A coalition of United States racial justice organisations has written to the governor of Lagos, Nigeria, arguing against possible "inherently unjust" privatisation of the state's water. Those objecting to the state’s plans include prominent African-American civil rights activist, and former US Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson.
In a 10 February letter addressed to the Lagos governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the signatories, from "The Institute of the Black World 21st Centurey), state “solidarity with the people of Lagos, Nigeria, and our sisters and brothers on the continent as we collectively struggle together to achieve the universal human right to clean, safe drinking water".
The statement was informed by the direct experiences of Akilibode Oluwafemi, Deputy Director of Nigeria NGO, Environment Rights Action and the “Our Water, Our Rights Campaign”. The activist, whose life has been threatened, claims that multinational corporations are acting in collusion with governmental authorities to privatise the public water systems and to criminalise citizens for drilling wells on communally held lands. There is a particular focus on Nigeria.
The letter underscores the coalition’s solidarity with Nigerian NGO “Our Water Our Rights Campaign” in supporting efforts for development of water systems that serve communities and not large corporate interests. “Accordingly, we call on the Lagos government to abandon its efforts at water privatisation and listen to the voices of the people who are demanding a public water system with the investment needed to work for all Lagosians.”
The US-based group drew on its experiences in dealing with the water crises in Flint MI and Newark NJ where black communities have been disproportionately impacted. The letter calls on the “the Congressional Black Caucus of the U.S. Congress [to] use its full influence to bring attention to the demands of the Our Water Our Rights Coalition in Nigeria".
Ron Daniels, President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) and the Convener of Roundtable discussions in October 2019, indicated that issuing the Statement was the beginning of a national and international mobilisation effort to declare access to water a human right. (press release)
“We intend to make the concept of water as a human right and the crises cities and nations are facing a major issue at the forthcoming State of the Race Conference V, tentatively slated for December 2-6, in Newark, NJ (hosted by Mayor Ras. J. Baraka), where we will be discussing strategies for building democratic economies,” Daniels commented.