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Human rights activists seek probe of water corporation, donor grants

By Wole Oyebade
29 October 2015   |   12:30 am
Environmental rights activists have urged the Lagos State government to begin probe into management activities of the State Water Corporation (LSWC) since 1999.

Shayo Holloway

Environmental rights activists have urged the Lagos State government to begin probe into management activities of the State Water Corporation (LSWC) since 1999. The activists under the aegis of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), though applauded the resignation of former Group Managing Director of the corporation, Shayo Holloway, who they described as “controversial”, said the state government must go further to probe several partnerships the corporation had “illegally” entered, to protect the rights of Lagosians.

It was gathered that the LSWC boss left office recently, following a strongly-worded query issued by the office of the Head of Service demanding the explanation of the parlous state of water infrastructure in all parts of Lagos.

The agency, apart from budgetary allocations, had allegedly attracted loans from the World Bank and international donor agencies to fund water supply expansion schemes such as the Iju, Adiyan, and Ishasi Waterworks, as well as expansion of distribution networks. These loans, running into billions of naira have not translated into improved water supply for residents. Over 18 million Lagos residents – about 90 percent – still lack daily access to clean and safe water, exposing citizens to water-borne diseases like cholera.

ERA/FoEN and partners like the Corporate Accountability International, Public Services International (PSI), the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and a coalition of civil society advocates including Dr. Joe Odumakin, Priscilla Achakpa, and Auwal Rafsanjani, had written to Ambode demanding that he publicly reject the public-private partnership-model (PPP) water privatization scheme that LSWC boss was promoting, on the grounds of proven failures across the globe.

Former governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu, also received similar letters from the groups, asking that they side with the ordinary citizens of Lagos in rejecting the PPP.

ERA/FoEN yesterday said that the recent development in LSWC would send a clear message to the World Bank and promoters of PPP-model water privatization schemes that Lagosians will defend their rights to a free gift of nature which water represents.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “We commend Ambode for taking this first step to deliver universal access to water for Lagosians, and the obvious next step is to reject the PPP water privatization scheme Holloway has been promoting once and for all. Holloway’s resignation will only make sense to Lagos residents if he now explains what the funding from donor agencies in the last decade was used for.”

Oluwafemi noted that resignation does not answer for the poor performance of LSWC in delivering water to the people nor the grievances of staff of the corporation who have been sidelined in decision-making and initiatives that would have made the agency work better. He added that it was not only the responsibility of the Ambode administration to get to the root of the causes of the decay, but also a welcome opportunity to show pro-people leadership.

The ERA/FoEN boss also said, “We feel encouraged by the governor’s latest action, and want to re-echo our demands that governor Ambode’s administration fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people and integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.”

The governor should openly reject contracts that pursue corporate water management, especially those designed by or involving the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the private arm of the World Bank which operates to maximize private profit – and disclose all IFC and World Bank activity and discussions with Lagos government officials regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.”
“With Holloway’s resignation, we look forward to working cooperatively with the next LSWC head and governor Ambode to grow public investment in a democratically accountable public water system, rather than enable corporate profiteering,” Oluwafemi said.