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Trade unions and civil society groups on Tuesday mounted pressure on members of the Plateau State House of Assembly to expunge privatisation clauses from a bill on the water sector.

The groups had earlier staged a protest outside the premises of the assembly complex before entering the building where they presented their memoranda.

The public hearing on the ‘Bill for a law to provide for the Plateau State water sector law and for other matters connected,’ was presided over by Godfrey Landip (Langtang North), the chairman of the House Committee on Water and Energy.

In their memorandum, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), canvassed support for public control and sustainable budgetary allocation to the water sector.

The group listed some of the effects of privatisation to include a hike in water tariff, water corporations’ workers’ retrenchment, lack of transparency in PPP transactions, compromising water quality for profit-making, and reluctance to extend water access to the poor.

It also criticised the gender composition of members of the governing board and recommended “4 – 5 women on the board” instead of one.

“We call on the Plateau State House of Assembly to note that PPP (public-private partnership) is not in the best interest of the government and people of Plateau State in view of its inherent dangers,” said Emmanuel Ayeoribe, who read out AUPCTRE’s position.

“Privatisation impugns on the human right to water and places profits above the common good which we expect honourable members of the Plateau State House of Assembly to stand for.

“We, therefore, demand that all sections relating to privatisation, concessioning, and other anti-people initiatives contained in the draft bill should be expunged.”

A section of the draft bill empowers the state’s water corporation to enter into an agreement, joint venture, performance contract, or PPP for the provision, distribution supply or sale of water and sewage management services.

Philip Jakpor, head of media at the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), said such binding contracts would force the government to, using taxpayers money, continue paying corporate entities even when faced with more pressing issues.

“PPP in the water sector is known to have failed in countries where they were introduced due to rate hikes, poor service delivery, and corruption in many cases,” Mr Jakpor said.

Another group, the Civil Society Coalition for Good Governance, also rejected the inclusion of PPP in the bill.

Aluko Daniel, the convener of the group, said any law that opens the door to privatisation would ultimately place a heavy burden on Plateau residents.

“In the interest of justice, fairness, equality, sustainability and human rights, we implore the Plateau State House of Assembly and indeed the Plateau State government to resist and reject the entrapments of PPP in the water sector and encourage instead, high quality, publicly-funded, democratically-controlled water sector.”

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