By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
Grassroots campaigners on the platform of the Epe Community Water Parliament (ECWP) said the group wants waterworks to be under public control, urged the Governor of Lagos state Akinwunmi Ambode to rehabilitate the Epe Mini Waterworks and come up with ideas to ensure adequate access in Lagos that will be kept from for-profit companies.
The ECWP, an affiliate of the Our Water, Our Right Coalition registered its aversion to water privatization plans by the state government through a protest march on the streets of Epe and a visit to the campaigns office of Honorable Olusegun Olulade, representing Epe Constituency II at the Lagos State House of Assembly asking him to side with them in demands to keep Lagos water public. The group also marched to the premises of the Epe Mini Waterworks where they displayed placards with various inscriptions and demanded rehabilitation of the waterworks.
Coordinates of the Group, Adesanya Oguntimirin who said Epe community was against plans to concession Lagos water infrastructure to privatisers under a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model of water privatization which will see three corporations – Veolia, Abengoa and Metito – managing the infrastructure.
Oguntimirin revealed that the three companies have been found wanting across the globe on issues of human rights and corruption hence it would be heightened anomaly for the Lagos government to work with them.
“The PPP is an anti-people model because it is built only on the premise that water is a commodity that money can be made from. It does not accommodate the human right to water and is difficult to exit. It is laced with uncertainties such as rate hikes, service cutoffs, unfulfilled infrastructure promises, which combined, will not guarantee access to water by our mostly poor people.”
He said that the Epe people in unanimity reject water privatization and want a rehabilitation fo the waterworks in the community to reduce the suffering of mostly women who will have to go long distances to get water at huge costs.
A women rights activist, Funmi Ajayi also emphasized the challenges women face in obtaining water, adding that water privatization will further burden women who will have to cough out more to get water and be cut off if they cannot pay.
“The language of the state government is one that is solely focused on making revenue from water and not anything about human right or anything near it. These poor women here marching against privatization are the ones who know what lies ahead and have decided to ask that the state government does not take them on that road. We will resist it”
Speaking in solidarity with the community people, Deputy Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Akinbode Oluwafemi said that ERA/FoEN stands in
full support of the protest march and petition to Hon. Olulade who is representing Epe Constituency.
Oluwafemi explained that the voice of the people is the voice of God, stressing that “We anticipate that the representative of the Epe people will hearken to the demands of his people and side with them to demand a halt to PPP and concessioning of the future of our people to for-profit only entities”
The ERA/FoEN boss also added that, “while we can see that a lot of development has come to the Epe community in form of good roads and lighting of the streets, the most crucial element of life which is water is still elusive because of the non rehabilitation of the mini water works.”
Representative of the Epe women, Bisi Fasasi said that the reports of plans to privatise water was already sending jitters down the spines of the women, even as she cautioned that water should not be privatized under any guise as it would add more burden to women already weighed down with ensuring their household had adequate water for basic use.
Fasasi added that the inability of the Epe mini waterworks to deliver potable water to the locals had forced most households to patronize unwholesome sources that continually expose them to illnesses.
In the petition to Hon. Olulade, the group asked him to side with them on their demands for the rehabilitation of the Epe Mini-Waterworks, a halt to concession of Lagos water infrastructure with transnational corporations like Veolia, Metito, Abengoa; and that the Akinwunmi Ambode administration fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government representing the people.
It also asked Governor Ambode to integrate broad public participation including that of women in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water, rejection of contracts designed by or involving the IFC, which operates to maximize private profit, increase in budgetary allocation to the water sector, and the institution of a Water Trust Fund that will expand public financing of the water sector.