The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on human rights to water and sanitation, Léo Heller, has urged the Lagos State government to ensure that the 2017 budget improves funding for water and sanitation access for the estimated 21 million residents.
Heller said that reports have revealed a huge deficit in the provision of water by government in Lagos State, a situation that is “clearly unacceptable conditions for millions of the megacity’s residents,”
He said “The discussion of the annual budget is a great opportunity for the city to take steps towards delivering people their rights to water and sanitation.
“It is profoundly worrying how many millions of people are exposed to this level of vulnerability.
“There is no question that the city’s water and sanitation sector has deteriorated to this point because of the way it has been managed for many years,” Heller noted.
The UN expert called on the Lagos State government to jettison the Public Private Partnership strategy it had adopted over the years in dealing with issues of water provisions.
He wants the authorities to consider other alternatives “such as boosting the effectiveness of the public service provider, including by adopting appropriate financing schemes and responsibly reducing water losses.”
“For more than a decade, the Government has adopted a hard-line policy according to which the solution would seem to only attract private capital, notably via public-private partnerships (PPPs),” Heller said.
“Numerous civil society groups have urged the Government to guarantee their right to participate in these processes.
“I believe that a participatory process is key to finding an adequate solution. But the alternatives proposed by civil society are not given meaningful consideration, while negotiations to initiate PPPs between public authorities and private investors have reportedly occurred in secret,” he noted.
As the city of Lagos continues to grow, access to clean water and sanitation has worsened.
Current estimates suggest that only 10% of the population has access to water supplied by the state utility, Lagos State Water Corporation, LSWC.
Many residents now resort to drilling their own boreholes, but this practice has grave environmental and health consequences, especially when the holes are dug near soakaways that could contaminate the water.
Others have to pay exorbitant prices to private vendors, who are often unregulated and provide water with no safety guarantees.
Earlier this year, the UN Special Rapporteur contacted the Government of Nigeria, seeking clarification about the water and sanitation situation in Lagos State, but heand had not received a response thus far.
Recall that in October this year, a coalition made up of Civil Society Organisations, Labour Unions and Rights groups unveiled a document titled Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector as a solution to the Lagos water crisis.
The document has since been presented to the Lagos government as a workable policy document.