We recently received this message from Birgit Dalbert on behalf of Shayda Naficy and the citizens of Lagos, who logically wish to keep self-governing and distributing their water supply:

Shayda Naficy: Dear friends and allies:

I am writing today to ask you to urgently add your organization’s name to a sign-on letter we are circulating in support of the Our Water Our Right coalition in Lagos. As you may know, the Our Water Our Right coalition in Lagos, Nigeria is standing against government plans for water privatization and calling for adequate public investment to ensure the realization of the human right to water in the city of 21 million.

We are asking you to stand with us today to oppose a bill that endangers the human right to water and sanitation in Lagos by criminalizing informal water access and promoting privatization.

Below is more information on the threat, and the sign-on letter to the Governor of Lagos.

Please add your organization name to the sign-on letter by emailing [email protected] with your organization name and country (if country specific).

Also, as an individual, please sign this petition!

New bill threatens human right to water in Lagos

The Assembly has not released a final version of the legislation, called, “A Bill for a Law to Consolidate all Laws relating to the Environment for the Management, Protection and Sustainable Development of the Environment in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes.’”

A draft version of the bill included provisions that would threaten people’s access to water by:

  • Criminalizing unauthorized distribution of water or taking water from natural sources, by imposing 6 weeks’ imprisonment and/or a fine of over five times the monthly minimum wage in Lagos.
  • Require licensing of boreholes, which about 58 percent of Lagosians depend on for water.

Further, the bill would promote privatization by:

  • Requiring the state to prioritize payment for “contracted services and concessions for long term infrastructure investments” above all other budget items.

This bill was passed by the Lagos House of Assembly with minimal public consultation and over public protest. At the single public hearing on February 9, civil society representatives spoke against and protested the bill. Most Lagosians did not even have time to consider this bill before it was passed in this hurried manner — consideration and passage of the bill took place over a period of only two weeks, during a time at which the Assembly would have normally been in recess.

Threat of privatization

At the same time, the Lagos State Water Corporation is trying to push through a number of privatization contracts and other measures that threaten the human right to water in Lagos.

These include:

  • A 25-year Build-Finance-Operate-Transfer concession for the Adiyan II water treatment plant and distribution network.
  • A public-private partnership (PPP) related to a 100 mgd water treatment plant, Odomola, for which no details have been released.
  • Two consulting contracts that would facilitate future privatization by mapping assets and enumerating customers to increase revenues.
  • The planned installation of up to 16 thousand pre-paid water meters, which threaten the human right to water of people unable to afford it.

These measures, if carried out, could place over half of Lagos’ water production under private control, and would threaten low income peoples’ access to water. Experience around the world has shown that water privatization leads to increased costs, infrastructure neglect, labor abuses, and erosion of democratic control. In Lagos as elsewhere, privatization is not the answer.

Global concern

On February 27, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Léo Heller, raised serious concern about the recent environment bill, saying, “When the State fails to provide adequate access to drinking water, no one should be criminalized or fined for fetching water from lakes, rivers, or any other natural sources.” According to his statement, “Mr. Heller is urging the Government to reconsider the Bill and to conduct a proper and meaningful public consultation with all relevant stakeholders providing an adequate time for comments and opinions.”

Just as Mr. Heller is speaking up for the right to water in Lagos, We ask you to stand with the Our Water, Our Right coalition by asking Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to:

  • Do everything in his power to halt the implementation of the damaging environment bill recently passed by the Assembly.
  • Withdraw current efforts to secure corporate concessions and contracts in the water sector.
  • Commit to public funding of water and ensure a robust and accountable democratic process for implementing any legislation relating to water and sanitation.

Thank you for standing in solidarity with Lagos. Together we can ensure a future where all people can access the water they need to live healthy, dignified lives.

Onward,

Akinbode Oluwafemi

Deputy Executive Director

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria

Shayda Edwards Naficy

Senior Program Director

Corporate Accountability International

Sign-On Letter Text

Dear Governor Akinwunmi Ambode:

We are organizations around the world committed to ensuring the human right to water is upheld and protected. We recently read with concern a statement from the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Léo Heller, regarding an environmental bill recently passed in Lagos.

We were alarmed to discover this bill criminalizes unauthorized water abstraction and distribution, which a majority of Lagosians depend on to meet their daily drinking, bathing and cooking needs.

We were equally alarmed to see that the bill prioritizes the payment of private contract and concession expenses before any other government expense, no matter how urgent. Having seen the unintended costs and harmful consequences of private water contracts and concessions elsewhere in the world, we are deeply concerned about the implications of this provision on the human rights and well-being of the people of Lagos.

As such, we echo UN Special Rapporteur Heller’s plea to Lagos lawmakers to “reconsider the Bill and to conduct a proper and meaningful public consultation with all relevant stakeholders providing an adequate time for comments and opinions.”

In addition, we are deeply concerned to see the Lagos State Water Corporation pursuing multiple concessions and other corporate contracts, including a 25-year concession for the Adiyan II project and a public private partnership (PPP) for the Odomola project. Based on many of our experiences in cities around the world, we know that PPPs and other privatization contracts often bring unexpected costs for cities, raise rates for consumers, and produce labor violations and infrastructure neglect.

Given these concerns, we wish to express our profound hope that you will:

  • Do everything in your power to halt the implementation of the damaging environment bill recently passed by the Assembly.
  • Withdraw current efforts to secure corporate concessions and contracts in the water sector.
  • Commit to public funding of water and ensure robust and accountable democratic process for implementing any legislation relating to water and sanitation.

In conclusion, we are eager to see your administration commit to ensuring the human right to water through a democratic, public system. Your leadership on water will not only ensure all Lagosians can access clean, safe water — it will also set an example for all of us around the world.

Sincerely,

cc: Dr. Samuel Babatunde Adejare, Honourable Commissioner, Lagos State Ministry of the Environment

Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly

Hon. Dayo Saka Fafunmi, Chairman , House Committee on Environment, Lagos State House of Assembly

Photo by boellstiftung

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