CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

May Day 2024: CAPPA Salutes Workers, Seeks Reinstatement of Dismissed Lagos Water Corporation Employees

Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has saluted the indomitable army of workers and toiling masses of Nigeria on the occasion of May Day 2024.

In a statement signed by its Media and Communication officer, Robert Egbe, the group urged the Lagos State government to, in the spirit of the day, rethink its unjust dismissal of 391 permanent staff at the Lagos Water Corporation. The organisation also encouraged the Nigerian government to lift the heavy yoke of pain from the backs of Nigerian workers by speedily concluding negotiations for a new minimum and living wage, to help workers maintain a decent standard of living.

According to the CAPPA statement, despite the numerous contributions of Nigerian workers to national development, the harsh economic realities that define their social and living conditions continue to undermine their job security and devastate the communities they serve.

“Amid escalating economic hardships and rot of social safety nets in the country, the national minimum wage remains pitifully stagnant at N30,000 a month—equivalent to roughly $20—with negotiations for a fair living wage perpetually at an impasse. Consequently, more workers are thrust deeper into the dingy crevices of poverty and misery.

“The abrupt removal of fuel subsidy last year without corresponding cushiony measures exemplifies the nature of attacks on the working masses. Presented as a strike against corruption—orchestrated by thieving oil merchants ­—and as a measure to redirect funds towards essential services and basic infrastructure, the subsidy removal has instead burdened working people with soaring costs of goods and services.

“The irony deepens this May Day with the prevailing image across many bus stops and major cities across the country: one of desperation, endless, snake-like queues of workers stranded on the road, and buses and cars immobilised at filling stations as petrol scarcity worsens in an oil-rich and resource-abundant nation as ours. Added to this is the country’s worsening power situation despite the privatisation of electricity and its touted gains. Only a few weeks ago and despite its unavailability for many, electricity prices soared by 300 per cent, with its distribution now governed by a profoundly unequal allocation formula that favours the haves over the have-nots.

“This scenario and inequity extend beyond the energy sector, affecting education, housing, and water—all groaning under the heavy hammer of an ongoing privatisation agenda. Unfortunately, this direction signals dire straits for workers, whose livelihoods and very existence are continually jeopardised in the face of the rampant commodification of essential services.’’

According to Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability Africa, “The working class, the backbone of our economy, faces diminishing returns on their labour. The water sector clearly illustrates this problem. Not only is it grossly underfunded across various states, but its workers also suffer gross neglect and frequent attacks.

“With specific regard to Lagos State, this year’s Labour Day commemoration is marred by the recent and wicked layoff of permanent workers at the Lagos Water Corporation. This follows closely on last year’s abrupt termination of 425 contract workers. These actions by the Lagos State government are indicative of a broader disregard for the workforce that is prevalent across the country.

“We also know very well from our historical monitoring of the Lagos water sector that the termination of the jobs of these workers is intended to pave the way for the state’s privatisation of this essential public utility and service. This is not only an act of injustice but also a declaration of violence against the families and communities dependent on these jobs, particularly in this economically depressed period,” Akinbode added.

CAPPA vehemently rejected claims made by the Lagos State government that the dismissals were due to redundancy and substantial financial difficulties facing the corporation.

The group described such assertions as “absurd, and simply transferring the blame for the state’s failures onto impoverished workers—workers who have long implored the state to urgently address the needs of the corporation yet were made redundant by authorities’ deliberate refusal to allocate resources necessary for upgrading the deplorable condition of waterworks and supply facilities in the state.

“It is illogical to think that the revitalisation of the sector can be achieved by dismissing essential staff who possess many years of invaluable experience and expertise critical for enhancing the sector’s performance. How can the depletion of its already insufficient human resources contribute positively to the regeneration of the corporation’s capacities?

“Tragic it is that Lagos State, despite its unparalleled revenue-generating sources and deep pockets, continues to break coconut on the heads of the poor at the profiteering expense of the tiny, rich elite,’’ the CAPPA statement noted.

CAPPA encouraged workers, labour unions, and pro-masses organisations to stand firm in resilience and resistance against the Lagos State government’s plans to privatise water. It also called for the reinstatement of the sacked workers and for significant investment in the water corporation to boost its operational capacity and workers’ morale. It added that people’s rights to safe and clean water should not be negotiated based on how much profit it can generate for investors and greedy capitalists.

The statement emphasised that only a democratically run and public management of essential utilities can guarantee equal access for all in society and social security for Nigerian workers.

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