ON 29th and 30th January, global activists, thought leaders, labour unionists and human rights advocates will meet in Abuja for a national summit aimed at achieving the human right to water in Nigeria and around the world.
The summit, which has as theme: “Nigeria’s Water Emergency: From Resistance to Real Solutions Against Corporate Control”, is organised by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Corporate Accountability, Public Services International and other groups on the platform of the Our Water ‘Our Right Coalition’ to set the agenda for rejecting water privatization and securing universal water access in Nigeria and across the globe.
A statement issued on Wednesday by Philip Jakpor, spokesman of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, noted that participants for the summit will come from communities across Nigeria, the United States, India and other cities that have faced harms caused by the private water industry.
Impacted people from Flint, Michigan, Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania in the US and Nagpur in India will testify to the harms and human rights abuses they have experienced from water privatizing giant Veolia which is running for a contract to manage water in Lagos – Nigeria’s most populous city.
Members of the US Congress will also participate remotely alongside the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, Leo Heller and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Philip Alston.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, as well as members of the National Assembly, are also expected to be part of the summit.
Among other objectives, the summit will strengthen the solidarity between civil society groups, labour unions, activists, policymakers and the media to resist privatisation in the water sector and advance real solutions to lack of access to water within the realm of public-public partnerships.
Chairman of the Board of the ERA/FoEN, Nnimmo Bassey, said that: “water is a human right which should not be subject to the whims of privatisers. This is the key message of the Our Water Our Right Coalition and this is the message that participants in the Abuja summit will reinforce”.
“Water needs to be in the hands of people, not corporations,” said Shayda Naficy, campaign director with Corporate Accountability. “Movements around the world are demanding an end to the corporate control of this vital resource; it’s time for governments and the World Bank to heed our calls and end the promotion of water for profit.”
Advocates are in unanimity that water privatization, often backed by institutions like the World Bank, have time and again failed communities and often resulted in raised rates, labor abuses and public health crises instead of increased water access.
After the conclusion of the Abuja summit, the Nigerian parliament is set to discuss a precedent-setting water bill that could also reject water privatization.
The summit will end with a communiqué that will chart a path forward for the future of access to water for the African continent and millions around the globe.