Sustaining the fight against water privatisation in Africa

Labour, activists reject National Water resources Bill

Lagos communities say it’s evil agenda, demand rehabilitation of waterworks, others


In its 2022 Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatisation, organised labour, activists and civil society groups, again insisted that governments of African countries should not heed the calls by the World Bank and International Monetary fund to privatise water through private public partnerships (PPPs) or under any guise whatsoever, as water remains a fundamental human right.

To drive home their point, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) mobilised various groups including Public Services International (PSI), Corporate Accountability, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Ecumenical Water Network Africa, The Arabic Village and Just City Project for the week of action.

During a media briefing to herald the week of action in Lagos, representatives of the groups, Comrade Sani Baba (PSI); Comrade Benjamin Anthony (AUPCTRE); Neil Gupta of Corporate Accountability; Reverend Kolade Fadahunsi of Ecumenical Water Network Africa and Director of The Arabic Village, Ustaz Imran Rufai, among others, who spoke virtually, vehemently rejected plans to privatise water in any African country.

In his address to mark Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatisation 2022, Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said due to the importance of water to citizens’ daily life and existence, the United Nations (UN) had determined that access to clean water and sanitation facilities constitute basic human right.

He said: “It is for this reason that in 2010 the UN recognised water as a human right. The right to water entitles everyone to have access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.

“However, few countries have included a human right to water in enforceable legislation. This lacuna has been exploited by the World Bank and IMF for-profit only entities to promote an alternate reality which has unleashed water grabs on the continent to the detriment of local communities.”

He explained that the 2022 Africa Week of Action Against Water Privatisation built on the successes of the 2021 edition, which culminated in the public presentation of the report titled: Africa Must Rise And Resist Water Privatisation, which catalogued threats of water privatisation in Africa and provides the pathway to addressing the water deficit on the continent within the realm of the public sector. The report makes implementable recommendations targeted at water corporations, national governments, regional bodies and multilateral institutions.

“But a lot has changed between 2021 and the present. The corporate water behemoths promoting water grabs across the globe have continued to strategise to become well positioned to take over Africa’s water. Veolia and Suez have consummated their unholy marriage and are now a single company called Veolia.

“Their executives continue to expose their plans for Africa which is essentially about how to grab its water resources. Theirs partners, the World Bank has also been unrelenting in coercing African governments to adopt and implement the much-discredited Public Private Partnership (PPP) model of water privatisation as a criterion for accessing loans.

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“In all this, the greatest impacts will be borne by communities that have for generations protected what we can rightfully call their birth right. If these schemes are allowed, the ramifications will be far from pleasant.

“The girl child who wakes very early to fetch water will have to do more legwork to get water. The danger she faced will be further escalated. She will spend more time looking for water than she will prepare for school. Communities that relied on streams and rivers nearby will be dispossessed of that blessing and end up going into extinction.

“It is for these and other reasons that the theme of this year’s commemoration is African Communities in Solidarity Against Water Privatisation and our actions will center on the connected struggles of African communities and peoples to actualise their right to water and fend off privatisers,” he stated.

Oluwafemi maintained that from Nigeria to Ghana, Cameroon, Uganda and Mozambique the story was the same and that like last year, this year’s commemoration coincided with the annual general meetings of the World Bank and IMF, adding that communities across Africa were sending a strong message to them that privatisation has no place in Africa, “not now, not in the future.”

The week of action culminated in town hall meetings in some communities in Lagos State, notably Ijede in Ikorodu part of the state. During the town hall meetings, members of the communities joined their counterparts, partners and comrades from other African countries to highlight and amplify the reality of water challenge they face in their domains.

Residents of Igbogbo, Bayeku, Ijede, Imota communities, especially women, lamented their plight in accessing potable water and that the situation was made worse by the perennial power outages and the three comatose waterworks in Ikorodu town.

A community leader in Ijede, Oluwatoyin Onamade, who presented the demands of the communities, urged the Lagos State Government to as a matter of urgency, rehabilitate the three ailing waterworks in Ikorodu, begin the process of pipe networking in Ikorodu and immediately connect Imota, Igbogbo/Bayeku, as well as Ikorodu North and Ikorodu West.

He insisted that the idea of water privatisation is an evil agenda because it will worsen the sufferings of the masses, as there was no money to buy water and as such the idea must be stopped with immediate effect.

“The Lagos State Government should create a Water Trust Fund just like it created a Security Trust Fund to enable the wealth in society to contribute to the fund and make life easier for the people. The state government should increase it budgetary allocations for water and include people with disabilities (PWDs) in the decision making process.

“The Lagos State Government and the Federal Government should secure the lives of citizens by ensuring that the National Water Resources Bill being presented again and again at the National Assembly is jettisoned and never considered again,” he said.

Also, Oluwafemi urged African governments to fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people and integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.

“African governments should reject contracts designed by or involving the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which operates to maximise private profits and build the political will to prioritise water for the people by investing in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, which will create jobs, improve public health.

They should also as a matter of necessity increase budgetary allocation to the water sector and more importantly, expand public financing for the water sector across the African continent,” he stated.

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