The United Nations Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation on Monday raised “serious concerns” about the newly passed Lagos State Environmental Bill that criminalises sourcing water from natural sources.
Léo Heller criticised the state government for failing to provide adequate access to drinking water, and then criminalising or imposing fines for fetching water from lakes, rivers, or any other natural sources.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.
Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
“The government is taking a step too far by imposing fines of the equivalent of $310 on ordinary individuals fetching water for survival, when the minimum wage stands at approximately $60,” said Mr. Heller.
The comment from the UN expert comes after the Lagos State House of Assembly passed the Lagos Environment Bill on February 20.
The Bill includes specific provisions that criminalise the sourcing of water from natural sources if conducted without the approval from the authorities.
Last week, a coalition of civil society groups, grassroots campaigners, and water unionists vowed to resist the Bill if signed into law by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
Mr. Heller said legal measures by the government to regulate access to water are an important step to ensure that drinking water is safe.
“However, when only 10 per cent of the population are connected to piped networks and the rest of the population rely on natural water sources for drinking water, a blanket prohibition of accessing natural water is not the way forward.”
Mr. Heller urged the government to reconsider the Bill and to conduct “a proper and meaningful” public consultation with all relevant stakeholders.
The UN Rapporteur said he sent a letter to the Nigerian government on 4 July, 2016, to request for clarification about the water and sanitation situation in Lagos but got no response.