Scores of members of civil society groups, led by the Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, joined forces with Epe community people, hometown of the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, to demand for a stop in government moves to privatise water in the state.
The horde of protesters chanting solidarity songs in a walk that took them to the Lagos State Water Corporation office and the Campaign Office of Mr. Olulade (Epe Constituency 2), in the ancient town, also bemoaned the decrepit state of facilities and building of the corporation and urged government to beam its searchlight of ongoing developments in Lagos on the state’s water sector.
In a carnival style, the protesters, donning blue attires danced to Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo’s music, as they marched across the city of Epe, Lagos Wednesday in protest of the seemingly unyielding resolve of Lagos government to privatize the state owned Water Corporation.
The protesters said despite their petitions and public advocacy, the “body language” of government officials conveyed a message that they were going ahead with the plan.
They also said they were angry with the state of facilities at the Epe office of the Lagos State Water Corporation where every facility was in visible state of neglect and the equipment, moribund.
Since the last quarter of 2014, civil society groups had continued to mount pressure on the Lagos State 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 LSWC and the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank, on designing a water scheme for the state.
In January 2015, the World Bank announced that it was terminating the discussions with the LWC.
The LSWC had, however, continued to insist that it was only seeking partnerships with private companies to optimize water supply to Lagos residents.
Speaking at the office of the LSWC in EPE, Deputy Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi, enjoined the Lagos governor, Ambode, to shun the move to continue with the privatisation of the water sector in Lagos but rather channel energy towards revamping the sinking sector for optimum productivity.
Oluwafemi who commended the feat of Ambode in developing Lagos to the envy of Nigerians, said the government would do good by hearkening to the voice of the downtrodden who will bear the brunt of the water privatisation by heeding the call to do away with the planned privatisation.
And as Oluwafemi was drumming the beat, residents of the town joined their voices in condemning the privatisation bid, urging government to do away with its privatisation plan as it would add to their burden
The residents were unanimous in their resolve to resist the government move, noting that water is a basic need that government must not take away from the reach of the people.
The protesters, led by the ERA/FoEN also included key representatives of Public Services International (PSI), the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Peace and Development Project (PEDEP), as well as community representatives from across Lagos State.
Going down memory lane, Oluwafemi stressed: “Since October 2015 we have made representations. During the campaigns, we sent correspondence to the current governor, Governor Ambode, about our aversion to privatization of Lagos water and we have been very articulate in telling them what needs to be done, because we are not just saying no to water privatization, we are saying there is a solution.
Meanwhile, workers at the LSWC, Epe, did not welcome the protesters as they locked their gates and refused the representatives of the civil society group entrance while none of the staff came out to receive them.