the human right to water above and over profit motives that drive the privates in a PPP. We believe the water corporation is still holding back vital details on the deal with the World Bank and we demand to know them.”

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