By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Jos—Organised labour, civil society organizations, CSOs and other stakeholders yesterday in Jos, Plateau State protested alleged plan by the state government to privatize the water supply in the state and urged the state House of Assembly to discard any law seeking to privatize water supply in the state. The protesters who stormed the Assembly where a public hearing was held by the House Committee on Water Resources and Energy, Chaired by Godfrey Landip, Member representing Langtang North-Central in the House; also presented separate memoranda stating why the House should not consider the privatization.
They however solicited public control and sustainable budgetary allocation to the sector to ensure that the poor has access to water without paying exorbitantly for it.
Organised Labour on the aegis of Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees, AUPCTRE, through Emmanuel Ayeoribe, in its presentation stated, “We call on the Plateau State House of Assembly to note that PPP (public-private partnership) is not in the best interest of the government and people of Plateau State in view of its inherent dangers. Privatisation impugns on the human right to water and places profits above the common good which we expect honourable members of the Plateau State House of Assembly to stand for. We, therefore, demand that all sections relating to privatisation, concessioning, and other anti-people initiatives contained in the draft bill should be expunged.”
A section of the draft bill empowers the state’s water corporation to enter into an agreement, joint venture, performance contract, or PPP for the provision, distribution supply or sale of water and sewage management services.
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Philip Jakpor, Head of Media at the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), said such binding contracts would force the government to use taxpayers money to pay corporate entities even when faced with more pressing issues stressing, “PPP in the water sector is known to have failed in countries where they were introduced due to rate hikes, poor service delivery, and corruption in many cases.”
Another group, the Civil Society Coalition for Good Governance, also rejected the inclusion of PPP in the bill as Aluko Daniel, the convener of the group, said any law that opens the door to privatisation would ultimately place a heavy burden on Plateau residents.
His words, “In the interest of justice, fairness, equality, sustainability and human rights, we implore the Plateau State House of Assembly and indeed the Plateau State government to resist and reject the entrapments of PPP in the water sector and encourage instead, high quality, publicly-funded, democratically-controlled water sector.”
But the State Commissioner for Water Resources and Energy, Engineer David Wuyep debunked the insinuation saying the very essence of the bill is to improve on the quality of water and ensure its availability to the masses.
He said, “The objective of the bill is guarantee citizens’ right to access clean water and sanitation service. This access will not be derived if water rate is high, it is to ensure that water policy is followed, it is to create water regulatory agency to ensure fair price and quality water. We don’t want to subject water to the bureaucracy of the civil service; the agency should have its money without resorting to TSA and memos. The policy is pro-poor.”