CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

Lagos Water Corporation’s Propaganda Against Sacked Workers Disappointing, Says CAPPA

Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has expressed shock and disappointment over what it described as the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) management’s mischievous propaganda regarding the payment of entitlements to 391 workers recently served letters of disengagement by the corporation.

CAPPA’s criticism comes in response to a recent statement by the Managing Director of the LWC, Engr. Mukhtar Temitope Tijani, claiming that the corporation had, in a “remarkable display of empathy,” ensured that the illegally disengaged staff received their entitlements in accordance with public service rules.

According to the nonprofit organisation, the LWC’s attempt to whitewash its assault against helpless workers and still describe it as magnanimous is not only a ridiculous attempt to distort the truth but also a cruel mockery of the plight of affected workers, who have been callously deprived of their basic rights and livelihoods amid the current economic depression in the country.

This was disclosed in a statement by Robert Egbe, Media & Communications Officer, CAPPA

The statement further reads: “For the sake of members of the public interested in the details of this issue and concerned Lagosians who have a right to be made aware of the influences determining their access to publicly provided safe water, it is important that we clarify as follows:

“As far as we know from our participation in a series of meetings with the affected workers and their representatives, the Lagos Water Corporation’s decision to disengage 391 permanent staff on April 15, 2024, on the basis of redundancy, despite the state’s extensive water infrastructure projects and understaffed situation, not only violated due process but is also being actively challenged by the affected workers and members of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Lagos State Council; the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government-Owned Companies (SSASCGOC); and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE).

“Section 20 of the Nigerian Labour Act 2004 clearly outlines the process for handling redundancy. It mandates an employer to inform the trade union or workers’ representative concerned of the reasons for and the extent of the anticipated redundancy, including adhering to the principle of “last in, first out.”

“Likewise, Section 7.23 of the Lagos State Water Corporation (condition of service) Rules 2011 clearly states that “all staff who disengage prematurely from service due to management decision shall be entitled to three (3) weeks of their terminal total emolument for each year of service as redundancy benefit”. The LWC blatantly disregarded these legal provisions, leaving affected workers and their unions with no choice but to resist its illegal actions and shameful undermining of national laws.

“While the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) may claim to have disbursed a five-month redundancy payment to unjustly dismissed workers, we assert that this was merely a performative action mischievously approved on the eve of workers’ decision to embark on a protest on May 8. Despite this effort to undermine workers’ unity, the protest embarked on by the unions, alongside civil society groups, including CAPPA, held regardless, terminating with the submission of a petition to the Lagos State House of Assembly challenging the illegality of the mass sack.

“It is important to state here that pleas by the leadership of the affected unions to the Lagos State Government to halt the illegal disengagement and reinstate all affected workers have fallen on deaf ears, with the government and LWC management insisting on their unfair treatment of workers, many of whom have dedicated 20 – 25 years of selfless service to the corporation.

“CAPPA stands in solidarity with all affected unions and workers, three of whom have tragically lost their lives as a direct result of this injustice.”

The group continued: “Instead of towing the egregious path of public disinformation, we challenge the Lagos state government to rise above such petty tactics and engage in sincere conversations and negotiations with affected workers and their unions regarding the true state of affairs at the Lagos Water Corporation.

“The management of the Lagos Water Corporation, both past and present, must look in the mirror and acknowledge their role in the sector’s dismal performance.

“We emphatically reject attempts to shift the blame on workers by labelling them redundant where the corporation and state government have, instead of allowing workers to perform their jobs, historically outsourced water contracts to corrupt private entities that ended up mismanaging substantial state funds meant for infrastructure development”.

CAPPA further observed that it is important for the Lagos Water Corporation to streamline performance for efficiency. It, however, urged the state government to consider an important and honest first step towards this goal: to investigate previously mismanaged contracts awarded for the optimal performance of the sector and address its own shortcomings in overseeing works contracted out to underperforming private actors and entities.

“CAPPA is also not unaware that the unjust dismissal of workers is only one plot in the grand scheme to totally transfer the state’s public water supply to the hands of private actors. More troubling is the emerging information that the state’s water supply is on the brink of privatisation, allegedly underlined by Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) with investors and private sector partners poised to take over the state’s water infrastructure.

CAPPA rejects these secret dealings regarding the management of public water supply and infrastructure in Lagos state. Public infrastructure projects should reflect transparency, especially since they are funded with taxpayers’ monies. Entering NDAs in matters concerning public welfare undermines the principles of democratic governance and prevents knowledgeable debate and informed decision-making by the very individuals who will be most impacted by these changes—the residents of Lagos State.

Moreover, numerous case studies from around the world have repeatedly shown that privatising public water often leads to increased consumer costs, compromised water quality, and a deterioration in service standards. Without public oversight, these non-disclosure deals could prioritise profit over the well-being of the citizenry, leading to scenarios where the most vulnerable communities suffer from reduced access to this essential amenity.

Therefore, CAPPA urges the Lagos State government to retrace its steps towards privatising public water supply. We demand transparency and accountability in the management of the state’s public water infrastructure and call on policymakers to embrace an environment where public welfare is not sacrificed for profit. The Lagos State Government can start by disclosing the contents of the Non-Disclosure deals currently being negotiated around the state’s water infrastructure.

As we continue to monitor developments surrounding the unjust dismissal of workers at the Lagos Water Corporation, we urge the affected workers, their unions, and members of the public to stand firm in asserting their rights to be treated with basic decency and resist the schemes of those attempting to commodify access to public water in Lagos State,” CAPPA added.

Source: Journal NG

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