If the feelers Nigerian Current is getting from civil society groups and water unions is anything to go by then the Lagos state government should be ready for a showdown.
A coalition of civil society groups, grassroots campaigners and water unionists have vowed to resist the Lagos State Environmental Bill which was passed yesterday (Feb 20) by the Lagos House of Assembly, less than two weeks after the groups challenged key sections of the law at a Public Hearing organised by the House Committee on the Environment.
The groups also asked Governor Akinwunmi Ambode not to assent to the bill but rather, send it back to the House to throw it open again for wider consultations and inputs from Lagos citizens.
The bill, which harmonises and merges eight environment laws in the state into one, is titled, ‘A Bill for a Law to Consolidate all Laws relating to the Environment for the Management, Protection and Sustainable Development of the Environment in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes.’
Media reports indicate that after its passage yesterday, Speaker Mudashiru Obasa directed the Clerk of the House, Mr. Azeez Sanni to send a clean copy to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for his signature to make it law.
The House members had cut short their six weeks recess to attend to the bill and same week it took the first and second reading and held the public hearing where activists picked holes in the law. The members went on another recess after passing the law.
Activists particularly decried sections of the law that guaranteed payment for contractual services and concessions with an Irrevocable Service Payment Order (ISPO) as the first line charge on the state internally-generated revenue. This means if the law is assented to by Governor Ambode, the state will use tax payers money to pay the corporate entities, without fail before considering payment for other services like salaries, healthcare, education or road construction, no matter how pressing they may be.
The bill also gave too much powers to the Lagos Commissioner for Environment, criminalizes sinking of boreholes, and imposes fines and sets prison terms for any Lagos citizen that sells or transports water, among others.
The groups criticizing the passage include: Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Peace and Development Project (PEDEP) and Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-Hope). Others are Center for Dignity and African Women Water Sanitation and Hygiene Network (AWWASHN), among others.
ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “We are too shocked at this clandestine passage by members of the House which was so hurriedly done that it smacks of respect for Lagos residents who are already victims of the Lagos government deliberate withholding of funding to the water sector to pave way for privatization”
Oluwafemi pointed out that, “The hasty convergence and recourse to recess by the lawmakers after passing this law is not only suspect, it is a conspiracy against the people”
National President of AUPCTRE, Comrade Solomon Adelegan said that: “The water privatization plans of the Lagos government which we have stood against and mobilised against till date is now being imposed on the people using the instrumentality of a law that was not properly debated, and fraught with anti-people sections.
“We will not sit back idly and watch our water infrastructure put in the hands of a few capitalists who have vowed to mortgage our collective future”
Executive Director of PEDEP, Francis Abayomi pointed out that Lagos residents will take to the streets and use every peaceful means to resist the environmental law, even as he asked: “What is the logic behind members of the House passing this obnoxious law and then going on recess immediately as if they are absconding?”
Francis explained that the environment law as currently passed would burden Lagosians and is the guise to introduce the PPP in the water sector which Lagosians have roundly rejected.’’
Executive Director of CEE-HOPE, Betty Abah said that “it is disheartening to know that a law concocted by a few capitalists could be so easily passed within two weeks of a Public Hearing. Incredible! We will resist it.”
The group said among a long list, it had already recommended the solution to the challenges to accessing water in Lagos in a document titled: “Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for the Water Sector” launched October 2016.