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Why CAPPA, communities kick against covert privatisation agenda in USAID-Lagos Water Corporation partnership

Akinbode Oluwafemi of CAPPA (file photo)

The group further pointed out that the abuses of private water corporations from Flint to Paris to Dakar, among many other communities, make it clear that there could be no fruitful “partnership” with the industry

By Valentine Amanze

The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa-led (CAPPA) community groups and other representatives of the Our Water Our Right group have again appealed to Governor Babjide Sanwo-Olu to terminate the pro-privatisation Memoradum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and, instead, fulfil his government’s obligation to Lagos residents, who yearn for democratic ownership and public control of the future of their water.

It also reminded the governor of the worldwide track record of water privatisation’s failure, while urging him not to walk Lagos State down the same dangerous path.

The group further pointed out that the abuses of private water corporations from Flint to Paris to Dakar, among many other communities, make it clear that there could be no fruitful “partnership” with the industry.

The group made the appeal following the April 5, 2023 meeting between a delegation from the USAID and the leadership of the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) to promote the partnership between the parties.

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It stated thai it was also curious that during the meeting there was no mention of the water privatisation agenda being shuffled through as part of the MoU signed between USAID and LWC in December 2021.

This is despite numerous attempts by CAPPA and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) to obtain a copy of the agreement from the Lagos State government.

In a statement issued by Mr. Philip Jakpor, CAPPA Director of Programmes, in Lagos, the group said that it was evident that the MoU was being hidden from Lagosians because it contained an unpopular and dangerous plan to fundamentally restructure the Lagos water sector and push forward privatisation under the guise of “private sector participation.”

It further disclosed that while the MoU remained out of the public eye nearly a year and a half later, that CAPPA, through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in the United States, obtained a copy of the MoU to shed light on the insidious plans within it.

CAPPA’s Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, confirmed the development in Lagos, while decrying how the Lagos State government officials were handling the issue.

He asked: “How many times will the people of Lagos be simply ignored and left in the dark in critical decisions made in their name on the guise of ‘’collective interest,’’ but ultimately to the benefit of multinationals and states which have long exploited Africa?”           

Akinbode pointed out that the MoU outlined as an “Obligation of the Government” that Lagos State “explores options for private sector participation for the development and management of capital improvements, such as the development and management of Igbonla waterworks…,”  stressing that with such, Lagos State has already stated its intention to privatise the Igbonla waterworks through a “public-private partnership,” as described by private water industry trade publication, Global Water Intelligence, in October 2019.

He lamented that the USAID and Lagos Water Corporation agreed that “there may be instances where due to regional sensitivities, the role of USAID /the government may not be publicized as a participant in an activity under this MoU.”

He said, “This indicates a clear, predetermined plan to limit true transparency about who is involved in various activities carried out through this partnership.”

According to him, the USAID-LWC event on April 5 also heralded the announcement of an American corporation as a contractor.

“This is just the latest example of decisions related to Lagos’ water sector happening behind closed doors, while transparency to the people of Lagos is considered an afterthought, if considered at all, in a supposedly democratic system.

“Too long have decisions that will impact generations of Lagosians been made without the participation of the public, who will ultimately pay the price,” he lamented.

Recall that CAPPA and other civil rights groups for more than three years had been kicking against the Lagos State government water privatization agendum because of its negative effects on Lagosians.

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