- Rehabilitate Iragushi, Epe Mini-Waterworks, Connect All Households For Access To Water, LASG Told
What will strike any first-time visitor to Epe Community in Lagos is the sense of security, peace, serenity and cleanliness of the environment. The positive attributes mentioned above is boosted by a well connected road networks made possible by the administration of the immediate past governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode.
Driving through the community to locate the hotel in which we were lodged on the fringes of the community was quite a delight to the extent that a friend and colleague who drove us to the hotel said: “Anybody who resides in Epe, whether he is an indigene or sojourner and does appreciate what Ambode did for the community in terms of road construction should either be an unrepentant detractor or the devil’s ally.”
But in spite of the sense of fulfillment in other aspects of the community’s life, its residents are lamenting dearth of clean, safe and affordable public water, a situation that had been exacerbated by the comatose Iragushi Waterworks and the Epe Mini-Waterworks, which the residents said had remained non-functional for about 15 years. This means that the waterworks had been abandoned by past administrations in the state, including those of former governors Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Babatunde Raji Fashola.
From all indications, it is also obvious that Ambode’s successor, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration is poised to follow the path of his predecessors, giving the antecedents of the lingering water crisis in the state from Kosofe to Ikorodu, Badagry to Iju and Agege, Ibeju Lekki to Isolo, Ejigbo, Ikotun and Epe, among other communities across the state.
Be that as it may, residents of Epe, who spoke at a Community and Media Dialogue on Access to Water organised by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) in collaboration with Just City and a German Foundation, Fredrick Ebert Stiftung (FES), lamented what they described as “severe lack of potable water in Epe and its environs.”
The Community and Media Dialogue was coordinated by Director of Programmes at CAPPA, Philip Jakpor, Associate Director, Aderonke Ige, as well as Olatunji Buhari and their counterpart from FES, Ayodele Olaosebikan, among others.
Prior to the Epe meeting, other communities, in collaboration with civil society and labour groups under the aegis of the Our Water Our Right Coalition, held town hall meetings, community engagements, press briefings and protest marches, with policy makers and engagements to insist on their opposition to water privatisation schemes and the commodification of water being promoted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which continue to deprive communities their right to existence. In some communities, water has been priced out of the reach of locals, forcing women and young girls to go the extra mile, including exposing themselves to dangers to get water for their basic needs.
The communities, working in concert with civil society groups and organised labour, insisted that while water remains one of the most fundamental necessities for life, giant corporations like Veolia and Suez, backed by international financial institutions like the World Bank were exploiting the basic need by trying to privatise water on the African continent, threatening to leave millions of people in communities suffering without clean and safe water.
Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, who earlier explained the significance of the commemoration of the Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatisation, said: “When communities are deprived of a basic right, which guarantees their existence and the bond that has kept them connected with their culture and spirituality for generations will ultimately cease to exist, they should naturally resist infringement on their rights.
“That is why communities are leading the resistance to what corporations like Veolia and institutions like the World Bank are marketing on the African continent. But the message is very clear- Nigerians and Africans do not want privatisation of our water systems.”
In their testimonials, which detailed the challenges they face daily to access water for drinking, cooking, washing, bathing and other needs, Mrs. Abiona Ibrahim, said: “We don’t have water in Epe. We, the people, especially women and girls are suffering so much from lack of water. We, therefore, plead with the Lagos State Government to provide water and reduce our sufferings.”
On his part, Adesina Lamidi, urged the Lagos State Government to provide safe, clean and affordable public water, as a matter of urgency to assuage the plight of the people. He lamented that Nigerians were suffering in many ways adding that the high cost of living, unemployment, insecurity, banditry, kidnapping and killings have continued and that the Federal Government seemed helpless in the face of all the challenges.
“Lacking water is like putting a rope on the neck of the people to hang them. Water is life and a human right and once you take that away from the people, there is nothing left. It is important for the Lagos State Government to provide water. They have taken over basic utilities in education, health and transportation sectors. So, it is expedient that the government provides potable to all citizens, even if that is the only thing they can do for us.”
Also, a student of the Michael Otedola College of Education in Epe, Rasheedat Oloyede, said most of the students of the college lack water even in the hostels and they have to explore alternative sources to get water and that sometimes, attempts to get water came at huge personal, security and financial costs.
Her submission was corroborated by another student, Seidu Rasheed, who confirmed at the dialogue (which was organised like a town hall meeting), that all residents of Epe lacked good water and that the situation was even compounded by epileptic power supply to the extent that even those who could afford to build boreholes sometimes suffer lack of water due to constant power outages.
“The situation is very dire and so the Lagos State Government should intervene urgently in the water crisis and save us from our critical condition.”
Other residents, including Sakiru Seidu, Mrs. Amsa Oluwakemi and Mrs. Kikelomo Seidu, who spoke in the same vein, demanded clean water for residents of Epe Community with all sense of urgency.
“It is a shame that the two waterworks in Epe are not functional. We have no access to water for about 15 years due to the dead waterworks and lack of constant power supply. We have to travel far to procure water for our daily needs and we spend over N300 to buy water (commonly called pure water) just for drinking daily,” they said.
The demands of the community include: Urgent need to rehabilitate the Iragushi and Epe Mini-Waterworks; Connection of water pipes to homes for easy access to clean water and the need to ensure that the waterworks are connected to functional power source to guarantee availability of water across Epe communities.
A representative of the community, Gbemisola Olaiya, who was nominated to present the demands, urged the Lagos State Government to act swiftly in order to mitigate the impact of lack of water in Epe and ensure availability of water as a basic human right and “in fact, a major provision in United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target for all member countries.”
Besides, Olaosebikan, who charged all residents of Epe Community to forge a common front and remain united in addressing their water challenges, added that they must resist all attempts to infiltrate their ranks in their quest to demand their rights to clean water.
“Do not allow any external forces to break your ranks so that the Lagos State Government will have no reason to deny them their right to water. Also the government should look at the justice issue regarding provision of water to all citizens, irrespective of class and political affiliations.
“Government at the state and federal levels should listen to the plight and concerns of the people, not only in Lagos, but across the country and initiate sustained efforts at alleviating the pains and agony the people pass through in terms of accessing potable water, which is fundamentally a basic human right,” he said.
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