CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

World Water Day: 113 Million Nigerians Deprived Of Drinkable Water — CAPPA

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A Pan-African organisation, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), has decried poor access to water by millions of people in Africa and Nigeria in particular.

The organisation said over 400 million people in Africa and 110 million in Nigeria were deprived of the basic right to safe drinkable water — a development it described as unjust.

CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, who made remarks at Our Water Our Right Coalition’s (OWORAC) press conference on Friday in Lagos to mark World Water Day 2024, blamed the trend on commercialisation of water supply by state governments.

Oluwafemi noted that this year’s theme, “Water for Peace,” underscored the critical necessity of water for human survival and societal stability.

He said, “In Nigeria alone, a staggering 113 million people suffer from painful hardship and crippling deprivation of water. This saddening neglect is not due to a scarcity of resources but rather a consequence of the profit-driven logic adopted by state authorities in managing water supply and amenities. The relentless pursuit of commodifying public resources, at the expense of community welfare, has led to the deterioration of vital public utilities and social services.

“While this plight is widespread across the country, the situation in Lagos State is particularly alarming for us. Despite the state’s reputation as a lodestar and mega-city, over 8 million of its residents—equivalent to roughly 60 percent of its ppulation—grapple with limited access to potable water.”

He said the organisation last year drew attention of the government to the sorry state of several water works in the state, which remain derelict to date, lamenting that nothing had changed.

“Lagosians still lack running water in their homes, with water works remaining padlocked, while citizens are forced to pay exorbitantly to non-state actors for basic water.

“This issue is further worsened by the state’s frequent romanticisation of profit-driven partnership models as purported solutions, despite global evidence documenting the failures of privatizing water supply and infrastructure,” Oluwafemi added.

CAPPA boss reiterated that wish only democratic ownership and public control of water services could remedy the deep-rooted injustice of water inaccessibility.

He said the global failure of water privatisation financing models was evident in countries like the United States, Chile, and France, which are still grappling with the adverse consequences, adding that African countries such as Tanzania, Ghana, and Gabon, where water services were also privatized had witnessed regression in access and supply.

“For emphasis, we categorically reject any plans by the Lagos State—aided by the influence of international financial institutions and development agencies with a pro-privatization stance—to outsource its traditional responsibility of providing water to its citizens to business owners.

“Notably, last year, the Niger Republic terminated its over two-decade-long partnership with private water firm, Veolia, and its subsidiary, Société d’Exploitation des Eaux du Niger (SEEN), opting instead for remunicipalisation. Needless to say, this decision was influenced by the realisation that, despite the prolonged operations of Veolia in the country, access to drinking water remained critically low, with huge disparities between urban and rural areas.

“The commodification of basic services and privatisation agenda, often advanced by entities like the World Bank, bears significant neo-colonial undertones and the risks of spurring higher water rates, sharp management practices that disregard community needs, reduced investments in public water infrastructure, inequitable water distribution, and labour losses,” he said.

Oluwafemi said the consequences of anti-people water management was evident across the country, citing the recent layoff of hundreds of contract workers at the Lagos State Water Corporation, as well as threats to permanent staff.

“Similarly, in Enugu State, the state water corporation recently dismissed (and has since reinstated) about 20 employees for failing to meet a N50 million target in water sales, despite the ongoing low availability of public water services in the state,” he added.

CAPPA urged the federal and state governments to abandon any ongoing or future plans to privatise water services, saying public-private partnerships offered no real solutions to water challenges.

It also advised the government to increase budgetary allocation to revitalise the performance of the water sector.

Oluwafemi said, “This also includes refurbishing dilapidated infrastructure, upgrading existing water works and building new facilities to ensure widespread access to clean and safe drinking water.

“The Lagos Water Corporation must fulfill its responsibility of public water distribution across all areas of the state, not just economically viable neighbourhoods.

“Strengthen regulatory oversight and implement proper reparation mechanisms in local communities affected by water injustices like contamination, scarcity, and inaccessibility. These mechanisms should include measures by state ministries of health to address the consequences of prolonged exposure to contaminated water, especially for women and girls.

“Support and protect water sector workers by reversing any layoff plans, enhancing water infrastructure conditions, and ensuring adequate wages along with comprehensive training programs to improve their skills and performance.

“Above all, foster a participatory approach to water governance that prioritizes the voices and needs of local communities into decision-making processes related to water management.”

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