The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) have jointly demanded that the Lagos State government halt plans to privatise water in the state.
They also demanded a probe of the tenure of former Group Managing Director of Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC), Shayo Holloway who resigned from the corporation last October amidst allegations of running the water corporation down.
Holloway was issued query by the office of the Lagos Head of Service for the parlous state of water infrastructure in Lagos even with huge budgetary allocations.
In a press briefing organized last Thursday in Lagos, ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi revealed that
when ERA/FoEN and its local and international allies began the campaign to stop the Lagos water privatization in October 2014, the immediate past administration in the state maintained sealed lips, refusing to disclose any detail to the public. The initiative was shrouded in utter secrecy, with virtually no information in the public domain.
Oluwafemi said that intense local and international demands for disclosure by the Our Water, Our Right Coalition comprising civil society, labour and grassroots organisations forced the bank to open up on the water privatisation scheme, which centers on the appointment of its private arm — the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to design a PPP water scheme for Lagos. The campaign forced the bank to open up, including announcing the cancellation of its pact with the Lagos state government. Until that announcement, Holloway -an avowed advocate of water privatisation, had shunned demands to speak on the issue.
He insisted that the PPP was a failed model which did not work in Nagpur in India, Manila in the Philippines and has been rejected in Paris where the Veolia which the IFC had a stake in, was forced to divest from managing public water assets.
The ERA/oEN boss stressed that as much as civil society and the unions commend Governor Ambode administration for shining its torch on the rot in the LSWC which led to the resignation of Holloway, they are not satisfied with the silence of the state government on demands for a probe of the management of the corporation in the last 16 years.
“For us, Holloway’s resignation is a tacit acknowledgement of the failure of his tenure and especially his management team. His resignation does not however answer for the poor performance of LSWC in delivering water to the people nor the grievances of staff of the corporation who have been sidelined in decision-making and initiatives that would have made the agency work better. We anticipate that the Ambode administration get to the root of the causes of the decay at the corporation”.
On the new managing director of LSWC, Engr. Mumuni Badmus, Oluwafemi said that the new Lagos water utility head was in a hurry to take up the same failed plan of the former helmsman, a move that would not only mean disaster for the people of Lagos, but a huge political mistake.
He reiterated earlier demands that the Lagos government disclose all IFC and World Bank activity and discussions with Lagos government officials regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.
Vice President, South West of AUPCTRE, Comrade Subair Muali, in his speech, said that the unions stand against plans to privatise water in the state, and especially the attempt at polarising the unions as a strategy of weakening their anti-privatisation resolve.