Activists Campaign Against Secret Plan To Privatise Water in Lagos


By Abiose Adelaja Adams

Members of the civil society in Lagos last Wednesday began a campaign to stop plans by the Lagos State government to privatize the supply of water.

Led by Environmental Rights Action, ERA, and Women Arise Organization, the group revealed that the government has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Bank to privatize water supply in the state.

“As we speak, the Lagos State government is said to have appointed the World Bank’s private arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to design a public private partnership water privatization scheme,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, of ERA.

According to the activists, the plan appears the more suspicious because of the state government’s reluctance to make the content of the MoU known.

“The project details are shrouded in utter secrecy, without a verifiable Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and input from critical segments of the population that the project will supposedly benefit,” Oluwafemi stated.

If the plan works out, it is believed that ordinary Lagosians already burdened with the cost of procuring water for drinking and other uses will be further levied while those who cannot pay will be excluded from a basic human right they are entitled to, he posited.

The executive director of Women Arise, Joe Odumakin, said water is a natural resource and a right that should be provided by the government.

“If we do not stop government from privatizing things as natural as water, one day they will privatize air,” she said, adding “We are not trying to go against any government, rather we are using this opportunity to call on government not to take our rights from us.”

The Lagos State Water Corporation is said to be the largest in Africa and it supposedly provides safe drinking water for over 12.5 million people in Lagos with 200 million gallons per day. However, the current water needs in Lagos is 500 million gallons per day.

Although the state says on its website that it is commissioning 15 mini water works with a combined capacity of 30 million gallons per day to meet its target to provide 733 million gallons per day for the use of all residents, findings from a visit to many of its existing water works in Apapa, Ikorodu Water works, reveal that only dry rusty pipes are in place.

It was also discovered that millions of Lagos homes take it upon themselves to provide their own water using alternative sources such as boreholes, wells, sachet water, bottled water, streams or even rain water for drinking, cooking and washing.

Many residents depend on buying sachet water or source their drinking water from boreholes sunk in their houses.

It was discovered that a family of four manages about 24 bags a month for drinking only excluding other domestic activities, such as washing, cooking, and so on.

At the rate of N100 per bag, an average family would spend at least N2,400 monthly on safe drinking water. Given the level of poverty in the country, low income earners such as Celestine Abonimi, a 42 year old craftsman, who lives in Majidun a riverine area of Ikorodu, Lagos, may not be able to afford that.

Even the rich who can afford borehole will also have their fair share of the woes as the deal with World Bank’s IFC will result in the declaration of boreholes as illegal, thus forcing Lagosians who own boreholes to stop using them, relying only of government’s privatized water.

In addition, the state’s indebtedness to World Bank will continue to accumulate for generations to come to inherit.

“Let’s not think that when we hear World Bank, they are doing good everywhere. They are about profit making,”  Oluwafemi warns.

Corroborating his point is the World Bank, Africa Development Bank and Japan international corporation agency (JICA) grant of USD 638 million to six states in June 2014, to increase access to water.

According to the environment activist, the World Bank failed in Philippines and Ghana where poor service, limited access and chronic quality problems forced the government not to renew a bank-backed contract for privatization of water.

Odumakin reiterated that the United Nations declared in 2010 that water is a fundamental human right in 2010.



    “It is our fundamental right, they can”t take it from us. If they do, it is the critical mass that will suffer,” she said.

    “We are saying no to privatization. We are saying to World Bank, if you have done it elsewhere, it won’t work here. This is our Lagos, our water, our rights,” Oluwafemi said.

    ERA also states that concrete efforts made to get the Lagos government make details of the MoU known have only reached brick walls.

    Additionally, civil society activists across the United State last week started calling and sending messages to the World Bank demanding full disclosure of Lagos water project, while dozens called the institution’s key decision makers, including Kim Ji-Yong, Jin-Yong Cai and the Nigerian country director, Marie 0francoise Marie Nelly, but had gotten no response.

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