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Water disconnections in Lagos

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 The Lagos Water Corporation( LWC) is disconnecting public taps in the metropolis. This ultimately putting a stop to the public taps system which hitherto gave ordinary man access to safe drinking water in areas available

A news article reported on page 11 in the Businessday Newspaper of Monday February 11, 2008 reveals.

The corporation is taking this step just as it is concluding arrangements to introduce pre-paid metering system in six highbrow areas of the Lagos metropolis.

The public taps before now had been visible in areas like Lagos Island,Ajegunle, Bariga, and Lagos Mainland. It is currently available in Ikotun and Egbeda in Alimosho Local Government as well as some parts of Ojo,particularly around Agric, where the state government last year commissioned a mini water work.

Yomi Ijaiya, acting general manager in charge of distribution (north), LWC,said the decision informed by the need to arrest reckless wastage of water by members of the public.

According to him it has also been discovered that water vendors connect to such taps and repackage for sale to the public, water obtained free of charge, a situation he described as unacceptable.

“Water is no longer a social service. It costs th government a lot of money to produce it, so people must pay fot it” he said adding that the was moving away from supply through public taps to an era of direct supply to individuals homes.

He believed the system being faced out, represented an underdeveloped  arrangement and presented a lot of challenges, including the risk of children crossing the roads to access the taps.

With the new arrangement of bringing the essential commodity into the comfort of individual homes, the risk of being knocked down by vehicles among other chalenges will be eliminated.

Meanwhile, the water corporation is concluding arrangements to introduce the pre-paid metering system in six highbrow areas of the state. The areas include Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Surulere, Ogudu, Ikeja and Apapa.

Group managing director of the corporation, Shayo Hollowway, said the pre-paid metering would eliminate wastage and address the complaints of “crazy” billings by consumers.

Though it is starting with th six identified ares this year, it will  eventually circulate to cover the entire metropolis.

The National Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation,  a Nigeria CSO coalition says in a statement by its South West Zonal Coordinator, Anthonly Akpan that “this policy as it is anti-people and called for public resistance”:

“The prepaid water meter is perhaps today’s starkest expression of this commitment to the profit motive above the needs of people. In addition to entrenching the logic of payment for a basic resource, the prepaid meter individualises the relationship of people to water and makes any notion of individual right dependent on individual ability to pay.

‘Responsibility’ also becomes individualised (away from the state and society) as water provision is made the responsibility of a private company to a paying individual. (Coalition against Water Privatisation, 2004: 8)”

Lack of access to safe water has a major effect on people’s health. Poor health constrains development and poverty alleviation. Poor water and sanitation have an impact on education, but when safe water and appropriate sanitation are provided in schools, increased attendance and a reduction in drop-out rates results. (World Health Organization, 2003: 7)

Ensuring that access to sufficient safe water is a human right constitutes an important step towards making it a reality for everyone. It means that:

. fresh water is a legal entitlement, rather than a commodity or service provided on a charitable basis;

. achieving basic and improved levels of access should be

. the “least served” are better targeted and therefore inequalities decreased;

. communities and vulnerable groups will be empowered to take part in decision-making processes;

. the means and mechanisms available in the United Nations human rights system will be used to monitor the progress of States Parties in realizing the right to water and to hold governments accountable. (WHO, 2003: 9)

“Privatization” of water services is often a controversial issue, and the involvement of the private sector in water delivery has accelerated over the past decade. In many countries, private sector involvement has extended beyond selling water from trucks and supply of infrastructure to the full operation and management of water delivery systems. While governments under international human rights law may permit private sector involvement, their responsibilities remain the same.

 Steps must be taken to ensure that the sufficiency, safety, affordability and accessibility of water are protected
from interference as well as ensuring that everyone will enjoy the right in the shortest possible time. Where it is involved, the private sector should be encouraged by governments to participate effectively in ensuring people’s right to water. (WHO, 2003: 29)

A commodity, in neoclassical economic terms, is anything that can be bought and sold in the marketplace in exchange for another commodity or for money. ‘Commodification, ‘ therefore, is any act, practice or policy that promotes or treats a good or service as an article of commerce to be bought, sold, or traded through market transactions. (McDonald and Ruiters, 2005: 6)

Most municipal privatization schemes today do not involve any transfer of state assets, focusing instead on the transfer of operational and managerial functions to private companies (eg meter reading, personnel management, strategic planning, maintenance) . Infrastructure and equipment typically remain in public hands – or are transferred back to public ownership after a specified period – and there may be joint responsibilities between the state and a private firm in managing operational functions. (McDonald and Ruiters, 2005: 2)

A privately owned utility is primarily there to make a profit and
secondarily to deliver a service. Private companies therefore reserve a right not to serve citizens who live far off the grid or who are not able to pay for cost-recovery of their service.You only get what you pay for and low-income and poor consumers therefore receive an inferior service.Private companies are only interested in minimal procedural rights and are known to challenge the rights or the consumers in court. Citizens are not invited to take part in decision making unless they own shares in the private corporations. .. (Public Citizen, 2004: 8)

Recently, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors the implementation of the Covenant, adopted General Comment No. 15 in which water is recognized, not only as a limited natural resource and a public good but also as a human right. (WHO, 2003: 3)

In order to create a favourable climate for the realization of the right, States parties should take appropriate steps to ensure that the private business sector and civil society are aware of, and consider the importance of, the right to water in pursuing their activities. (United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 2002: 16)

A rights-based approach is also premised upon the principle of freedom from discrimination and equality between men and women. This is closely linked to the issue of accessibility. For example, the right to water specifically rules out exclusion from needed services according to ability to pay. This is crucial in ensuring the delivery of services to the poor. (World Health Organization, 2003: 10)