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U.S Congress Black caucus express concern over Lagos Water Privatisation project

waterTwenty-three members of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), have
expressed solidarity with people in the global community standing in
support of the human right to water, with particular mention of the
dangers of privatisation of water in Lagos.
The letter, whose signers represent half of the CBC, underscores the
disproportionately harmful effect water privatization schemes, including
public-private partnerships, have on people of color around the world,
with signers pointing specifically to efforts to privatize water in Lagos,
where the World Bank has pushed privatisation as a solution despite its
abysmal track record.
The letter draws from two US examples, Detroit and Baltimore. By
prioritizing revenue over access, much as a private utility would, the
cities have raised rates and forced the shut off of water access for tens
of thousands, drawing the concern of the United Nations Special Rapporteur
on the Human Right to Water.
As part of a global movement to oppose corporate control of water,
spanning from Jakarta to St. Louis, Baltimore recently avoided potentially
perilous contract with global private water corporation Veolia. Detroit
Representative John Conyers, Jr. led the signers with Rep. Karen Bass,
ranking member of the Africa subcommittee. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the
Democratic co-chair of the Nigeria Caucus, and Reps. Maxine Waters and
Emanuel Cleaver, two former CBC chairs, are also among the influential
signers.
In the US, from Detroit to Baltimore, aggressive collections policies are
curtailing people’s access to water, disproportionately affecting
communities of color as the letter’s signers note. In Lagos the World Bank
has lobbied for decades to privatise water systems.
In 2012, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the private
investment arm of the World Bank, held a conference in Senegal to persuade
African leaders to privatise their water systems. The conference featured
Manila, Philippines as a model for replication, despite that project’s
record of massive rate hikes, quality concerns, and communities with
severely limited access. International arbitration recently found that
major pieces of the Manila deal violate Philippines law.
The letter read in part: “We wish to express our solidarity with the
people of Lagos, of Detroit, and of cities around the world as they raise
their voices in support of public water, participatory governance, and
universal access..Water is a fundamental building block upon which
individual and collective economic prosperity relies..When people cannot
access or afford clean water, the impact on their health and livelihoods
is devastating” … “and these circumstances force families to make painful
economic choices.”
Meanwhile the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth
Nigeria(ERA/FoEN) has commended the CBC for its letter of solidarity with
Lagos residents and people in the global struggle to access clean,safe
drinking water, describing the action as “timely” in halting the planned
privatisation of water in Lagos.
ERA/FoEN Director, Corporate Accountability & Administration, Akinbode
Oluwafemi said: “The solidarity letter from the CBC is an encouragement
for anti-privatisation groups to scale up our campaign against policies
that prioritise profits over rights. We expect the Lagos State government
to halt the privatization plans and instead defend the rights of the vast
majority of Lagos residents that water privatization will disenfranchise.”
Oluwafemi, who recently visited CBC offices to seek support for the
campaign against water privatisation in Lagos promoted by the Lagos State
Water Corporation (LSWC), thanked members of the caucus for supporting the
campaign by Lagosians to defend their right to a free gift of nature.
ERA/FoEN and a coalition of labor, human rights and environmental groups
have taken to the streets, creating enough pressure that water
privatization was a central issue in the recent elections.
Supporting the move, Shayda Naficy, Challenge Corporate Control of Water
campaign director at Corporate Accountability International said:” Around
the globe, the human right to water is under threat and people of color
are disproportionately affected,” said “Whether it’s the World Bank or
Detroit City hall, this fundamental right must be upheld. The best way to
do that is to keep water systems democratically accountable and in public
hands.”
The CBC members learned recently that the coalition of Lagosians, in the
face of this relentless lobbying from the World Bank, have raised the
visibility of the plans and organized to stop it in its tracks. The
campaign has engaged directly with candidates and elected officials on the
issue, and marched through the streets of Lagos, but privatization remains
a risk. The group’s most recent visit to Washington, DC made clear to
members of Congress that what threatens water in Lagos threatens the water
of people across the U.S. as well.

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