The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has hailed the decision of the Lagos State government to discard “anti-people” sections of the new Environment Law that attracted wide criticism from civil society and grassroots stakeholders.

Sections of the law made public at a Public Hearing organised by House Committee on the Environment on February 9, 2017 include provisions that gave too much powers to the Lagos Commissioner for Environment, criminalization of the sinking of boreholes, imposition of fines of N100,000 on defaulters and prison terms for anyone in Lagos that sells or transports water, among others. It also had a booby trap woven into an irrevocable standing order on payments to contractors and concessions.

Civil society and grassroots stakeholders had also faulted the near total lack of consultation of a broad spectrum of stakeholders and Lagos citizens before the Public Hearing and the hasty passage of the bill by the Lagos House of Assembly on February 20.  The groups also alerted on the inaccessibility of the law more than two weeks after the March 1 signing by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said it got the final version of the law at the weekend pointing out that the removal of controversial sections of the law as a “positive moment” for the Ambode administration and the Lagos House of Assembly.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “We are so impressed that the Lagos government allowed the voice of the people to prevail in its decision to finally expunge sections of the new Environment Law that are clearly anti-people and may have been sneaked into the document by proponents of Public Private Partnership (PPP) model for the water sector”

Oluwafemi explained that, “Those provocative sections make the Lagos citizen a victim of the failure of successive administrations to invest sustainably in the water sector. By the sheer act of discarding them, the Governor Ambode administration has demonstrating that it is a listening one and we commend this”

The ERA/FoEN boss however added that the language of the new law is still deliberately skewed to open the door to full privatization of the water sector while ignoring proven solutions that the state government can learn from countries that have remunicipalised after burning their fingers on the myth called PPP promoted by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC).

He restated the position of local and international civil society and grassroots groups on the platform of the Our Water Our Right Coalition that solutions have been proposed in the document – Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Water Sector, copies of which have been made available to relevant government agencies and the office of the governor, urging the governor to take a critical look at the document.

“With the removal of anti-people provisions in the Environment law it is still not yet uhuru. We still restate our opposition to PPP in the water sector which the state is still pressing ahead with. We are determined to challenge this false solution through lawful means including public demonstrations in the days ahead,” Oluwafemi insisted.

By Marc Philips