Water Privatisation Bill is Evil, Group Challenges Plateau Government

Governor Simon Lalong

Seriki Adinoyi in Jos

National President, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Comrade Benjamin Anthony, has said that they will fight the Plateau State Government over the water privatisation bill to a standstill because it is an evil bill.

According to Anthony, the bill was hastily passed by the 8th State House of Assembly on their last valedictory session, adding that they had anticipated that Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, as a lawyer, would have stayed action on it because of popular opposition.

He spoke yesterday at a Town Hall meeting on Water Privatisation in Plateau State, adding that the law had been criticised not only by AUPCTRE but also by allies such as the Environmental Rights Action, the Civil Society Coalition for Good Governance and citizens of the state from all the communities.

He said, “We were at the public hearing on this same law on 16 April, 2019 when we bared our minds on its anti – people sections which literally open the doors to Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and other models of ceding our water to a few whose only claim is to maximise profit while jettisoning democratic control.

 “That is why we are here because in virtually all cities where water has been handed over to for – profit entities, the story that follow is the same: Hike in water prices, poor quality service, shut – offs for the most vulnerable people, lay – offs of workers and a host of consequences that directly make it impossible to guarantee the universal access that the United Nations promotes.”

Anthony added, “From Tanzania to Rwanda to Nagpur in India and Manila in the Philippines, the story of water privatisation is one that leaves the people disenfranchised and the privatisers smiling to the banks.

“As we speak, many cities have decided to take back their water from these corporate behemoths that care less for what is fundamental human rights for our people.”

He urged Governor Lalong to immediately revoke the anti – people law and open discussions with the people on how to ensure that clean and safe water was available, adequate and affordable for all irrespective of their status which he said must be done within the realm of the public sector.

At the town hall meeting, participants observed that the hasty signing of the Plateau State Water Sector Law by the governor is capable of rupturing the existing peace in the state, adding that the promoters did not consider the human rights to water.

 They also argued that the views and input of the Plateau citizens were not sought or considered in the deliberations on the bill by the State House of Assembly as the hasty passage of the bill is suspicious and anti – people.

According to them, the bill opens the doors widely for privatisers to take possession of the water resources and infrastructure of Plateau, adding that the bill did not consider existing proven solutions to the water crisis in the state that are within the realm of the public sector and democratic control.

The participants therefore recommended the immediate revocation of the water law to preserve the existing harmony and peace in the state, advising that government should reject all forms of water privatisation and commodification.

They also advised Lalong to build the political will to prioritise water for the people, thereby leading to a comprehensive plan that invests in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access which will create jobs, improve public health and invigorate the Plateau economy. 

Former Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Chairman, Comrade Yusuf Zambuk, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) Director, North Central Zone, Steve Aluko – Daniel and the current NLC Vice Chairman in the state, Comrade Sunday Akinfolarin all said that they were ready to lay down their lives and confront government for the bill to be recalled.

The coordinator of the programme, Comrade Tunji Buhari, said that privatisation of water is mortgaging the future of the citizens. He urged government to recall the bill because it is an evil bill.