As the world marks 2018 World Water Day, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has urged the Nigerian government to prioritise the protection of nature over profits in the pursuit of providing the citizenry portable water for drinking and other uses.
The World Water Day, says the organisation, reminds government and peoples about the importance of sustainable management of water. The 2018 theme is “Nature for Water” and focuses on how to reduce water pollution by exploring nature based solutions to the water challenge and restoring wetlands to improve human lives and livelihood.
In a statement issued by Head, Media and Campaigns, Philip Jakpor, ERA/FoEN said that, for Nigeria, the theme is a reminder to government at all levels that water is a human right and in its provision, the livelihoods of people should not be mortgaged to privatisers who, in their bid to shore up profits, cut corners and contaminate water.
ERA/FoEN Deptuy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “As we mark this global event, the Nigerian government must now stop sloganeering and join the rest of the world in taking the responsibility of protecting the environment and nature from the abuse of corporations as priority.”
Oluwafemi explained that transnationals are implicated in the pollution of water sources which ultimately deny the poor access to clean and odorless water. This development, he added, has compelled most nations to start adopting democratically-controlled water systems in a growing wave of remunicipalisations.
“The sad reality in Nigeria is that government at all levels have not learnt lessons from the Flint water crisis in Pittsburgh, United States, and other documented examples of corporate destructive interventions in public water. Rather than ensure sustained funding for the water sector in the annual budgets, they go cap in hand to donors whose sole interest is to profit from water at the detriment of the rights of the people,” Olufemi stressed, adding:
“Report after report show that transnational corporations that grab water even in the guise of the scam called Public Private Partnership (PPP) only unleash rate hikes, pollutions, sicknesses and sorrow to the people.”
The ERA/FoEN boss cited Lagos as an example of a state that is on the path to infringing on the right of its citizens if it goes ahead with plans to concession its water to transnationals that, according to the organisation, have a track record of human rights violations.
“We have told the Lagos government that it has the resources to manage water and keep it within democratic public purview. Any deal with Veolia, Abengoa and Metito will only force upon Lagos citizens, including generations yet born huge loan burdens, cut off the poor, and contaminate water, among a host of woes. But, unfortunately, due to obviously vested interests, the Lagos government is yet to listen.”
He stressed that government at the centre has also not shown good example, pointing out that with Nigeria subscribing to Sustainable Development Goal 6 that commits governments to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, no concrete actions can be cited as pointing towards meeting the goal.
“Protecting our ecosystems and halting corporate take-over of our public water systems are cardinal to achieving SDG 6. The growing wave of remunicipalisation the world over shows that democratic control of water is the direction the world is going. Nigeria cannot lag behind,” Oluwafemi insisted.