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Charting a new roadmap for Lagos water crisis

By Bayo Ogunmupe   |   08 January 2017   |   2:50 am

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Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector (Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, Lagos; 2016) is a monograph produced by Environmental Rights Action, the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth International.

The authors of the booklet include Akinbode Oluwafemi, and Philip Jakpor of Environmental Rights Action, Susanna Bohme of Corporate Accountability International, Satoko Kishimoto of Transnational Institute and Emanuele Lobina of Public Services International Research Unit, with additional research support provided by Ben Ezeamalu and Tunji Buhari.

With Lagos’ slogan ‘Our Water, Our Right’ failing to yield desired results and give Lagosians safe drinking water, these environmental groups are campaigning and mobilising local communities, labour unions, rights activists, social justice crusaders for transparency, accountability and public control in the management of public water infrastructure.


Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector in Lagos State points the way out of the water crisis in the mega city. It reviews the impact and reasons for the failure of the current water system. The book also provides models from around the world for adaptation to the Lagos context, and makes specific recommendations that can be implemented by Lagos State Government and its Water Corporation agency over short and long term measures. This would ensure a well-functioning, democratically governed water system in Lagos.

In the booklet, there are thirteen symbolic pictures explaining the processes of producing adequate water in Lagos State. Lagos is surrounded by water from the Gulf of Guinea to the polluted Lagos Lagoon. Providing adequate portable water to its over 21 million residents remains a huge challenge. The Lagos State Water Master Plan estimates water demand in the city at 540 million gallons per day and production by the Lagos State Water Corporation at 210 million gallons. Acute water shortage in the state has affected all aspects of daily life in Lagos, particularly for low-income people. The dire situation has compromised sanitation and public health. In addition, the high cost of sourcing water has further impoverished many Lagos residents.

The Lagos Water Crisis has many causes. Decades of policies pursued since the 1980s have failed to expand and update ageing water infrastructure. Those policies have largely promoted privatisation in the form of public-private partnerships (PPP). Unfortunately, the PPPs have repeatedly failed worldwide. Such failures due to lack of needed investment have led to skyrocketing rates, job cuts and other anti-people practices.

Also, the influence of financial institutions such as the World Bank has led to the stagnation and deterioration of Lagos Water Infrastructure because such institutions prefer privatization. The failures outlined here are emphasised by Public Services International (PSI) General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli, in her January 2016 letter to Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.

Current hiccups are evidence that Lagos decision-makers have devoted themselves to pursuing private sector partners, which has prevented the adoption of policies capable of expanding access to safe, affordable water.

Another cause of failure is that no state agency or LSWC has established formal mechanisms for meaningful public participation, such as water board, citizens’ utility board, participatory budgeting, or social dialogue process. This absence means that there is no regular, formal channel for Lagosians to actively and meaningfully participate in water provision policy. Indeed, officials have sought Lagosians’ assent to plans and priorities of the LSWC and World Bank, rather than ensuring active, free, and meaningful participation that could guide or shape water policy.


Inadequate budgeting has stunted water supply in Lagos. According to Lagos State Water Supply Master Plan, US $2.5 billion is required to achieve needed access, beginning with US $737.66 million in the 2010-2016 period.

The way forward in water supply in Lagos, according to Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, which prepared the report, is by putting reforms in place, protecting and fulfilling human rights to water as an obligation of government, and rejecting all forms of water privatisation.

Numerous international studies have demonstrated that there is no evidence that the private sector is more efficient. Also, experts have found that in most cases, government’s borrowing is less expensive than private sector transactions. This book is a must-read for state and federal policymakers because it contains valuable research findings.




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