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Privatisation won’t solve Lagos water problems – CAPPA

Akinbode Oluwafemi | File Image

‘It is crucial to remind the Lagos State Government that credible evidence from Africa and elsewhere demonstrates that water privatisation does not enhance community access to water’

By Valentine Amanze

A human rights group, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), has condemned the Lagos State government for continuously pushing for water privatization, without considering alternative management models.

CAPPA said that the water policy the Lagos State government was pushing for, if implemented, would be detrimental to the disadvantaged communities within the state.

In a statement issued by Mr. Robert Egbe, the Media and Communications Officer, CAPPA, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, the executive director, also expressed concern about statements made during the just-concluded Lagos International Water Conference (LIWAC), hosted by the Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission (LASWARCO) from June 25 to 26, 2024.

Oluwafemi said that although the LIWAC 5.0, themed, “Financing Water and Sanitation for a Greater Lagos,” brought together government stakeholders, private sector investors, diplomats, and international NGOs with the aim of exploring innovative funding solutions for the state’s water sector, the conference exclusively presented Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) as the sole viable option.

He pointed out that the bias was evident in the speeches of the State Governor, the Minister for Water Resources, representatives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, and other pro-privatisation speakers.

The CAPPA boss said that while it was undeniable that Lagos State was facing a potable water crisis, PPPs were not the only solution, despite what advocates of profit-driven models may claim.

Also read: Cholera outbreak is govt’s failure to provide safe public water – CAPPA

His words: “Alternative approaches, such as public control and community management of water, have consistently proven effective in addressing water challenges across the world, offering a more inclusive and sustainable intervention in the face of a global water crisis.

“It is crucial to remind the Lagos State Government that credible evidence from Africa and elsewhere demonstrates that water privatisation does not enhance community access to water. If anything, examples from Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana, Mozambique, and Tanzania show governments struggling with legal and financial challenges to de-privatise after failed privatisation attempts.

“Only recently, Niger re-municipalised its water utilities following decades of privatisation, and Senegal, often cited as a privatisation success in Africa, faces public backlash over rising costs and water scarcity, prompting an audit of all PPP contracts.”

Decrying the absence of frontline communities at the conference, the CAPPA boss lamented that vulnerable groups such as women, girls, persons with disabilities, and members of informal communities — who suffer the most from lack of access to safe public water — were poorly represented at the LIWAC 2024.

Oluwafemi further faulted the absence of pro-public water civil society organizations and water justice advocates at the meeting.

He however advised the Lagos State government to embrace sustainable water financing models that prioritise meaningful engagements with the critical stakeholders and groups.

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