Lagos govt partnering ‘failed’ foreign firms on water sector, group says

Lagos Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode [Photo: Today.ng]
Lagos Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode [Photo: Today.ng]

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria has accused the Lagos State government of partnership with ‘failed’ multinationals in the water sector.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, a Deputy Director at ERA/FoEN, told journalists during a press conference in Lagos Monday that the government was deliberately walking into a trap that would enslave Lagos residents for generations.

“In recent months, we have learnt that the Lagos State government has penciled Veolia, Metito, and the Spanish company – Abengoa – to take control of Adiyan 2 which will supply water to millions of Lagosians despite their track record of abuse around the world,” said Mr. Oluwafemi.

“We wonder how the Lagos State government got to its decision.”

Mr. Oluwafemi said Veolia, a French multinational corporation adjudged as the world’s largest water privatizing firm, mismanaged the water systems in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when a water treatment chemical key to preventing lead contamination was switched without approval as a cost-cutting measure.

“Now in Pittsburgh, lead levels are dangerously elevated, threatening residents with lead poisoning while Veolia walked away with $11 million.

“Veolia is also implicated in the Flint water crisis in Michigan where residents continue to grapple with a notorious lead contamination.

“There, Veolia erroneously told city officials that the water was safe, leaving thousands of children vulnerable to lead poisoning.”

Mr. Oluwafemi also said Paris authorities took back water control from Veolia after tariffs, while the water was under the company’s purview, increased by almost 30 percent.

“Veolia created a water crisis in Nagpur, India, and is currently under investigation in France and Romania on suspicions it bribed officials more than €12 million to secure contracts in Bucharest.”

For Metito, Mr. Oluwafemi said the company being partly owned by the World Bank provided a “glaring conflict of interest” because the bank is discussing Lagos infrastructure with the state government.

“The World Bank simultaneously held investments in Metito and advised government officials to contract with Metito for the privatization of Kigali’s water system under a 27-year PPP,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

“Metito in Lagos will repeat this. Metito also has issues with labour unions. After coming into operation as a private company in Kigali, Metito embarked on a restructuring exercise in the water sector which led to hundreds of job losses for workers who were members of the water union.

“Upon hiring new workers, it did not allow the employees to join the union and also refused any dealings with the laid-off leaders of the union.”

Mr. Oluwafemi also accused Abengoa of being behind the water privatization scheme that sparked widespread protests known as the ‘Cochabamba Water War.”

“After months of protesters taking to the streets, the Bolivian government was forced to terminate the disastrous privatization contract.”

Phone calls to Akinmuleya Feranmi, Head of Corporate Communications at the Lagos Water Corporation, did not go through.

However, last June, the Corporation said due diligence was carried out during the procurement process that led to the emergence of the selected firms.

According to a statement by Mr. Feranmi, four firms – AG Gold Trust Nigeria Limited, Vision Scape Water Solutions Limited/Metito, Veolia/Shoreline Group, and Abegoa, Naston & Partners – were selected out of the seven that indicated interest.

“The firms selected are reputable, with proven records of accomplishment and technical proficiency,” Mr. Feranmi had insisted in the statement in response to criticisms against the selected firms.


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