The community and labour-driven Our Water, Our Right Coalition has reiterated that the Memorandum of Understanding between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Lagos State government was targeted at privatising water resources in the state, especially as its details had been kept away from the public.
The coalition noted that despite numerous attempts to obtain a copy of the agreement from the Lagos State Government, “this MOU remains out of the public eye nearly a year and a half later.”
A statement by Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, CAPPA, leader of the coalition, noted that “it is increasingly evident that this MOU is being hidden from Lagosians because it contains a deeply unpopular, and dangerous, plan to fundamentally restructure the Lagos water sector and push forward privatisation under the guise of ‘private sector participation’.”
However, the statement signed by Philip Jakpor, Director of Programmes, CAPPA, noted “Through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in the United States, CAPPA recently obtained a copy of the MOU and is able to shed light on the insidious plans within it.”
Also speaking in Lagos, CAPPA’s Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi asked “How many times will the people of Lagos be simply ignored and left in the dark in critical decisions made in their name under the guise of ‘collective interest’ but ultimately to the benefit of multinationals and states which have long exploited Africa?”
The coalition noted that the MOU outlines as an “Obligation of the Government” that Lagos State “explore options for private sector participation for the development and management of capital improvements, such as the development and management of Igbonla Waterworks”.
They said Lagos State had already stated its intention to privatise the Igbonla Waterworks through a “so-called public-private partnership,” as described by private water industry trade publication Global Water Intelligence in October 2019.
Further, 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 publicised as a participant in an activity under this MOU.”
“This,” they held, “indicates a clear, predetermined plan to limit true transparency about who is involved in various activities carried out through this partnership.”
The coalition pointed to the worldwide track record of water privatisation’s failure, and appealed to Governor Babjide Sanwo-Olu not walk Lagos State down the same dangerous path.
“The abuses of private water corporations from Flint to Paris to Dakar, among many other communities, make it clear that there can be no fruitful ‘partnership’ with this industry,” they said.
Oluwafemi and other representatives of the Our Water Our Right group further reiterated the demand of Lagosians for Sanwo-Olu to terminate the pro-privatisation MoU with USAID and, instead, fulfill his government’s obligation to Lagosians who yearn for democratic ownership and public control of the future of their water.