Lagos water crisis: Jettison privatisation, probe N1.6bn water works funding, coalition tells Sanwo-Olu

Organisations under the umbrella of the Our Water, Our Right Coalition want Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to jettison privatisation, including successive administrations PPP addiction, and build the political will to fulfill the human right to water through the public sector.

They also want a probe of all loans and funding for the existing water system and infrastructure in Lagos State throughout the tenures of the Governors Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode, including the N1.6 billion made available to the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) in 2017 for rehabilitation of mini and micro waterworks across the state.

These were some of the demands stated in a communique by the coalition at a stakeholders’ dialogue on the Lagos water crisis.

The communique was signed by Nnimmo Bassey of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN); Benjamin Anthony of Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE); Leslie Adoghame of Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADeV) and Vicky Urenma Onyekwuru of Child Health Organisation.

The dialogue was organised by ERA/FoEN in Lagos last week. Co-organisers of the dialogue are Corporate Accountability, Public Services International (PSI), Transnational Institute, and AUPCTRE, among others.

The objectives of the dialogue, the organisers said, included: advancing real solutions to the Lagos water crisis; how to engage the Lagos State government at the top level on solutions to the water crisis; and how to strengthen the power of the Our Water, Our Right Coalition.

The gathering examined the status of access to water in Lagos State, the role of the World Bank and multinational corporations in failed water projects, the myth that the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model represents, the rights-based approach to sustainable management of water resources and how to promote affordable public access to water in Lagos.

The welcome address by chair of the Board of ERA/FoEN, Nnimmo Bassey was delivered by Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, while the keynote address titled ‘The Lagos Water Crisis and the Imperative for Sustainable Solutions,’ was delivered by Dr Hussaini Abdu, Country Director of Plan International Nigeria.

Abdu’s intervention dwelt on the human right to water, which he said, entitles everyone without discrimination to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.

He explained that during much of the 1990s, water utilities worldwide experienced a wave of privatisation, adding that Lagos State with the support of the World Bank is one of the first states to have experimented with the idea barely a few years after Nigeria adopted the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) under the Ibrahim Babangida military junta.

He concluded that privatisation has largely failed across the globe and that citizens must be part of the solutions since international financial institutions have never addressed municipal challenges.

“Urban governance and policy must be people-driven. When people are part of the policy making process, they own the policies, protect and sustain those policies. When policies are imposed on them, they reject and undermine them,” Abdu said.

The coalition also demanded that the Lagos government “reject all advisory contracts, PPP and privatisation success myths promoted by the World Bank, International Finance Corporation and other multinational donor agencies,” and “adopt proven public solutions in the water sector” including a National Water Trust Fund, as outlined in their way forward document titled ‘Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector.’

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