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By Dan Okoro
The Federal Government was on Wednesday cautioned against giving life to the National Water Bill, which is currently before the National Assembly. The civil society groups and labour unions which gave the warning, described the bill as obnoxious and anti-people.
They said that attempts to foist the National Water Resources Bill on Nigerians despite popular opposition was reflective of a culture of the insensitivity of the Nigerian government to the genuine needs of Nigerians in the water and other sectors of the economy.
The eighth National Assembly, it will be recalled, had thrown out the bill before for lack of merit, while the executive arm of the government smuggled it in again.
The groups which include, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Public Services International (PSI) and the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) made their stance known at a one-day Labour, Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and Communities’ consultation on the National Water Bill 2020 on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 in Lagos.
They reaffirmed opposition to the contentious National Water Resources Bill, while urging the government to kick-start a fresh community-based process which would entail consultation with Nigerians from the initial stages through the entire process at the National Assembly.
The groups also advised the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to respect the genuine wishes of Nigerians expressed through the media and other public channels and stop its promotion of the “toxic National Water Bill.”
They also called on the the Federal Government to embrace public sector solutions in addressing the water challenges of Nigeria including the Public-Public-Partnership model and National Water Trust Fund which had been tested and found effective in other climes.
They pointed out that Privatisation, including the PPP model of water, privatisation had been proven to be a false solution worldwide, which will only enrich a few and burden the people with endless debts and increase in poverty.
Besides, they called for comprehensive data on both water infrastructure investment and access to aid planning for now and the future.
They urged the government at all levels to embrace democratic decision-making in addressing water shortages.
Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA, also called on Nigerians to resist the bill, which he said was anti-people, pointing out that solidarity had been the key in forcing the hands of government hence the need for groups to continue mobilising and engaging to ensure that the will of the people stands.
In his address at the event, Prof Sofiri-Joab Peterside of the University of Port Harcourt lamented that the Nigerian government has continued to brush aside the genuine yearnings of Nigerians and instead, imposing false solutions on the people rather than embrace genuine alternatives offered by the civil society.
Meanwhile, the communiqué after the meeting include: Women and vulnerable groups should also be accorded priority in plans to guarantee access; the Nigerian governments should invest in public infrastructure and embrace democratic, participatory, and transparent management of water investments that fulfill the human right to water through the public sector; Civil society, labour and community groups continue legislative engagements to ensure that the will of the people is respected; Need for more public enlightenment on dangers inherent in the current Bill and mobilization of Nigerians across the board to support an alternative Bill which will incorporate all the concerns of communities; In an address to Nigeria’s water challenges, government at all levels should include issues of workers’ welfare and capacitation; Civil society, labour, and communities’ adequate participation in any Public Hearing by the National Assembly in relation to the National Water Bill with the intention of promoting an alternative bill.
Signatory Organisations include the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, Public Services Employees, Joint Action Front, Child Health Organisation, African Women Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Network, Social Democratic Movement, Network of Lagos Communities Against Water Privatisation, Peace and Development Project, and Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection.