By Daniel Kanu, Lagos
A socially-relevant and need-meeting civil society network of women, Africa Women Water Sanitation & Hygiene Network (AWWASHNet), and other women activist groups have condemned the deepening decay of water infrastructure in Lagos State and the lack of political will for its restoration, warning government against water privatisation.
The group cautioned the Lagos State government to discard the idea of water privatisation as they would not only resist it but mobilise all women in the state and beyond to oppose and defy such move.
Rather AWWASHNet urge Lagos government to ensure that Lagosians and by extension Nigerians have adequate public water supply.
The group took the position when AWWASHNet led an open conversation with women drawn from the Labour movement, Civil Society and Communities of Lagos State to strengthen their voices in the struggle for water justice.
In their presentations, Vickie Uremma, Executive Director, Child Health Organisation and Associate Director of CAPPA Africa, Barrister Aderonke Ige, both decried the poor attention given to such an important issue as water, stressing that water is the most basic human need, and women unfortunately bear the highest brunt of lack of water. ‘’Women, girls and persons with special needs are the most affected by acute water shortage as they continue to struggle for these unavailable but important resources in the midst of obvious lack of will by the government to channel the right resources into public water infrastructure,’ says Ige.
Also Betty Abah of CEEHope who gave a goodwill message at the event, noted that ‘the poor state of the nation’s water resources is a symptom of poor management and maladjusted focus of government on public interest.’
In her contribution, Mary Modupeola Lateef-Yusuf of the Nigerian Labour Congress established the connection between unhealthy water sources and the environment while articulating the dastardly health implications of resorting to unwholesome sources to access water due to the failure of public water.
While lending their voices to the discourse, the Lagos Chairperson, Comrades Oluwatoyin Shokunbi and Ngozi Edet, both of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) agreed in unison that privatisation of public water is inimical to free access and affordability of water to ordinary citizens and therefore unacceptable.
The group arrived at a consensus that in line with the theme of World Water Day 2021, which is ‘valuing water’, water ought, currently to have attained a pride of place in Nigerian Laws and Policies as a Human right, in line with the declaration of the United Nations in resolution 64/292 on July 28, 2010.
All participants agreed that water must be accessible, available, sustainable and affordable, insisting that women bear the bigger brunt of water problem.
While wrapping up the conversation, AWWASHNet coordinator Veronica Nwaya stressed the need for women’s voices to be centred within important issues of state and governance, especially where they are directly affected.
The group, at the end of the workshop issued a communiqué, which among other recommendations, demanded immediate shutdown of the water privatisation idea, which the Lagos State Government has been tinkering with. This demand, the group stresses, extends to the National Water Resources Bill which was secretly re-introduced at the National Assembly in 2020, and which has water privatisation written all over it.