A report in Global Water Intelligence – a high value business information for the private water industry, detailing plans by the Lagos government to privatise the Adiyan II and Igbonla water works before the end of 2019 has drawn the ire of civil society, labour and grassroots groups in Lagos.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) caution that if the Governor Babajide Sawo-Olu administration goes ahead with the plans it will send a clear signal that the governor is in cahoots with profiteers against the poor masses of Lagos.
The groups, under the Our Water, Our Right Coalition organised a press briefing in Lagos where they examined the GWI report published on October 17, 2019, describing the privatization plans as unacceptable, anti-people and anti-labour.
Philip Jakpor, Head Media & Campaigns of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) said that the updated details in the report showed that the Sanwolu administration may not be different from that of his predecessors who wanted to foist the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model of water privatization on Lagos citizens through the Lagos Environmental Bill and other backdoor channels.
Jakpor expressed reservations about the Lagos government promotion of privatization and the PPP success story marketed by the World Bank Group, even when the initiative failed in India, Philippines and across Asia and Africa where it was touted as the solution to their water crsis.
Jakpor expressed worry that the World Bank and its private arm – International Finance Corporation (IFC) continues to market the failed PPP in the water sector, engages in behind the curtain talks with the governments including Lagos State but denies it.
He maintained that the award of the 100 million gallon/day Igbonla project to Brio Resources Technologies and Acuamed should also elicit questions since Acuamed is tied up in an international corruption scandal and was recently under investigation by the Spanish government and the European Union’s European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). Several executives of the company were said to have been arrested in 2016 in relation to the allegations and in April 2017, the Spanish Parliament called for reform and eventual replacement of Acuamed following the scandal.
Comrade Taiwo Opaleye, Branch Chair of AUPCTRE Lagos Council, spoke on the secrecy around the Lagos government privatization plans even as he added that the neglect of the existing waterworks in the state was deliberate to pave way for privatization.
Opaleye said that the Iju, Adiyan and other waterworks in Lagos were deliberately starved of funds to pave the way for privatization and that members of AUPCTRE are conversant with the lies of privatization
Secretary, NLC Lagos State Chapter, Comrade Abiodun Bakare wondered why the Lagos government continues to shun critical voices including that of the victmised staff of the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) and instead, continues to fraternize with corporations with global infractions.
Bakare explained that the details in the GWI which emanated from the LWC management was surprising as there had been no formal discussion with staff on the status of the waterworks and awarded work.
The unionist said the publishing of the details in the GWI raises many serious questions and concerns, including why Lagos citizens must have to find out about plans to privatise their water from industry trade journals rather than from the government.
“There was no consultation with us and no recourse to our concerns that have been explicit from 2014 when the PPP idea was first muted so it is shocking to observe the eagerness of the Lagos government to fraternize with corporations with questionable records”
In his intervention, Achike Chude of the Joint Action Front (JAF) said that the water privatisation experiment in the water sector is a failed experiment that started in Great Britain under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher‘s government in the early 1980s but has been repackaged and now promoted by the World Bank Group.
Chude explained that the water sector privatization being promoted by the Lagos government is part of a growing recourse to privatization, particularly the PPP model, which he said, was a fraud since the so-called private sector investors will not put in their funds.
“It is a pattern. We have seen it in the power sector. We have seen it with Visionscape and other companies who come to Nigeria with their brief cases and are taken to the bank by the government which stands as guarantor of the loans they collect. Even when the companies default, ordinary citizens
Chude warned that putting an indispensable free gift of nature in the hands of a few individuals and powerful corporations would lead to violation of rights, poor service quality and a major social crisis.
“Governor Sanwolu’s administration must hearken to the demands of Lagos citizens that it uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people. He must live up to his campaign promise to be a governor for the people of Lagos, not vested interests”
Aside a halt to the PPP/Privatisation plans, the groups other demands are:
· Lagos water infrastructure should not be handed to transnational corporations like Veolia, Metito, Abengoa
● Disclosure of all IFC and World Bank activity and discussions with Lagos government officials regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.
● The Lagos government builds the political will to prioritize water for the people, through a comprehensive plan that invests public funds in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, which will create jobs, improve public health, and invigorate the Lagos economy.
● Increased budgetary allocation to the water sector
● Institution of Water Trust Fund that will expand public financing of the water sector