By Agbonkhese Oboh
Civil society and labour activists on the platform of the Our Water Our Right movement have called on the Lagos State government to reject all forms of corporate control of water and privatisation of water services, including through so-called “public-private partnerships.”
The groups include the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), and the Joint Action Front (JAF), among others.
The groups made the call in a petition to the Lagos State Government through the Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Tunji Bello after a protest march to mark the commencement of the Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatisation which is billed for 11-15 October 2021.
The week of action was convened by the Our Water Our Right Africa Coalition comprising labour and civil society groups from Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, among others.
The protest march which culminated in the delivery of the petition started at the Marwa Gardens with activists chanting solidarity songs and displaying placards with inscriptions such as “Water is not Deal”, “World Bank Stop Pushing Water Privatisation or PPP on Africa”, “World Bank, Take your hands off our water”, etc.
In a speech at the premises of the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “the decision to deliver this petition to the Lagos government is informed by the body language of the Lagos government which seems to favour privatization at a time that there is a growing Afro-wide resistance to privatization”.
Others that spoke are Achike Chude, vice chair of JAF, Philip Jakpor, CAPPA Director of Programmes, and Abiodun Bakare, Nigeria Labour Congress Lagos State Secretary.
The letter to the Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Tunji Bello, which had as title, AFRICA WEEK OF ACTION AGAINST WATER PRIVATISATION – UPHOLD HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER.
In it, the groups said that it was worried that the Lagos State Government is yet to present its blueprint on how to develop the water sector that will guarantee universal access to the people of Lagos and that comments from some government officials indicate that there is a fixation with the idea of water privatization and the Public Private Partnership (PPP).
They noted that experiences from cities where water has been privatized show rates hike, job losses, low water quality, shut offs and ultimately government thrown into perpetual debts.
Most of these cities have embraced remunicipalisation- another word for taking back water from privatizers and putting it where it should be — under public and democratic control.
Buenos Aires, Berlin, Ghana, Gabon, Jakarta, Paris, Tanzania, and lately Cameroon are some examples to note.
The demands made on the Lagos Government is that it reject all forms of water privatization and fulfil its obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil the human right to water for all people.
These it can do by prioritizing robust public investment, ensuring meaningful public participation in water governance (with particular focus on the perspectives of those typically left out of decision-making, namely women, low-income, and rural communities), and enshrining the human right to water in law.
Others are that the state government respects and protects the livelihood of workers by ensuring safe working conditions, protection from retribution for raising complaints, and investment in salaries and pensions reflective of the public service these workers undertake every day.
They also want the Lagos government to resist pressure from international financial institutions, private water corporations, and other financial actors to commercialize the water sector and, instead, ensure universal access to safe water regardless of the ability to pay.
To prevent a revolving door or conflict of interest, they want the state government to prohibit public officials from holding positions in the private water industry for 10 years preceding and after their tenure in the public sector.
The group also urged the Lagos government to adopt solutions to the Lagos water crisis within the public realm, adding that such solutions are found in the document – Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector, copies of which have been delivered to relevant key ministries and the Ministry of Environment office.
Signatories to the petition are CAPPA, AUPCTRE, JAF, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Child Health Organisation, the Africa Women Water Sanitation & Hygiene Network and Centre for Human and Socio-Economic Right.