By Oboh Agbonkhese & Suzan Edeh
Bauchi—No fewer than 69 million Nigerians do not have access to safe drinking water especially in rural areas, the United Nation Children Fund, UNICEF, has said.
Meanwhile, in commemoration of the World Water Day Wednesday in Lagos State, rights activists converged on Governor Ambode’s office, demanding an end to plans by the state government to privatise water distribution in the state.
Displaying placards with inscriptions such as “PPP: picking the pockets of the poor,” “Keep public water in public hands,” “Oga Ambode, water is for the people and not for profit” among others, the protesters refused to talk with security personnel sent to dialogue with them, until the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Community Mobilisation, Mr. Abdulakeem Ola-Sheu, arrived and said the governor was out of the country.
Ola-Sheu vowed that “your petition will get to the governor and I assure you that it shall be acted on and the signatories contacted for engagement.”
A statement by the UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Zaid Jurji in commemoration of the International World Water Day, said access to safe drinking water remained a challenge, noting that the recent Multiple Indicator Survey, MICS, conducted by the government of Nigeria in 2016/17, indicated that about 40 percent of households and 19 million people in rural areas walked long distances to source unsafe water from lakes, streams and river.
The statement said: “Children without access to safe water are more likely to die in infancy and throughout childhood from waterborne diseases. Diarrhea remains the leading cause of death among children under five years of age in Nigeria.”
In the letter, the activists, led by Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, said: “Take-back-water from private companies have spread from Buenos Aires to Berlin, Ghana, Gabon, Jakarta, Mozambique, Paris, Tanzania and, lately, Cameroon.
“Therefore, halt concession of Lagos water inftartructure with transnational corporations such as Veolia, Metito and Abengoa.”