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CSOs urge govt to halt water bill and privatisation of public infrastructure

A coalition of civil society groups have called on the federal government to implement the resolution of the July 28, 2010 United Nations General Assembly, which recognizes the human right to water and sanitation and the importance of clean drinking water and sanitation.

They called on government to remove every obstacle to citizens’ access to these important resources. In a 14-point communique at the end of a one-day National Town hall meeting on the Water Resources Bill held in Abuja, the CSOs called on governments at all levels to wean themselves of the privatisation and Public Private Partnership (PPP) addiction which has failed across the globe.

In one voice the coalition called on the federal government to discard the obnoxious National Water Bill and kickstart a fresh community-led process and consultation to birth a true and inclusive National Water Bill at the National Assembly

The CSOs comprising of Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Public Services International (PSI) and the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) said the townhall was informed by the need to further heighten engagement by critical stakeholders to again reaffirm opposition to the contentious National Water Resources Bill as reports swell about plans for its re-presentation at the House of Representatives.

In his welcome address, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA noted that from the second to the last quarter of year 2020 there was national outcry about the obnoxious provisions of the Bill and the manner through which its promoters in the Ministry of Water Resources and the National Assembly tried to force it on the nation.

He said that even after the Bill was stepped down, its promoters have continued to push for its representation hence labour and civil society actors will continue mobilizing against it till the government listens and institutes a fresh process that will incorporate the inputs and demands of the people.

 

Solidarity messages were received from notable labour, civil society actors and critical allies including Public Services International (PSI), Joint Action Front (JAF), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), among others.

In his keynote address, Dr. Sofiri-Joab Peterside of the University of Port Harcourt, regrets that government continues to brush aside the genuine yearnings of Nigerians and instead, tries to impose neoliberal policies on the citizenry.

He said the unfortunate economic decision foisted by the World Bank and other capitalist institutions has been bought by the government and manifest in Nigeria’s education, electricity, public infrastructure, housing and now water sector, while the same government encourages tax benefits and generous incentives for the private sector operators.

The panel of discussants observed that water has emotional, spiritual, and ancestral appeal to indigenous people, and serves as a common pool resource and pivotal to maintaining cultural identity  and observed that in cities across the globe and in Africa where privatisation and the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model of water privatisation has been experimented there have been disastrous consequences on local communities, and job losses.

It therefore said plans to foist the National Water Resources Bill on Nigerians despite opposition from a broad spectrum of citizens is reflective of the Nigerian government embrace of faulty economic theories and the culture of insensitivity to the genuine needs of Nigerians.

It added that the water governance challenge was a manifestation of the power grab character of the Nigerian political elite and their accomplices in all the corridors of power and accused the Federal Ministry of Water Resources of determination to reintroduce what it calls “the toxic version” of the National Water Bill.

It called on the government to respect the genuine wishes of Nigerians expressed through various public forums and public channels including the media by jettisoning the toxic National Water Bill and asked all state governments to embrace tested and proven public sector solutions in addressing the country’s water challenges.

The communique was signed by the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, Public Services Employees, Joint Action Front, Child Health Organisation, African Women Water Sanitation and Hygiene Network.

Others are Democratic Socialist Movement, Network of Lagos Communities Against Water Privatisation, Peace and Development Project, and Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection.

 

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