Activists Petition Gov Fashola Over Lagos Water Privatization Plan

By Abiose Adelaja Adams

Over 14,000 individuals and 53 organizations have petitioned the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola over his government’s plan to privatize its water supply.

The organizations, including the Environmental Right Action, ERA, Amazon Watch USA and Council of Canadians, Canada, in a petition stated that privatisation will not improve provision of water in the city.

According to Akinbode Oluwafemi , director of corporate campaigns, ERA/ Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, who made this known at a press briefing in Lagos to mark the International Week of Action 2014, the petitioners want to ensure that the failures of water privatisation seen from examples in India and the Philippines, are not repeated in Lagos, Africa’s biggest city.

“This week for us is very important to draw attention to our resistance to the unholy alliance between the Lagos State government and the World Bank to hand over Lagos water to private corporations, Oluwafemi stated.

“We are deeply troubled that the World Bank and the private water industry are using formidable might and influence to push water privatization plan in the African continent’s biggest city, Lagos, and throughout the global south,” the groups stated in the petition.

They said further: “We urge governor Babatubde Fashola  and other decision makers to stop any form of water privatization, including under the privatization model, and instead bolster real solutions that truly address people’s access to water.”

In October 2014, ERA began a campaign tagged “This is Lagos, Our Water, Our Rights. No to Privatization,” to mount pressure on the government against privatizing supply of water in Lagos.

ERA had discovered that the government planned to do this through the International Finance Corporation, IFC, a private arm of World Bank.

The NGO alleged that the IFC had designed a framework and that both sides had reached the stage of signing an MOU.

Their fear is that this will lead to devastating consequences as access to water will be more difficult and that even the percentage of Lagos residents who have access to public water – put at 10 % as of now – will be further reduced.

The groups reason that if all the billions of naira in loans that the state government had obtained from World Bank, French government and other donors to expand distribution of water corporations in Iju, Adiyan and Ishashi water works, have not translated into improved supply, the privatisation efforts too would not solve the problem.

But, the activists’ strongest justification for saying no to privatization is the failed example of such in Manila in Philippines and Nagpur, India.
ERA, alongside other international activists, via video conferencing at the briefing, launched a document detailing the failure of water privatization in Philippines and Manila.

The 15-page document published by the Corporate Accountability International, U.S, reveals how for 25 years, the Manila Water Company, MWC, made water access unreliable and unaffordable. The project was reported to be fraught with inconsistencies, broken promises, as well as frustration of the plight of women and children.

The documents show that MWC had supplied water with E. Coli (a bacteria) over seven times national limit getting 600 residents sick and killing eight.

The company is also reported to have hiked water rates several times within its 25 years of operation and yet did not adequately improve infrastructure for sustainability.

Yet, the World Bank parades this as a success story of a public private partnership,, PPP, model to solve the crisis facing the 1.8 billion people in need of safe, clean, water today.

“Lagos appears to be the next on that list of failed water projects like that of Nagpur and Manila,” said Oluwafemi.

Considering the consequences of privatization from the gender perspective, ERA’s Gender Focal Person, Betty Abah, said women and girls will be the worse for it because they are the ones who usually provide water for the family.

“If you grew up in the village you will know that women and girls are the ones who provide water for the family. If the stream is far, it is her work and her time that will be affected, and this will also tell on her productivity,” Abah noted.

Explaining that women are already going through a lot of rights abuses, she said reasoned that “anything that tampers with affordability and availability of water tampers with the dignity of women.”






     

     

    Since this campaign against water privatisation in the state began in October, the Lagos State government has not officially owned up to the plan.

    However, due to pressure from these rights activists, including an online petition with 14,000 signatures, endorsements from 49 groups across 19 countries, the World Bank, which initially denied that it had a contract with the state government, came out to in November to say it has cancelled the contract.

    Oluwafemi, however, insisted that the state government must disclose all IFC and World Bank activity regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.

    He said that way forward is for the government to uphold the people’s right to water as an obligation, summon the political will to prioritized water for the people and invest in the infrastructure necessary to provide universal access which will create jobs, improve health and invigorate the Lagos economy.

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