The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria on Thursday presented a document detailing the way out of the crisis in the Lagos water sector.
The 56-page report reviewed the impact and reasons for the failure of the current Lagos water system, provided models around the world for adaptation to the Lagos context, and made recommendations to be implemented by the government.
“Today we have moved from mere advocacy to providing real, practical and sustainable solutions,” Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Executive Director, ERA/FoEN, said at the presentation of the book titled ‘Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Public Water Sector’ in Lagos.
“We will still be in the streets until this crisis is addressed, but now we are also ready to work with our leaders to move forward together. This report is the alternative roadmap to the Lagos Water Strategy which has the sole aim of promoting water privatisation.”
Access to state-owned potable water in Lagos has continued to be a challenge, with less than 10 percent of the 21 million residents connected to pipe-borne water.
Daily water demand in the state is estimated at 540 million gallons per day (mgd) while the state-owned water corporation claims to produce 210 mgd. In reality, it produces far less.
The Lagos State Water Supply Masterplan says a private-public partnership is the only way out of the conundrum.
On its website, the Lagos Water Corporation displays a quote stating “We are seeking Private Investors whom we can partner with to leverage on their technical expertise and access to the capital market; while they leverage on our population and abundant water resources; creating a synergy to achieve our vision of provision of water to the residents of the state in sufficient quantity at economic rate for cost recovery.”
But Mr. Oluwafemi said their campaign against water privatisation – or PPP – is hinged on “well-documented concerns” that it would lead to violations of human right to water and deny citizens universal access to safe drinking water.
“There are also concerns that the whole privatisation process, including an Advisory Agreement with the World Bank were conducted in secret, without ensuring active, free and meaningful citizens’ participation,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.
“There is also the worry about job losses, high tariffs and the possibility of social unrest if water privatisation is forced on the people.”
The book reviewer, Chido Onumah, the Coordinator of the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, said the report provides a rare insight into the health and economic implications of the Lagos water crisis.
“If there’s one significant achievement of this report, it is the fact that brings to the fore the problem of access to water as a human rights issue,” said Mr. Onumah, who was represented by Tunde Akanni, a Mass Communications lecturer at the Lagos State University.
“It clearly underscores this notion through interviews with a cross section of Lagos residents which show that the public desires a system that sustains their right to water and allows the people to participate in making decisions about their water needs.”
Some of the recommendations in the book include the need to protect and fulfill the human right to water as an obligation of the government as well as an increase in the budgetary allocation to the water sector.
“The argument against water privatisation does not overlook the importance of funding to build and maintain water infrastructure,” the report noted.
“A consistent and adequate budgetary allocation to the water sector will allow the attainment of universal access that Lagos residents deserve.”
Earlier, Uche Onyeagocha, a former member of the House of Representatives, cautioned other state governments who are planning to emulate the Lagos example of adopting the PPP model.
“This private sector, are they bringing this money without asking for something in return?” Mr. Onyeagocha, a member of ERA/FoEN’s Board of Trustees, said.
“The truth of the matter is that they are bringing in the private sector because the private sector will still make money out of it, having seen that it is an area where they can make so much money.
“But I want to go back to the same government and ask, an airport and the provision of water, which is more important to the people? Definitely, it is water. How much have most states spent in building airports that are not functional?
“Why were they not able to get all that money which they have wasted in building airports and put it in the provision and distribution of water? There are too many routes through which government has wasted a lot of money which they can bring back and use it to provide water, as a social infrastructure.”
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