Dozens of Labour and Civil Society groups marched in Lagos, Tuesday, to protest the state government’s decision to go ahead with its water privatization plans.
The procession which began at the Ikeja Under Bridge, ended at Governor Babatunde Fashola’s office at Alausa, hundreds of metres away, where no government official addressed the crowd.
“We are here to deliver a message to the government that the workers are saying ‘No’ to water privatization and ‘No’ to sale of Lagos State assets,” said Idowu Adelabu, Lagos State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress.
“The privatization will bring a lot of calamities to the people of Lagos State. Our message is very clear: There should be no privatization in Lagos State.”
Since the last quarter of 2014, civil society groups had continued to mount pressure on the Lagos Water Corporation, LWC, to back-pedal on its alleged plans to privatize public water supply in the state.
There had been ongoing talks between the LWC and the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank, on designing a water scheme for the state.
But in January, the World Bank announced that it was terminating the discussions with the LWC.
The LWC had, however, continued to insist that it was only seeking partnerships with private companies to optimize water supply to Lagos residents.
At a press conference last Friday, Shayo Holloway, the Managing Director of LWC, said that “deliberate misconceptions and rumours of secret plans to ‘Privatize’ LWC were untrue.
“The Lagos State government has never at any time considered the sale or divestment of any of LWC water assets,” Mr. Holloway said.
“On the contrary, the Public Private Partnership (PPP) law of 2004 only seeks to ‘partner’ with the private sector for accelerated development of water infrastructure to meet the current water demand in Lagos State, which currently stands at 540 million gallons per day (MGD) for a population of 20 million.
“This is not ‘Privatization’ where assets are sold off to the private sector. Public Private Partnership is indeed a veritable strategy for accelerated infrastructure development, using private capital.”
But the protesters on Tuesday said that privatization and PPP were “one and the same.”
“We are saying that PPP is the same things as privatization,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, Director of Corporate Accountability, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
“On the streets of Lagos today, you can see how the people joined us saying no to whatever form of privatization. PPP is privatization. What they have done is to use a sexy language to colour what they are doing.
“But basically, they want to hand over our water to private companies. It’s a practice that was being promoted by the IFC and the World Bank. It has failed all over the world and we are sure it will fail in Lagos.”
The protesters, bore such placards as ‘This is Lagos, our water, our right;’ ‘The cry of the masses will ask you, Holloway;’ ‘Profit not from what God freely give. It is a sin;’ ‘Save our water save Lagos.’
Mr. Oluwafemi noted that Lagos State has enough raw material and resources to generate sufficient potable water for Lagos residents.
“And Holloway also said it, that the raw material that is needed for water is abundant in this state. So what are they waiting for? Let them give Lagos water to Lagos people,” said Mr. Oluwafemi.
“They are talking to private companies. We don’t know their names, they are keeping it secret against the law of our lands. But we will continue to tell them to do what is right.”