By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
The Our Water Our Right Coalition has expressed misgivings on the visit of World Bank Executive Directors to Nigeria supposedly to study the challenges and expectations of partners in West Africa, saying the visit was just a whitewash to consolidate on its plans for wholesale privatization of Nigeria.
World Bank Executive Directors that were part of the visiting team were from Switzerland, France, Italy, Nordic, Peru, Germany and South Africa (representing Angola, Nigeria and South Africa). Others are from Burkina Faso (representing Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa), Zimbabwe (representing Anglophone Sub-Saharan Africa), United Kingdom and Indonesia.
The Our Water Our Right Coalitionwhich comprises the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Corporate Accountability, Child Health Organisation, among others, frowned at the timing of the visit and the secrecy surrounding it.
In a statement issued in Lagos, the coalition raised red flags on the bank officials’ visit to Lagos on Wednesday May 9 2018 and statements credited to Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode on how various budget support initiatives of the bank in the water sector had supposedly resulted in “stronger ties with the institution”…and the need for more funding for key projects in the sector.
ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “Not only was the World Bank visit concealed until the team arrived, the caliber of directors on the entourage showed that they were only in Nigeria to consolidate on schemes contrived behind closed doors to financialize critical sectors of the economy, including water’’.
A statement signed by Philip Jakpor , Head, Media & Campaigns said Oluwafemi pointed out that the timing of the visit would seem to explain why the World Bank and its private arm – International Finance Corporation (IFC) were in heavy attendance at the recent Global Water Summit held in France where discussions with the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) helmsman, Engr. Mumuni Badmus tilted towards financializing Lagos water.
Vicky Urenma, Executive Director of Child Health Organisation explained that civil society and grassroot groups are particularly unconvinced about the sincerity of the visit by the World Bank team going by past examples of how its private arm – the IFC had undertaken a secret advisory contract to take control of Lagos water.
Urenma explained that pressure from the Our Water Our Right Coalition forced the IFC in 2016 to distance itself from the contract, but went on to add that, “We are now circumspect about a not-too-open romance between the Lagos government and the IFC on possible investment opportunities in the Lagos water sector.”
The coalition reiterated calls urging the federal and state governments to reject contracts designed by, involving, or influenced by the IFC, which operates to maximize private profit, among others.
“We have said it time and again that Lagos and other states of the federation can fund water sustainably if they build the political will to prioritize water for the people and come up with a comprehensive plan that invests in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, create jobs, and improve public health,” the coalition insisted.