Communities reject covert privatisation agenda in USAID, Lagos Water Corporation partnership

By Edu Abade

Various communities across Lagos State have vehemently rejected moves by the state government to privatise the provision of public water in a planned partnership between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC).

This followed a visit of a USAID delegation to the management of the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) on April 5, 2023 to purportedly promote the partnership between the parties in an attempt by the Lagos State Government to foist water privatisation on the citizens of the state despite of public outcry against the move.

Curiously, those privy to the discussions at the meeting expressed concern that there was no mention of the water privatisation agenda being shuffled through as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between USAID and LWC in December 2021 and in the commendations during the visit.

Despite several attempts by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) to obtain a copy of the agreement from the Lagos State Government, the MoU has been shrouded in secrecy and has remained out of the public eye nearly a year and a half later.

Through a Freedom of Information Act (FoI) request filed in the United States, CAPPA recently obtained a copy of the MoU and is able to shed light on the insidious plans within it.

In a statement issued by CAPPA Director of Programmes, Philip Jakpor in Lagos, the group said it has become increasingly evident that the MOU is being hidden from Lagos residents because it contains a deeply unpopular and dangerous plan to fundamentally restructure the Lagos water sector and push forward privatisation under the guise of “private sector participation (PSP).”

Speaking in Lagos, Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi asked: “How many times will the people of Lagos be ignored and left in the dark in critical decisions made in their name under the guise of ”collective interest,” but ultimately to the benefit of multinationals and states which have long exploited Africa?”

As one example, the MoU outlines as an “Obligation of the Government” that Lagos State “explore options for private sector participation for the development and management of capital improvements, such as the development and management of the Igbonla Waterworks…”

“Lagos State has already stated its intention to privatise the Igbonla waterworks through a so-called “public-private partnership,” as described by private water industry trade publication Global Water Intelligence in October 2019.

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Further, USAID and the Lagos Water Corporation agreed that “there may be instances where due to regional sensitivities, the role of USAID and the government may not be publicised as a participant in an activity under the MoU.”

The group expressed concern that the move indicates a clear, predetermined plan to limit true transparency about who is involved in various activities carried out through this partnership.

Insisting that the USAID-LWC event on April 5, 2023 also heralded the announcement of an American corporation as a contractor, it added: “This is just the latest example of decisions related to Lagos’ water sector happening behind closed doors, while transparency to the people of Lagos is considered an afterthought, if considered at all, in a supposedly democratic system.

“Too long have decisions that will impact generations of Lagos people been made without the participation of members of the public, who will ultimately pay the price.

CAPPA, leader of the community and labour-driven Our Water, Our Right Coalition, points to the global track record of failure of water privatisation in its latest appeal to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu not to walk Lagos State down the same dangerous path.

“The abuses of private water corporations from Flint to Paris and Dakar, among many other communities, make it clear that there can be no fruitful “partnership” with the industry.

Oluwafemi and other representatives of the Our Water, Our Right group further restated the demand of Lagos citizens for Governor Sanwo-Olu to terminate the pro-privatisation MoU with USAID and instead fulfill his government’s obligation to Lagos people, who yearn for democratic ownership and public control of the future of their water.

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