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Labour, groups urge Lalong to discard bill seeking to privatise water sector



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THE Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), on Monday urged Simon Lalong, the Plateau State Governor, to discard the Plateau State water sector law passed by the State Assembly.

The coalition argued that Plateau State residents had repeatedly rejected attempts to privatise the water sector in the state, stressing that such law would prohibit democratic control of water resources.

Members of the State Assembly, last week approved the bill after a report of the House Standing Committee on Parastatals was read by Hon. Godfrey Langdip, to the House. He claimed that the bill would foster adequate water provision to the people despite public agitations.

In a statement issued by Philip Jakpor, Head, Media and Campaign, ERA, in Abuja the groups frowned at how the lawmakers hurriedly passed the law in spite of popular aversion to its Public-Private Partnership (PPP) provisions.

According to the statement, Article three sub-section 1 (p) of the bill seeks to promote PPP principles in the development and management of water resources in Plateau.

But AUPCTRE and ERA/FoEN countered this in a joint statement, describing the passage as a betrayal of trust that Plateau citizens reposed on the lawmakers to defend them against ‘oppressive forces’. They urged Governor Lalong not to append his signature to the bill.

“We are not only dismayed with this news; we feel the Plateau State House of Assembly just gifted the citizens of the state a bad law that will mortgage their future and tie them to the loins of for-profit only entities. We reject the PPP in its entirety,” says Comrade Benjamin Anthony, AUPCTRE National President.

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“The PPP privatization model in the water sector has failed in virtually all countries of the globe where it was introduced…..what we want the state government to do is to avoid worsening the already tensed security situation in the state through a denial of their fundamental right to a free gift of nature.”

Anthony insisted that the solution to the Plateau State water crisis, just like that of other states of the federation, requires the prioritizing of the rights of the people far above private interests.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, described the development as the height of insensitivity. He also tagged the enacted law as ‘anti-people’.

“The PPP experiment that the Plateau State government is planning to embark on will only lead to poor water quality, job losses, hike in water prices and poor service. It has happened elsewhere and will not be different here,” says Oluwafemi.

“The Governor must side with the people by not appending his signature.”

Meanwhile, on April 16, a public hearing was held on the bill where the proposed bill was reportedly rejected by the Civil Society Coalition for Good Governance and a host of the grassroots group. Rather, they canvassed support for public control and sustainable budgetary allocation to the water sector.

The groups appealed to the Plateau government to fully uphold human rights to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people and integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.

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“The Plateau State government must build the political will to prioritize water for the people by investing in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access. This will create jobs, improve public health, and invigorate the Plateau economy”.

Olugbenga is an Investigative Reporter with The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at [email protected] Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

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