By Maduka Nweke
[email protected] 08034207864
The Lagos State Government has received a pat on the back for expunging anti-people provisions of the recently unveiled environment laws, a situation which stakeholders say will alleviate the sufferings of the masses.
The state government had penultimate week unveiled environmental laws that attracted public outcry due to the anti-people perception of some sections of the laws. The perception made a lot of professional groups and some concerned citizens to threaten legal action if the anti-people sections of the laws were not repealed.
According to Mr. Obi Ekwemozor, a textile dealer, government is for the good of the people and so any government that does not consider the welfare of the people is anti-people and should not be supported. “Any law that restricts the public from accessing water freely is anti-people. Such laws should be expunged and made null and void. We must enjoy social amenities and if government cannot provide that, we should be at liberty to do that for ourselves,” he said.
Recall that sections of the law made public at a public hearing organised by the House Committee on the Environment on February 9, 2017, include provisions that appeared to give a considerable amount of powers to the Lagos Commissioner for Environment, criminalisation of the sinking of boreholes, imposition of fines of N100,000 on defaulters and prison terms for anyone in Lagos that sells or transports water, among others. It also had “a booby trap” woven into an irrevocable standing order on payments to contractors and concessions.
Civil society and grassroots stakeholders had also faulted the observed near total lack of consultation of a broad spectrum of stakeholders and Lagos citizens before the public hearing and what seemed like the hasty passage of the bill by the Lagos House of Assembly on Monday, February 20, 2017. The groups also alerted on the inaccessibility of the law more than two weeks after the Wednesday, March 1 signing by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Monday, March 20, 2017, and made available to Daily Sun, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), said it got the final version of the law at the weekend, pointing out that the removal of controversial sections of the law was a “positive moment” for the Ambode administration and the Lagos House of Assembly.
According to ERA/FoEN’s Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, “we are so impressed that the Lagos State government allowed the voice of the people to prevail in its decision to finally expunge sections of the new Environment Law that are clearly anti-people and may have been sneaked into the document by proponents of Public Private Partnership (PPP) model for the water sector.
“Those provocative sections make the Lagos citizen a victim of the failure of successive administrations to invest sustainably in the water sector. By the sheer act of discarding them, the Governor Ambode administration has demonstrated that it is a listening one and we commend him for that.”
The ERA/FoEN boss, however, added that the language of the new law is still deliberately skewed to open the door to full privatisation of the water sector while ignoring proven solutions that the state government can learn from countries that have re-municipalised after burning their fingers on the myth called PPP promoted by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC).
He restated the position of local and international civil society and grassroots groups on the platform of the “Our Water Our Right” coalition that solutions have been proposed in the document – “Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector”, copies of which have been made available to relevant government agencies and the office of the governor, urging him to take a critical look at the document.
“With the removal of anti-people provisions in the Environment Law, it is still not yet uhuru. We still restate our opposition to PPP in the water sector, which the state is still pressing ahead with. We are determined to challenge this false solution through lawful means including public demonstrations in the days ahead,” Oluwafemi insisted.