ERA, civil society stage protest over water privatization

Zenith

Again Environmental Rights Action /Friends of the Earth Nigeria in collaboration with members of the civil society today (Wednesday, March 22) staged a massive protest in Lagos against the continued government plan to privatization of water.

They chanted solidarity songs and danced to Afrobeat king, Fela’s music, as they marched through the Obafemi Awolowo road in Ikeja to Alausa, the seat of power to lodge their protest to Lagos governor, Akinwumi Ambode.
Some of the placards had the caption: Our water our right, No to water Privatization, Picking the Pockets of the Poor (PPP), Ambode Rise up and defend common man, Stop deceiving Lagosians with Grammar as PPP will led to job loss and Lagos not for sale, among others.   
The protesters said despite their petitions and public advocacy, the Lagos state government “body language” showed it is bent on going ahead with the plan but warned that they are prepared to resist it with every fibre of their blood.
ERA expressed displeasure that Ambode failed to address the protesters even when it was confirmed he was in the office, stressing that the action of the governor was a minus to his leadership.
In a letter to Ambode signed by 9 Civil Society organisations which the protesting group left with the Commissioner for Environment, Babatunde Adejare who addressed the protesters, the group noted that Privatization was never the solution, urging government to have a re-think.
Part of the content of the letter which was made available to The Niche read: As we have mentioned in our earlier communications on this issue, evidence abounds showing that countries that have experimented the public private partnership (PPP) model of water privatization burnt their fingers and many have opted to remunicipalize.
“The models upon which the PPP is based has failed to uphold the human right to water and have locked governments into long term contracts. Such deals have proven exceedingly difficult for cities to exit, despite rate hikes, service cutoffs and unfulfilled infrastructure promises, and they prevent cities from making crucial progress toward real solutions to water access challenges.     
“Lagos does not need to experience social conflicts or drown in debt to steer clear from this slippery road fraught with booby traps.
In his response Adejare promised to communicate the message to Ambode while reminding the protesters that   government was only seeking partnerships with private companies to optimize water supply to Lagos residents.
He also added that Lagos needs money to build water infrastructure as well as run it effectively for the good of all.
Akinbode Oluwafemi, a Director at the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, told The Niche “Since October 2015 we have made representations but they have refused to accept the truth on the real solution that is needed.
“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 saying no to water privatization, we are saying there is a solution.
Philip Jakpor, Head, Media & Communication, ERA/FoEN told The Niche that “it is in the best interest of Lagos government to listen to the voice of the masses, the voice of wisdom and rescind their decision to go on with water privatization or else government should prepare for more protests which they may not be able to handle and which also is likely to affect Ambode’s future ambition. Lagos now know what is happening so government must play with caution”