The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has criticized the secrecy surrounding the planned rehabilitation of dilapidated water infrastructure in Lagos State, urging the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration to allow transparent and competitive bidding in the selection of companies to carry out the repair works.
Ambode had announced funding to the tune of N760 million (seven hundred and sixty million naira) for the rehabilitation works following a host of actions by civil society culminating in the rejection of water privatization by the Our Water Our Right coalition led by ERA/FoEN at a protest march on World Water Day (March 22). In all, 48 mini and micro water works across the state have been selected for rehabilitation
ERA/FoEN, while commending the Lagos Government for harkening to the yearnings of residents on the issue of funding public water sector, however, frowned at unconfirmed reports that the bidding process for rehabilitation of the waterworks has been hijacked by politicians and people close to the government scheming to get a slice of the funds through companies known to have obtained contracts for similar repairs in the past and yet failed to deliver.
ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “In as much as we find it heartwarming that the Lagos government has agreed to commit public funds to rehabilitating the existing waterworks in the state, we find it very disturbing that the process being put in place to achieve this has so far not been transparent and people-centered. Public consultation in the ongoing process has been nil”
Oluwafemi explained that citizens of Lagos are tired of figures of deficit in the provision of water that the state government continues to announce and the eulogy it accords the false solution that Public Private Partnership (PPP) represents, while ignoring the known fact that inconsistency and lack of sustained budgetary allocation to the water sector led to the current quagmire that citizens now face.
The ERA/FoEN boss insisted that Lagosians reject in entirety the “strange silence” around the bids and allowing the same companies that failed to implement repairs in the past to get fresh contracts when they should actually be under probe and monies diverted retrieved from them.
He pointed out that in the document -Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector which the Our Water Our Right coalition has delivered to key ministries and the office of the governor, integration of broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water was recommended.
He therefore stressed that Lagos citizens will no longer be fooled by words but instead, demand that the bidding process for rehabilitation of the mini and micro water works be made public.
“We must know the companies selected, their track record in the field relevant to the subject matter as well as those behind them. Lagosians refuse being hoodwinked by the same enemies of the people who want to introduce PPP through the backdoor. Transparency in the current process is non-negotiable”, Oluwafemi insisted.