How Civil Society helped block secret plot by Lagos Govt., World Bank to privatise water

Drinking water

The announcement sent a collective sigh of relief to the water corporation staff and civil society activists. After months of negotiation on how to privatize the water supply in Lagos, between the World Bank and the Lagos Water Corporation, the bank has called off the talks.

But before the bank’s decision, activists and civil servants had mounted pressure on the water company against such a move, which they said would raise the cost of having access to water beyond the reach of ordinary Lagosians.

The Corporation’s staff, who stood to lose their jobs, went a step further to threaten to do “everything to frustrate” the move.

Last month, the World Bank issued a statement announcing a breakdown in talks between its International Finance Corporation and the Lagos Water Corporation.

“Contrary to recent reports, IFC has not signed any agreement with the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC),” the bank said in the statement. “LWC expressed interest in working with IFC and we had a number of discussions on how we might be able to assist the company. In the end, IFC decided not to advise LWC. We continue to support the government and people of Nigeria in achieving their development goals.”

Shrouded in secrecy

The latest round of negotiations between the bank and the LWC to design a water privatization scheme in the state began 18 months ago.

With public outcry on the danger of such a move, the LWC maintained that it was not going into privatization, just discussions on how to optimize water supply to Lagosians.

But details of their negotiations were kept away from the public, including civil society groups who had pushed for information disclosure.

In October last year, a rights advocacy group, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), said it made attempts to obtain information relating to the negotiation but continually met brick walls.

“Despite the World Bank’s 60-day disclosure policy, the Lagos contract had not been disclosed on the bank’s website and had been hidden from civil society,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, Director of Corporate Accountability, ERA/FoEN.

With pressure from Nigerian groups, hundreds of other civil society bodies and activists across the United States began calling and sending out messages to the World Bank demanding full disclosure of the project.

“Our investigations indicate that the IFC is currently being paid by the Lagos government as an official advisor to develop a plan for the city’s water privatization,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

“And this advisory contract is undisclosed by both the World Bank and the Lagos government, and both the privatization the IFC is designing and the advisory contract itself are being carried out in secrecy, without public participation and input from Lagosian stakeholders.

“This lack of transparency leaves residents with very little information about important developments that will affect them directly.

In December, a PREMIUM TIMES’ Freedom of Information request for details of the negotiations with the World Bank also met a brick wall. An official at the LWC headquarters at Ijora declined to answer questions put to him and promised to e-mail answers or arrange an interview with the Group Managing Director, Shayo Holloway.

He did neither.

Lagos State has two major waterworks at Iju and Adiyan, providing a combined supply of 115 Million Gallons Per Day for the 20 million residents, according to information on LWC’s website.

Expansion of other waterworks – micro and mini waterworks – spread across the state has been ongoing for years, and provision of tap water is still limited to a fraction of the population.

The corporation says its current installed capacity is 210 million gallons per day, whereas the actual water demand in Lagos is 540 million gallons per day.

Most residents solve their water needs through self-help, patronizing water vendors, digging wells, or sinking boreholes in their homes.

No Privatization Plans

Before the World Bank announced its decision to shelve talks with Lagos State government, the LWC management had continued to insist that it had no plans to privatize the corporation.

Mr. Holloway said, in a statement December, that the Lagos State government was only trying to partner with the private sector “in a bid to increase water supply and alleviate poverty”.

“According to Engr. Holloway, PPP (Public Private Partnership) is not Privatization. Privatization involves the sale of government-owned asset to private investors, while PPP involves fresh injection of private capital into the efficient management of government-owned assets,” said the statement published on the corporation’s website.

“In order to meet the demand gap as well as the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) 2015, LWC has developed a Lagos Water Supply Master Plan (2010 – 2020) which outlines the infrastructure development programmes into short, medium and long term phases.

“By year 2020, water demand is expected to be 733 million gallons per day, while the water production will be 745 million gallons per day, leaving us with the excess of 12 million gallons per day. The need to bridge the gap has necessitated the involvement of the private sector by way of injecting more capital to improve efficiency of existing state-owned assets.”

The LWC refused to make public the nature of its partnership with the “private sector.”

But according to information obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, the water corporation’s plans involved a concession of the state-owned major water works to private investors who would produce water and sell to the government. And the government would then sell to the final consumer.

Dissatisfied workers

On December 17, the corporation’s workers’ union, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees, AUCPTRE, held a meeting with the management where they aired their disagreement with the planned “partnership”.

Tomiwa Odusanwo, the chairman, AUCPTRE branch of LWC, insisted that the management was planning to privatize the corporation.

“You cannot know my management beyond me,” Mr. Odusanwo told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview in January.

“We were not carried along. The funny thing is that we heard it over the news, read it in newspapers, and because we have seen how it was recorded in other African countries, even in western world.”

“The Iju and Adiyan water works are going to be in concession as well. There are some foreign investors now, in their master plan for 2010-2020, that those investors will use their money and construct mini water works.”

At a workers’ meeting at the LWC headquarters in Ijora, Mr. Odusanwo and his colleagues were unanimous that they won’t go the way of the staff of the recently privatized Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, who protested for months over the non-payment of their severance benefits.

“The management of Water Corporation, presently, are after capital projects. They are not after welfare of the staff or anything that will benefit the staff. That is why we are saying no to that privatization,” said Mr. Odusanwo.

“Because presently now the corporation is owing pension, gratuity, plus pension to PENCOM close to N1 billion. As I speak to you now our deducted pension was not remitted adequately to our PFA (Pension Fund Administrator).

“The corporation is indebted seriously. So with privatization, many of us will be laid off without going home with a penny and that will be so disastrous for us.”

The involvement of the World Bank and its investment arm – the IFC- in water schemes across the world has not exactly been a success story.

Recently, many cities that, in expectation of availability of affordable potable water, signed a two decade or longer water concessions with private investors, have terminated the contracts and returned their water systems to the state.

According to Transnational Institute, an organization that studies global needs, 180 communities and cities across the globe, from Accra to Kuala Lumpur, have returned water provision to public control in the past ten years.

In January, the IFC announced it had no ongoing water concession projects in Africa, after about 30 per cent of its water investment in Africa over the past two decades resulted into a failure.

“Like in Manila, in Ghana, World Bank corporate partners attempted to privatize and profit from water,” said Mr. Oluwafemi.

“Poor service, limited access and chronic quality problems forced the Ghanaian government not to renew a bank-backed contract for a private corporation to manage the country’s water.

“Around the world, the IFC advises governments, conducts corporate bidding processes, designs complex and lopsided water privatization contracts, dictates arbitration terms, and is part-owner of water corporations that win the contracts it designs and recommends, all the while aggressively marketing the model to be replicated around the world.

“Not only do these activities undermine democratic water governance, but they constitute an inherent conflict of interest within the IFC’s activities in the water sector, an alarming pattern seen from Eastern Europe to India to Southeast Asia.”

In Lagos, commercial sale of water by individuals is big business, with a 20-litre jerry can selling for N20 in most areas in the metropolis.

However, the cost of the water provided by the LWC comes at a cheaper rate, depending on the location.

In Dolphin Estate, Victoria Island, for instance, a flat pays a monthly rate of N800 for water while a duplex is billed N2, 400.

Water rates on the mainland costs even cheaper.

In Surulere for instance, a flat is charged N500, while a duplex is N800 monthly. At the Ojota axis, where there are a lot of single room apartments (popularly known as ‘Face-me-I-Face-You), a room is N100. A flat is N500, and a duplex N800.

According to civil society groups, water privatization negates the 2010 United Nations recognition of water as a fundamental human right.

“If the IFC was successful in securing a large-scale water PPP in Lagos, it would mirror that of the electricity sector privatization, which has imposed sky-rocketing electricity bills without delivering improved service,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

“The IFC’s track record in the water sector is frightening: prices sky rocket, utility workers lose their jobs, water quality suffers, low-income communities have their water shut off, governments incur devastating debt, and public sovereignty is threatened by undemocratic arbitration.

“Privatization is not the solution for Lagos: it leads to corporate profits and has never provided universal access.
Additionally, if the IFC deal (had sailed) through, it would have opened the doors for several contracts for water corporations to take over the water system, and bidding by 2015.”


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  • SamPsalm

    It is in areas like this that the APC as an alternative begins to scare Nigerians. Water, education, right of the poor to affordable and decent trading opportunities – those are not premium issues for the Lagos State government. One hopes that Osinbajo would carry on with his pro-people policies as AG of Lagos State when he becomes Vice President

    • ogbuefiakajiaku

      Under which government will Osibanjo operate. Maybe in his house with his wife and children. Don’t be deceived by all these APC media hype. We shall see by March 28 who the cap fits.The north is now weary of the push by Yorubas on Buhari old papa about 90 years old so that we have another Yardua case but to the benefit of the Tinubu camp.God forbid

      • SamPsalm

        Well, unfortunately for you, he operated under the Tinubu 2 term Governorship and his pro-people achievement is there for all to see. It may interest you that both Yar Adua and Jonathan offered him the Attorney General’s office and he turned them down because he knew that the environment in PDP would not allow at least the little space Tinubu gave him, to operate. In the Tinubu government, he had the brief to straddle justice administration and he made the Lagos State Ministry of Justice and its Judiciary the best in the nation. Now, he would be tasked with policy implementation – on a broader scale encompassing the whole economy. If you know him, you will bet with your last kobo that he is not the sort of man you can ignore or refuse to give responsibilities. Instead, he is the sort of man you want to leave everything for – and just go and be taking all the glory for his achievement. An Osinbajo as 2nd in command would make more difference in Nigeria within 4 years than a Jonathan can effect in 40 Years as head of State

    • TrueNja

      As we have crooks in PDP likewise in APC. Vote for individual’s integrity not party.

  • Eze1

    LASG failed in water supply to Lagosians. They scored F9

  • Dazmillion

    This project has Tinubu’s finger prints all over it.

  • dd

    Tinubu will soon privatise child birth. Before you can meet your wife, you need to get a license from Tinubu’s company. This is how APC will rule Nigeria. Knowing well that Buhari is mentally weak at 84years, Tinubu will privatise Nigeria

  • Isi Agwo

    Water is already privatised. If an average Lagos family spends 200 – 500 naira to buy “pure” water sachets a day, because the taps are dry anyway, throwing regular water supply open to competing formalised, private companies is the way to go. However, the plan to hand over another publicly-owned company/utility to Thiefnubu must be resisted.

    • MrFesh+Ifebuche+Paschal

      Can’t you guys take it easy with the lies? 200-500 for ‘pure’ water a day is around 50-125 satchets a day (this is at a retail price of 80 bucks o).
      Cut down on the lies cos they are beyond mere exaggeration these days.

      • Anyasa Umuigbo

        The point is made that families currently buy water from private businesses because the taps are not running. Why can’t the supply of water by private companies be formalised and people will stop paying Lagos State for the dry taps.

        • MrFesh+Ifebuche+Paschal

          That point can be made without ELABORATE LIES like some parties in Nigeria tend to tell us. Simple truths make us know where we are what to work out instead of phantom numbers and unrealistic accusations.

    • Atinuke

      Tinubu owns almost everything in Lagos now. It is just a matter of time before Lagosians would have to ask his permission before they breadth. #NO2APC #GEJ4Naija

  • True

    Over to change agents and APC e-rats to defend this. Over hyping of APC does not allow us to see and make informed decisions.

  • True

    When some schools in Lagos allowed newsmen to students sitting on windows and huts the headteachers were promptly sacked. APC government is used to impunity. Also between those who plotted and worked for Buhari emergence and the born to rule oligarchy that will hijack Buhari government later I see a fight to finish. Tinubu who is working to expand his area of influence will find match in hausa-fulani cabal lurking around the corner. Then it will be movement in circles amidst complaints of marginalisation. Food for thought.

  • real

    It’s a form of change, I think. Though change to suffering. They might even try taxing how much water you get from your borehole soon. And lest I forget, Tinubu company will better to handle that.

  • Factsay

    APC is the sure-way to secrecy, slavery and suffering.

    Even BUHARI dey hide his original certificate and does not want to request for it. Corruption thrives under secrecy.

    GEJ did well by giving us Freedom of Information Act

  • TrueNja

    Fellow compatriot Nigerians, I’ve been stating this long time that there is need for change in Lagos state as we are demanding for change at the center. These Yoruba thugs and crooks that are in APC calling themselves progressive are not progressive. Tinubu and his cohorts are international thieves. Ahmed Tinubu is a master of corruption compare to Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Logosians pls vote wisely otherwise your children and unborn children will be enslaved to thiefing Tinubu family for over 100 years to come.

  • Es3

    This has only delayed Tinubu from billing all Lagosians exorbitantly for water in Lagos, except APC is sent packaging?!

    The ‘stench’ will continue to increase and accumulate at the expense of the people and may explode on Lagosians sooner hey think?!

  • Baba Jada

    Water is a fundamental human right and cannot be privatized. It is as a matter of fact GEJ’s policy to privatize the power sector and imposed exorbitant electricity bills without delivering improved service. Since this water claim is unsubstantiated, then we can conclude that this is nothing but a smear campaign against Lagos State Govt. Change is here and Utoke awaits GEJ.

    • TrueNja

      @ Baba Jada – I’m not GEJ fan but I disagree with u on dis. I’m 100% with Buhari. This story is true not a smear campaign against APC Lagos state govt. Most Yoruba APC leaders are fake and corrupt; they are as bad as PDP leaders. Change must come to Lagos this April if the state want to move forward.

      • Adetunji Oladipo

        Thank u god bless u.

  • Fula

    what the APC govt is doing is to provide a solution to an obvious problem. thankfully, it has realized that its preferred method will not augur well for the vast majority of the people it serves. how i wish the FG will admit same with the power privatization process

  • Atinuke

    Lagosians, open ur eyes before it is too late, APC has sold u. #NO2Buhari #GEJ4Naija

  • evi

    This would be child’s play if God forbid apc win the election.they will turn Nigeria into an elitist country like they did lagos and spit on the poor masses. Tinubu will turn Nigeria to his personal property like he has done to lagos and other apc states. Jakande’s reason for establishing lasu to provide affordable education for lagosians has gone up in flames under apc. Their are three toll gates btw VI and epe. They are just waiting for the elections to start the other two. Apc do not care about the poor and those struggling to survive

  • Ayelala

    Number 1 , most of the comments here are from non Yorubas. Do you have boreholes to privatise in your states?
    Number 2 , tap water is not free .
    Number 3 , availability and affordability are the keywords; definitely not whether it is private run or government run.
    Number 4 , the staffs are typical of civil servants in nigeria . They do not want any change which will disrupt their ongoing rackets.
    5 in a western region or a yoruba Republic , water ,electricity , gas transportation, telecommunications,leisure, waste management etc will be fully privatised. The regional government can then milk them for taxes

    • Adetunji Oladipo

      U are talking rubbish.

    • Ewuare_d_Great

      crap! is it only the Yoruba that make up the entire population of Lagos state? for your information, it was not yoruba money that was used to build lagos state it was Nigeria’s money. which was mostly gotten from the crude oil in the south south

  • Tunde Savage


    Alhaji Raji Fashola has almost ruined Lagos state with un-precedented debt burden of $3.7billion.
    This debt followed the theft and waste of the gross $18billion Lagos state got as revenue from 2007.
    After foolishly experimenting and without knowledge, Raji Fashola now runs to private businessmen.
    He’s almost privatized Lagos state government itself – out of cluelessness – for businessmen to run.
    Raji Fashola exemplifies the tragedy of electing public policy ignoramuses into public office in Nigeria.
    A public policy ignoramus will only tax and spend, like a drunken mariner, but will get no result; i.e:

    • Derrick

      Yeparipa!! Lagos state government is now owing $3.7 billion dollars. That’s 750 billion Naira!
      What do Lagosians have to show for it, after earning $20 billion dollars under Raji Fashola?
      The Lagos state government of Fashola is almost a crime against humanity besides being
      a financial crime in broad daylight. What baffles me is that Lagosians are so easy to colonize.

      • Pastor Jones

        “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own
        soul? The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro
        of those that seek death. There are thorns and snares on the path of the
        crooked. Anyone who guards himself prudently will stay far from them. Brethren,
        you shall not steal. Theft entails deceit; and in a heart where the spirit of
        deceit is, there, the spirit of God cannot be.”

    • Raymond

      “And now the conclusion seems to be inescapable in Nigeria
      that what we have as leaders in politics, business, and in the
      civil service, are common thieves in high places.

      The rot is so deep that stealing is now in the family system,
      in the religious system; even in friendly and social clubs.
      Everybody is looking for somebody else to steal from.

      The day our leaders decide they don’t need James Ibori’s
      kind of wealth or Cecilia Ibru’s kind of property acquisition,
      that a good name is better than material acquisition;
      and that leadership at the end of the day,
      is about people and leaving a place better
      than you met it, is the day Nigeria will begin
      a positive walk into sanity and propriety. Until then,
      Nigeria is just a nation of common thieves.”

      ………..Muyiwa Adetiba

      (Pioneer Editor, Vanguard Newspaper)

      [June 15, 2013]

      • Adetunji Oladipo

        Concure with u sir.