By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
The Institute of the Black World 21st Century and a host of African Americans, including Reverend Jesse Jackson has cautioned the Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to back off water privatization plans.
In the letter which was dispatched on February 4 from the U.S, the groups expressed their solidarity with the people of Lagos and particularly the Our Water Our Right Coalition, explaining that their support is part of a “collectively struggle together to achieve the universal human right to clean, safe drinking water.”
Signatories to the letter are Rev. Jackson, President of Rainbow Coalition; Nayyirah Shariff, Director of Flint Rising; Hilary Shelton, Senior Vice-President for Advocacy and Director of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Washington Bureau; Rev. Terrence Melvin President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Albany, NY; and, Ebonie Riley, National Action Network, Bureau Chief, Washington DC.
Others are, Barbara Arnwine, Esq., President, Transformative Justice Coalition, Washington, DC, Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq., President, National Congress of Black Women, Washington, DC, Clint Odom, Executive Director, National Urban League Washington Bureau, Washington, DC. Milton Allimadi and Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, Conveners, Pan African Unity Dialogue, Crises in Africa Task Force, New York, NY.
The other signatories are Mel Foote, President, Constituency for Africa, Washington, DC; Melanie Campbell, President, National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, Washington, DC; Dr. Annelle Primm, All Healers Mental Health Alliance, Baltimore, MD; Nkechi Taifa, Esq., President, The Taifa Group, Washington, DC; Ronnie Galvin, Vice-President for Racial Equity and Democracy Economy, Democracy Collaborative; Dr. Seth Hunter, Director of Black Led Organizing and Power Building, Community Change, Washington, D.C.; and Pastor Michael McBride, Director of Urban Strategies and Live Free Initiative, Faith in Action, Berkeley, CA.
They called on the Sanwo-Olu administration to abandon its efforts at water privatization and listen to the voices of the people who are demanding a public water system with the investment needed to work for all Lagosians. They said they have equally requested that the Congressional Black Caucus of the U.S. Congress use its full influence to bring attention to the demands of the Our Water Our Rights Coalition in Nigeria and other community-based grassroots campaigns across the continent.
Speaking on the thrust of the letter at a joint press conference held in Lagos with the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Dr. Ron Daniels, President of Institute of the Black World 21st Century said that the decision to write was reached at a recent Roundtable discussion on water as a human right with African American leaders in Washington. At that meeting the groups learned about the calculated strategy of multinational corporations to profit from the privatization of water systems in Africa.
Daniels explained that “Nigeria has emerged as the epicenter of this insidious effort. Because of our racial, cultural and historical relationships with the people of Africa, we have a strong commitment to standing in solidarity with the Our Water Our Rights Coalition in Nigeria”.
Shariff, director of Flint Rising who took time to explain how the Flint water pollution in US impacted women, revealed that the high concentration of lead in the city’s water system affected the fetuses of pregnant women and the impacts are still being documented.
She said that residents of Flint are in solidarity with Lagosians, and that, “We may be on different soils but we are united against inequalities and injustices regardless of where it is arising within the globe’’
Earlier, Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director explained nearly eight months into the life of the Sanwo-Olu administration, demands by the Our Water Our Right Coalition for a blue print on how to resolve the water crisis and recommendations on real solutions, have not elicited any response.
Oluwafemi said that the coalition is demanding that Gov. Sanwo-Olu’s administration reject all forms of water privatization and commodification, Fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people; Integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water, and; Build the political will to prioritize water for the people that will lead to a comprehensive plan that invests in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, among others.