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Again, AUPCTRE, PSI, CAPPA, others reject national water bill, privatisation in Lagos

By Edu Abade

Organised labour under the auspices of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and its civil society counterparts, Public Service International (PSI) and the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) have again rejected the National Water Resources Bill being represented at the National Assembly.

They also carpeted the Lagos State Government for its failure to provide clean, potable, accessible and affordable water to residents of the state and charged Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu to do everything within his powers to provide clean public water and place the people over profits.

The groups made the assertions at the sixth quadrennial state delegates’ conference (SDC) of AUPCTRE, which was held in Lagos on Wednesday, September 21, 2022, with the theme: Promoting Transparency and Accountability for Quality Service Delivery in the Nigerian Public Sector.

Delivering her welcome address, the representative of PSI, Comrade Badru, argued that the revenues being generated in Lagos State were more than enough to provide safe public water to its residents and provide other critical infrastructure needs.

Insisting that the state government has no justifiable reasons to privatise water, because water is life, she maintained that the Sanwo-Olu-led administration should place the people’s welfare over the quest to make profits.

Speaking, Director of Programmes at CAPPA, Philip Jakpor, urged the leadership and all members of AUPCTRE at the state and national levels to engage more to discourage the privatisation of water in Lagos.

He maintained that there was a deliberate attempt to stifle the Lagos Waterworks in an attempt to pave way for Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) aimed at placing the provision of water in the hands of a few private individuals, because according to him, virtually all the waterworks in the state are down operationally.

On his part, National Secretary of AUPCTRE, Comrade Sikiru Waheed, specifically chided the Lagos State Government for its failure to revive the comatose waterworks, adding that the visible neglect of public water in Lagos was very bad for the state, especially for residents, whose terrain could not allow drilling of boreholes and even wells.

He lamented that the Lagos Water Corporation was operating at a mere 20 per cent capacity, insisting that as good as Governor Sanwo-Olu may have performed in other areas, he has failed woefully in the public water sector, as most residents of the state lack potable water.

Citing the case of Ekiti State, he explained that the state government said it was adopting corporatisation as against privatisation of water, adding that what the Ekiti State Government had termed corporatisation was simply putting provision of water in the hands of a few favoured individuals, which is basically the same thing as privatisation, describing it as a matter of semantics.

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But responding, Special Adviser to Governor Sanwo-Olu on Labour Matters, William Babatunde, said it was unfair to claim that the governor had failed in the water sector, adding that rather than criticize the state government, people should commend and encourage the governor to do more, not only in the water sector, but also in other critical sectors.

“There is no basis to compare Lagos with Ekiti on any matter. The challenges and crisis in the Lagos State public water sector are being addressed and as such, it is unfair to say that Governor Sanwo-Olu has failed or is not doing enough in the water sector,” he said.

Other delegates at the conference, including National President of AUPCTRE, Comrade Benjamin Anthony, Lagos State Chairman, Comrade Taiwo Opaleye and Secretary, Comrade ‘Biodun Bakare, opposed the National Water Resources Bill being pushed for the third time at the National Assembly and attempts by some state governments, particularly Lagos to privatise water in their domains under the guise of PPPs.

“Subletting the responsibility of providing water to some private individuals in the name of Public Private Partnerships has left us at the mercy of some profiteering businessmen, whose aim is to maximize profits at the expense of the people resuscitating the closed ones, the preference shifted to privatisation and commercialisation of public agencies including public utilities like water.

“In our opinion, the PPP policy remains a dangerous trend. As such, AUPCTRE in partnership with international organisations and civil society groups like Public Service International (PSI) and Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has taken measures including town hall meetings, public engagements and enlightenment, rallies, protests and follow-up to resist the implementation of the neo-liberal policies being masterminded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

“We call on the Federal and state government to shun the National Water Resources Bill and privatisation and note that ‘water is life’ and that clean, potable water must be affordable and available to all Lagos residents and by extension, all Nigerians across the country,” they stated.

A highpoint of the event was the award conferred on Comrade Ngozi Edet, who was recognised for her long-time service; Comrade Oyesanmi Ilesanmi (Special Recognition Award); Comrade Jojolola Oyebanji (Best Motivator Award); Comrade Idowu Adelakun (Inspirational Leadership Award); Comrade Innocent Ogwuje (Rising Star Award) and Benjamin Anthony (Outstanding Leadership Award).

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