The Africa Ecumenical Water Network and the Africa Water Justice Network joined the 28th of July 2022 to convene a meeting in Abuja on a controversial Water Resources Bill currently before the Parliament of Nigeria. Civil society organizations in Nigeria and across the world, with the interest of rolling back the privatization of water agenda of the World Bank and transnational corporations have expressed worries about this bill.
Sections of the bill specifically grants the Minister of Water Resources the power to make regulations, policies and strategies for the proper carrying out of the provisions of the Bill in accordance with other directives he may receive from the President and any guidance from a Council. Linked to these massive powers is the problematic provision that mandates the Minister to promote all aspects of public-private partnerships in the development of water resources infrastructure. The high degree of discretionary powers provided by the bill and the mandate it additionally imposes on the Minister to take active steps to promote public-private partnerships in the water sector has been the source of the high concern civil society in and out of Nigeria have with the Bill.
At the Abuja public meeting, Bishop Dr. Stephen Adegbite, Director of National Issues of the Christian Association of Nigeria, reading a petition on behalf of the group said in part that the bill “is not in the national interest, it is therefore in the interest of peace and security, that the bill is withdrawn to avoid unmitigated crisis across the country”. The meeting called on members of the House of Representatives to be vigilant and not give in to the request from the executive that would have far reaching consequences for people’s right to water. Another provision of the bill that has piqued the public highly is the part that will make it compulsory for all persons to obtain permission before sinking boreholes or accessing groundwater. The meeting called on the Federal Government to withdraw the bill, and on the legislature, to reject if the Executive persists.
The meeting was part of 3 national convenings on the continent supported by the Africa Water Justice Network and the Blue Planet Project to use the occasion of the 12th Anniversary of the UN’s recognition of the human right to water to mobilise support against emerging threats of water privatization in Africa. Similar meetings are scheduled for Kenya and South Africa.