Lagos environment bill generates tension as civil groups vow to protest
Anxiety has enveloped Lagos residents after the state House of Assembly hurriedly passed a bill on February 20 to criminalise sinking of boreholes in private homes in a move that is aimed at privatising water supply in the metropolis and its environs.
If the bill is signed into law by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Lagosians who allow their neighbours to access water in their homes and/or those who fetch water from them risk a six-month jail term or a fine of N100, 000.
Also, corporate bodies that sink boreholes in their premises would be liable to imprisonment or a fine of N500, 000 unless they seek permit or approval from the state Office of Drainage Services (ODS) under the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment.
But environmental activists including Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-Hope), African Women Water Sanitation and Hygiene Network (AWWASHNET), among others yesterday at a press conference in Lagos, criticised the bill for its anti-people stance.
Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said members of the public have not seen the new bill to ascertain if the fears and objections raised at the public hearing were incorporated into the bill as passed.
Representatives of AUPCTRE, Abiodun Bakare, CEE-Hope, Betty Abah, Joint Action Front, Achike Chude and AWWASHNET’s Sessi Funmi, all spoke in unison against the bill, which they said signals hard times for not only the people of Lagos, but also Nigerians in general and urged the masses to reject the bill in its entirety.
The bill provides in section 7 (2a) that the state shall secure the payment in respect of contracted services and concessions for long term infrastructure investments with an Irrevocable Service Payment Order (ISPO) as the first line charge on the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR).
Section 7 (2b) provides that in the event that the state’s IGR is insufficient to discharge its obligation, the state shall apply monies due to it from the monthly allocations from Federal Allocation Account (FAC) and any other source to secure its payment obligation to contractors and concessionaires.
It further provides in section 137 (1 a & b) that no person or group of persons: “Shall sink or cause to be sunk boreholes, hydraulic and other structures connected with the supply of surface ground water or treated water without obtaining the necessary permit from the Office of Drainage Services
“Construct or cause to be constructed any structures or building for the purposes of sinking boreholes, hydraulic and other structures connected with supply of surface ground water or treated water without obtaining the necessary permit/approval from the Office of Drainage Services.”
According to section 141 (1 a & b) of the bill, “no person or group of persons shall abstract water from any lake, river, stream or other natural resources forming part of state water except with the approval of department of water resources of the Office Drainage Services.
“No person shall make, sell, distribute or cause to be made, sold or distribute water by container, tanker or any other method whatsoever without a valid license being issued by the Department of Water Resources of the Office Drainage Services.”
The bill also provides that any person or group of persons who fail to comply with the law shall be guilty and liable to conviction or a fine of N100, 000 or six weeks imprisonment for individuals and a fine of N500, 000 and imprisonment and seizure of the equipment and facilities of the firm.
“This law is a conspiracy against the people. We believe the added pressure which this law imposes on Lagos citizens could be a guise to introduce Public Private Partnership in the water sector which Lagosians roundly condemned… We are again rejecting the push towards PPP through the back door as this law portends.
“No doubt some giant strides have been recorded by the Ambode administration, but we should not be afraid to tell them that they are wrong this time. We are asking Governor Akinwunmi Ambode not to assent to this obnoxious bill but rather send it back to the House to throw it open for wider consultations and input from Lagos Citizens,” thee groups said.