A coalition of civil society organisations, labour unions, and human right activists on Monday held a campaign against water privatisation in Lagos.
The groups held a peaceful march to the Lagos State Ministry of Environment on Monday, as part of the week-long activities for the Africa Water Week.
The Africa Water Week against Water Privatisation is a movement by civil societies and labour activists from Africa to build resistance to threats of water privatisation in countries across the continent.
The Africa Water Week, which is the first-ever, holds from October 11 to 15, with countries like Cameroun, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda participating.
The week coincides with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF)Annual Meetings holding from October 11 to 17.
Speaking on the joint action against water privatisation across Africa, Akinbode Oluwafemi, the executive director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), said it would deepen push back actions against water privatisation in Africa through partnership of labour and civil society.
“Recognising the World Bank as one of the biggest drivers of water privatisation around the world, especially in Africa, the week of action taking place during its annual meeting will serve as an important counterweight to the pro-privatisation agenda.
“It will bolster the movement for the human right to water in Africa by identifying and deepening connections between struggles in eight countries on the continent.
“The Our Water Our Right Africa Coalition also targets deepening collective support for countries at risk of a range of water privatisation schemes, including across West, East, Central, and Southern Africa,” Mr Oluwafemi said.
He added that the World Bank had continued to market water privatisation and the PPP myth to poor and developing countries even when many cities that experimented them documented failures.
“Experiences from cities where water has been privatized show rates hike, job losses, low water quality, shut offs and ultimately government thrown into perpetual debts.
“Most of these cities have embraced remunicipalisation- another word for taking back water from privatizers and putting it where it should be -under public and democratic control. Buenos Aires, Berlin, Ghana, Gabon, Jakarta, Paris, Tanzania, and lately Cameroon are some examples to note,” he said.
Part of the activities for the week-long Africa Water Week is an international press conference on October 13, meetings with policy makers across the region, and creating awareness about the dangers of water privatisation through protest marches, social media engagements and town hall meetings.
‘Lagos’ fixation with PPP’
Joining the rest of Africa to commemorate the 2021 Africa Week of Action Against
Water Privatization, CAPPA; the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical & Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE); Joint Action Front (JAF); Africa Women Water Sanitation & Hygiene Network; Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria; and Centre for Human and Socio-Economic Right (CHSR) marched to the Lagos ministry of environment to express dissatisfaction with the state of public water in the state.
The groups expressed their resistance against plans to put water resources in private hands which will deny many citizens, especially low-income earners free access to water.
In a petition submitted to the Commissioner for Environment, the groups expressed worry that the Lagos State Government is yet to present its blueprint on how to develop the water sector that will guarantee universal access to the people of Lagos.
The groups said that despite the “Our Water, Our Rights Campaign”, Lagosians are still suffering an acute water shortage despite being surrounded by water.
“Comments coming from some Lagos State government officials indicate that there is a
fixation with the idea of water privatization and the Public Private Partnership (PPP).
“The Africa Week of Action against water privatization is a convergence of all the resistance struggles against commodification of water on the African continent and push back actions against impediments to the human right to water in Africa,” the petition reads in part.
Giving their recommendations, the organisations urged the Lagos government to “reject all forms of corporate control of water and privatisation of water services, including through ‘public-private partnerships.”
They also urged the government to fulfill its obligation to respect and protect the right to water by all people by prioritising robust public investment in the water sector.
“We call on the government to resist pressure from international financial institutions, private water corporations, and other financial actors to commercialize the water sector and, instead, ensure universal access to safe water regardless of the ability to pay, ” the petition reads.
Speaking on the effects of water privatisation on citizens, Veronica Nwanya, the chairperson of Africa Women Water Sanitation and Hygiene Network, said women and children bear the burden of shortage and scarcity of water in the community.
“Women will suffer the most of water privatisation takes place. They trek far distances to get water for the family, to take care of the children and even themselves during their monthly cycles. We cannot leave women and girls to the risks of water privatisation, water is our right, ” she said.
Mrs Nwanya said the coalition will resist water privatisation in all its forms, as it violates the rights of women, girls and children, low-income families, and rural communities.
Biodun Bakare, the state secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Lagos chapter, said the advocacy against water privatisation has been on for a long time, but the state government has not shown any readiness to shelve the plan.
“The state of the waterworks in Lagos is not impressive or encouraging and this has accounted for the shortage of water in Lagos. We urge the state government to develop political will to invest in the water sector,” he said.
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