The demand that state governments in Nigeria should not embark on privatization in the water sector has spread from Lagos to Bauchi and Plateau States where civil society, a host of communities and trade unions have started mobilizing to stop the plans going forward.
In Plateau State, Governor Simon Lalong was asked to revoke the Plateau Water Sector Law which he signed on June 4, while his Bauchi State counterpart, Governor Bala Muhammed was equally asked to jettison the Bauchi Urban Water Sector Law which the groups say, contains anti-people provisions including Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements set to commence in year 2020.
At a stakeholder dialogue in Jos, the Plateau State capital, National President of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Comrade Benjamin Anthony said that the union is armed with ample evidence that in virtually all cities where the model planned for Plateau was experimented, it led to rate hikes, poor quality service, shut-offs for the most vulnerable people in communities who cannot pay, lay-offs for workers, and other consequences that erode the universal access to water that the United Nations (UN) advocates.
Comrade Anthony said that it happened in Gabon, Cameroun, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nagpur in India, Manila in the Philippines.
“In all these places, water privatization left the people disenfranchised and even after the contracts were terminated, the cities were left poorer because of huge loans they had to pay back.”
He inisited that the governor must stand with the people and open fresh discussions on how to ensure that clean and safe water is available, adequate and affordable for all citizens of the state within the realm of the public sector which is democratic, open to constant review, and protects the most vulnerable of our people.
AUPCTRE Plateau State Chairperson, Dorcas Lenkat explained that the law was hastily passed by the last State House of Assembly on the last day of their sitting despite the resistance of the union and civil society at a Public Hearing on April 16.
She warned that if privatization in the sector is allowed, the cost of water would skyrocket and make it virtually impossible for women and girls to have adequate access to water for their hygiene and other pressing needs.
Earlier, Head of Media & Campaigns of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Philip Jakpor, spoke on the dangers of water privatization.
Jakpor revealed that privatisations fail mostly because the World Bank and governments promote the lies that the public sector is corrupt and cannot deliver. He explained that the troubled Power Sector reforms and other privatizations have shown otherwise.
“Privatisations, especially in the water sector failed in France, Beunos Aires, Cochabamba, Cameroun, Gabon, Nagpur in India and Manila in the Philippines. It was water privatization that caused the Flint and Pittsburgh water crisis in the United States which shocked the world when the reports showed that residents were drinking lead in their water. Many are sick today and many more will be but the company at the center of the crisis walked away with millions of dollars”.
Other speakers include: Comrade Sam Aluko of the Civil Society Coalition for Good Governance and Olatunji Buhari of ERA/FoEN, both of whom encouraged community groups across the state to rise up to the occasion and challenge water privatization.
In similar vein, at a sensitization meeting on water privatization which had AUPCTRE, ERA/FoEN, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), and affiliate unions in attendance, the Bauchi State Urban Water Sector Law No. I Vol.39 of 2014 was carpeted as the groups said it was passed without a Public Hearing and without the consent and backing of the people.
They urged Governor Mohammed to right the wrongs they observed in the law by jettisoning it. They also asked him to stand with the people and open fresh discussions on how to ensure that clean and safe water is available, adequate and affordable for all within the realm of the public sector.
The highpoint of both events were the inauguration of their chapter of the Our Water Our Right Coalition made up of civil society, trade union and community-based groups who will continue championing the anti-water privatization cause.