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Anti-Water Privatization Summit Begin In Abuja

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Participants at a two-day National Summit on the Human Right to Water taking place in Abuja have blamed some international organisation like the World Bank and short-sighted leaders of the African continent for promoting water privatization schemes that have largely cut poor people off a basic human right like water and eventually throw their nations into debts.

The summit tagged Nigeria’s Water Emergency: From Resistance to Real Solutions Against Corporate Control” organised by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in collaboration with Corporate Accountability, Public Services International and other pro water groups under the aegis, OurWater OurRight Coalition began Tuesday in Abuja .

Experts at the Summit are of the opinion that anti privatisation advocates must bond together to defeat the machinations of pro-privatisation forces such as the World Bank and International Financial Corporation (IFC) who have become more daring than ever.

In his welcome address, Board Chair of ERA/FoEN, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey stated that the campaign against the privatisation of water has recorded appreciable progress since the Lagos Water Summit of 2015, noting that there have been growing synergy between labour and civil society organisations in resisting water privatization and the expunging of anti-people sections of the Lagos Environment Law following opposing by the Our Water Our Right Coalition in 2017.

Bassey revealed that beyond Lagos which the private water industry was desperate in grabbing as a poster child, other African nations are also being targeted for water privatization.

Executive Director African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development(Centre LSD), Dr. Otive Igbuzor,in a key note address titled: The Nigerian Water Crisis and the Imperative of Rights-based Solutions, stated that the 28th July, 2010, General Assembly of the United Nations recognition of water and sanitation as basic human right, entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. Dr. Igbuzor, also said the recognition of this basic right also obligates the state to protect and prevent third parties from interfering with the rights to water and sanitation, including that government will be making laws to ensure that providers or individuals comply with human rights standards related to the rights to water and sanitation.

The key note speaker insisted that the involvement of the private sector in water and sanitation issues since the late 1980s has only increased the cost of water services since private firms charge full costs and must pay taxes and earn a profit.

He maintained that claims that privatization would actually enhance service delivery compared with the public sector has been proven false and not supported by evidence emerging from cases in Africa, Europe and Latin America where private sector participation was strongly promoted.

“On the contrary, private sector participation has led to rising social inequality and the weakening of democratic governance and substantive citizenship in the management of water and sanitation services”, he said.

According to Dr Otive, as important as water is for life and human survival, the challenge is that the poorest of the poor do not have access to clean water and sanitation, hence a global water crisis and a Nigerian water crisis.

He insisted that the Nigerian water crisis is made worse by the crisis of the Nigerian state largely fueled by the deception and competing interest of elite groups in our society.

He concluded by reiterating that since the UN has recognized water and sanitation as a basic human right, the state has the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of their citizens to water and sanitation.

There were various sessions that afforded grassroots groups from Lagos, Flint and Pittsburgh in the United States and India learn and share experiences.

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