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ERA/FoEN Advocates Immediate Social Security for Unemployed Nigerians

The current recession that Nigeria has plunged head-long into as a result of the slump in international oil price, is indicative of faulty policies and mismanagement of the oil wealth with the result being: We have now come to a point where only a well thought-out and drastic policy can stave off an imminent revolution.

This policy can only come in the way of a National Basic Income Scheme (NaBIS) for the poor and vulnerable groups to address the widening gap of inequalities in Nigeria through a national wealth redistribution system that will ensure a monthly stipend to all unemployed Nigerians which the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) is proposing.

ERA/FoEN made the proposal at a National Social Security Expert Group Meeting held in Abuja with funding from Friends of the Earth Norway.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo explained that ERA/FoEN in 2013 proposed this scheme on the basis that Nigeria is one of the countries in the world where the gap of inequality is highest with over 68 million out of the nearly 170 million Nigerians unemployed and living on less than two dollars per day. Millions, he noted, go to bed hungry.

To fund the initiative, Ojo first cited official figures from the Bureau of Statistics which recorded that Nigeria earned N48.4 trillion between 2000-2011, and N8.8 trillion in 2011 from oil wealth hence the nation can afford a minimum Basic Income Stipend of about N10,000 exclusively to the poor and unemployed to halt a decline towards a political class economy.

He recommended a progressive tax of 1% on monthly income of N500,000, sensitisation of policy makers on potential sources of funding, such as reduction of the cost of legislation through the adoption of part-time involvement of legislators instead of the current full-time involvement. Others are significant reduction in the earnings of political office holders in terms of Security Vote for the executives, national assembly members and other political office holders at the national and state levels, among others.

Participants in the workshop included: Senator Fatai Buhari representing Oyo North Senatorial District who agreed with the initiative and expressed willingness to support it. Others are Hon. Wale Okediran, a National Assembly consultant, Hon. Uche Unyeagucha, Hon. Bakura Lawan, among others.

Representatives of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the academia were in attendance.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
By UN estimates, Nigeria will be one of the countries responsible for most of the world’s total population increase by 2050. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the 9th most populous country in the world. With an estimated population of 170 million, one in every five Africans is a Nigerian.  The country has been undergoing explosive population growth and has one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world.

Growing youth demography, in the context of developing nations, represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for locally led economic growth which can secure a prosperous future for some of the world’s poorest people but sadly in Africa, youth unemployment has become a threat to socio-economic peace and stability. Records have it that the unemployment rate in Nigeria for the year 2011 stood at 23.9 percent with youth unemployment rate at over 50 percent. Surely today, the figure has risen far beyond this estimate.

ERA/FoEN advocates for the empowerment of rural community dwellers whose sources of livelihood have been seriously impacted through massive pollution from extractive activities by oil companies in the Niger Delta, and other environmentally-degrading impacts in other regions of the country. ERA/FoEN believes that the present insecurity challenges engendered by unemployment in the country can be curbed when the needs of the voiceless are addressed.

Rationale for National Basic Income

There are ethical, legal, religious, economic and sociocultural justifications for national basic income. This underscores the relevance of the national social security scheme in any state because the underlying philosophy of social security is to ensure a minimum level of material living to the needy or helpless ones of the society from the government.

A cardinal objective and directive principle which underpins the policy of the Nigerian government towards its people encompass “security and welfare of the people”. This lofty idea is entrenched in Chapter II, Article 14, subsection 2b of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and declared as the primary purpose of Government. Thus, National Basic Income, which is a social security strategy, is a statutory responsibility of the federal government.

Social security is a shared care arrangement designed to meet conditions of insecurity due to either deprivations or contingencies. The objective of a social security scheme is to ensure that the vulnerable in the society receive the necessary assistance required to make them comfortable. By empowering the citizens, the authorities are also preparing them to stimulate economic activities through their spending since a high household marginal propensity to consume is critical to the enhancement of the national income via the income multiplier effect. The environment stands to benefit from relieving pressure on nature and environmental resources.

The current spate of youth restiveness and insurgencies can be significantly reduced if the federal government takes a bold step to implement significant social security measures, especially the national basic income scheme. The major policy implications of such a scheme to various stakeholders include, but not limited to increased household spending and the attendant multiplier effect, need for managerial commitment to employee welfare, industrial unions’ commitment to the private sector’s protection of their employees, etc.

Antecedents

Nigeria has not been totally social security blind. Some of the attempts made by the federal government of Nigeria in providing social security in the past include Udoji Public Service Review Commission – 1974; Workmen compensation scheme, 1987 – 2011; Pension scheme; 1954 – 2004; Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2004; 2014; Employee Compensation Act (ECA) 2010; etc. In recent times, some state governments such as former Governor of Ekiti state Governor Fayemi, and his Ondo state counterpart paid N5,000 to aged people that were 60 years and above. How many of such practices can we point to in Nigeria and what lessons can we learn from them? In particular, the Ekiti social security example was supported by a legislative backing to allow for continuity. But is this the case at the moment or the project has been jettisoned? What other examples can we draw from?

Proposed Strategy for Income Redistribution

A publication in The Vanguard Newspaper (Monday, 5th September, 2016 edition) indicates that the total annual salaries of 469 national legislators (senators and House of representative members) is about N4, 834,032,493. This amount can pay about 40,284 unemployed Nigerian citizens the National Basic Income of N10, 000 for one year.

If we consider the earnings of the state legislators and those of the ministers (Junior and senior) as well as the local government chairmen and vice chairmen, the councilors in the approximately seven hundred and seventy local government areas in the country; the special advisers at the national and state levels; as well as the secretary to the state governments and local governments, then the undisclosed security votes at the state and national levels by those in power, then we will begin to realise how much we can salvage for the national basic income.  A purposeful progressive income taxation should also be explored.

Some strategies/ideas to consider

  1. A progressive tax of 1% on monthly income of N500,000. (How is this realistic with the current tax system? How many people could be in this bracket? And what monetary projections can be derived from such calculations?)
  2. Sensitisation of policy makers on potential sources of funding, such as reduction of the cost of legislation through the adoption of part-time involvement of legislators instead of the current full-time involvement
  3. Significant reduction in the earnings of political office holders in terms of Security Vote for the executives, national assembly members and other political office holders at the national and state levels
  1. The adoption of unicameral legislature instead of the current bicameral system;
  1. Establishment of an institutional framework for the scheme to ensure a successful implementation of the national basic income scheme. In this regard, the following should be provided:

        i. A legislative backing from the national assembly to support Executive Order or gazette.

        ii. Biometric Verification, to ensure that only qualified citizens’ benefit from the scheme;

        iii. National identity card, to ensure that every person’s unique identity is secured and procedures should be put in place to make the exercise continuous

        iv. A comprehensive database of all employed people to enable easy verification of their employment status

        v. A comprehensive database of all unemployed people with the individuals’ biometrics and national identity card numbers that can be used to verify their unemployment status              by logging online with the appropriate details at any given time.

     vi. An electronic database of all unemployed and aged people to make it easy for government to determine the proportion of aged people that should be included in the National                basic income scheme

   6. Stipulation of Penalties for Potential Abuses and Multiple Registration to serve as a deterrent to people who may want to indulge in frivolous acts. Such penalties should include          blacklisting, forfeiting of any benefits associated with the database and possible jail terms of at least three years with hard labour.

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ERA/FoEN demands that fossil fuel industry be shut out of climate talks

Lagos, Nigeria—Today, environmental groups rallied to demand Nigerian delegates to the UN climate treaty take decisive action to address the corrosive influence of the fossil fuel industry on climate policy. The action is part of a global series of actions calling for governments to launch a global investigation into industry interference at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) – a leading group in the Kick Big Polluters campaign has demanded that Nigerian delegates to the talks lend their voices to calls for the fossil fuels industry to be shut out of the talks. ERA/FoEN is part of the Break Free from Fossil Fuels Coalition which commenced actions in Nigeria yesterday (10th May 2016), with a rally at Oil Well 1, Nigeria’s first oil well drilled in 1956.

The gathering yesterday had hundreds of community chiefs, youths, women groups, and civil society groups

“Thanks to interference from big polluters, the Paris Agreement doesn’t go far enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change here in Nigeria said Godwin Ojo, executive director of ERA/FoEN “We, the people, urge our government leaders to take action in Bonn to eliminate the primary obstacle to more ambitious and aggressive action by showing big polluters the door.”

Across all the geo-political zones of Nigeria climate change is dislocating communities and ruining livelihoods. From the north where the desert continues its downward march, to the south west where coastal erosion is swallowing coastal communities to the east where gulley erosion is assuming frightening dimensions, the impact is real. Oil extraction and gas flares in the Niger Delta, aside polluting surrounding communities, are excercebating the climate chaos.

On May 16, delegates to the UNFCCC will convene in Bonn, Germany for the first time since the Paris Agreement was gaveled through last December. While the agreement has been applauded as an historic accomplishment, many have criticized it for not being ambitious enough to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

“The Paris Agreement doesn’t go far enough. In fact, without more ambitious action now, we will be on a path that far exceeds the temperature threshold that would prevent the worst effects of climate change,” said Patti Lynn of Corporate Accountability International, “To ensure governments can take action far beyond the Paris Agreement, we must first ensure that those that wish to undermine progress–polluting industries like Big Oil, Coal, and Gas—are out of the room.”

From aggressive lobbying at the regional level to financial sponsorship of international meetings, the industry interferes at all levels. Industry cooptation of treaty meetings has been a growing problem and a primary obstacle to progress. At the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Warsaw, corporate entities with a direct conflict of interest in the treaty’s success not only sponsored the talks, they were given preferential access to delegates.

And, at COP21 in Paris, industry interference was a central concern. The meetings, dubbed the “Corporate COP,” were financially sponsored bydozens of corporations with massive carbon footprints and track records of undermining sound climate policy. Inside the meetings, special areas were created for corporations and everything from charging stations to water fountains were branded.

Today’s events are part of a rapidly growing movement of people demanding that big polluters are removed from the climate policymaking process. To date more than 570,000 people have joined the call, which was launch in May of 2015.

To view the petition, go to www.KickBigPollutersOut.org

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

+234 803 725 6939

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Prosecute Philip Morris for acknowledging illegally importing cigarettes into Nigeria

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has asked the Federal Government to begin immediate prosecution of Philip Morris International Nigeria Limited (PMINTL) for illegal importation of cigarette into Nigeria.

In a statement released in Lagos, the group said PMINTL has provided enough evidence for prosecution for flouting the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 in a letter it purportedly sent to the Budget Office of the Federation in which it is asking for approval to import another 550 million tons of cigarette after the first illegal import.

ERA/FoEN had alerted in December 2015 that PMINTL breached the nation’s laws by bypassing the Ministry of Health as required by the NTC Act and instead, getting authorization from the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and other agencies of government to import 122 million tons of cigarettes from Senegal.

Section 29(1) of the NTC Act signed into law last May by former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan says: No person shall manufacture, import or distribute tobacco or tobacco products except the person has obtained license or is authorised in writing by the minister. The law also stipulates a fine of “not less than N10 million and a term of imprisonment of not more than 10 years or both” among others for defaulters.

The products were to be imported into Nigeria under the cover of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) between September 18, 2015 and March 31, 2016.

Media reports (See link: http://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2016/05/10/philip-morris-plans-to-import-n156bn-cigarettes-uncovered/) indicate that in a letter to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, PMINTL acknowledged that it had imported and distributed the 122 million tons of cigarette in Nigeria and that it cleared the products in the country in line with its sales projections.

The new application for 550 million cigarette units was made in January 2016 and is for Marlboro, Marlboro Gold, Bond Street, Bond Street Blue, Chesterfield Mint Burst and Chesterfield Blue cigarettes.

ERA/FoEN said: “The acknowledgement by PMINTL after months of silence and secrecy around the importation of the deadly products is not only shocking, but also smacks of respect for Nigeria’s laws as espoused in the NTC Act 2015”

ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “ERA/FoEN is finally vindicated. After months of evasive body language, PMINTL has finally come out of the woods to own up to importing illegally into Nigeria. The illegal imports show that PMINTL is determined to compromise the health of Nigerians through its so-called long term commitment and investment plans that will only lead to a harvest of deaths in a very short time.

“We expect the government to demonstrate that the era of impunity is over. PMINTL should face prosecution and appropriate sanctions imposed. It is very worrisome that the same company that compromised our systems to import lethal products is still asking for government nod to legally import the same death in wraps. This government must turn down this godless request.”

Oluwafemi added that, “This opportunity is one we are using to renew our petition for criminal prosecution of PMINTL Nigeria Limited for the illegal importation of cigarette into Nigeria. A full probe of the entire transaction must be carried out with a view to bringing to justice any government official that compromised his office in the process of this illegal importation.

“Like we had demanded in our petition to the president last year, the products already imported must be withdrawn from the market, and the entire consignment destroyed. Governments across the region must also remove tobacco from trade liberalization policies. Here in Nigeria we propose high taxes on cigarette products to reduce consumption and the full implementation of the NTC Act through strong and effective regulations. This is what Nigerians demand and this is what the government should do,” Oluwafemi stated.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

+234 803 725 6939

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Tobacco Control: Do Not be Intimidated – ERA/FoEN Tells Nigerian Govt

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has advised the Nigerian government to remain resolute in the face of tobacco industry intimidation as the Ministry of health comes up with regulations for the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act.

ERA/FoEN made the call as it also commended a Kenyan court ruling rejecting British American Tobacco (BAT) petition to stop the adoption of regulations that would facilitate implementation of Kenya’s Tobacco Control Act 2007.

BACKGROUND

BAT Kenya Limited had filed a petition at the Constitutional Court in the High Court of Kenya, Nairobi in April 2015 asking it to declare that the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 developed by the Ministry of Health to facilitate the implementation of Tobacco Control Act 2007 is null and void.

The tobacco company had argued that the due process was not followed in the making of the regulations and that particular sections of the regulations contravened their rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights and other Articles of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and that they were therefore unconstitutional.

The regulations had been tabled in Parliament on 5th December 2014 and gazette as is required and were to take effect on 5 June 2015. Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) and the Consumer Information Network (CIN) got enjoined in the case as interested parties. On 4th June 2015, a day before the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 could take effect, the Judge issued conservatory orders suspending implementation of the regulations (at the request of BAT) until the case is heard and determined.

The court however ruled among others, that, according to the documents presented to it, there were various meetings during the framing of the regulations that BAT was represented in, and consulted. Reports of public forums and other consultations were shared and the regulations were presented to Parliament which offered another platform for public participation through the Parliamentary process. It noted that in effect, there was sufficient public participation, hence, the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 cannot be declared null and void on the basis of lack of sufficient public participation, among others.

This ruling comes at a time when a BAT employee-turned-whistleblower, Paul Hopkins, recently revealed that BAT has engaged in systematic bribery to thwart tobacco control laws throughout Central and East Africa. Already Kenya has launched an investigation into this alleged bribery and authorities in the U.S. and the U.K. are considering investigating BAT’s bribery.

ERA/FoEN POSITION

ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “This ruling is victory for the Kenyan people and an indication that they refuse to be intimidated by the tobacco industry. Despite BAT arm-twisting through the suit, the Kenyan Ministry of Health and tobacco control advocates such as the Consumer Information Network have demonstrated doggedness and determination to push through life-saving laws which other countries of the continent must emulate”

Oluwafemi stressed that, as Nigeria’s health ministry begins the establishment of regulations for effective implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act, it must note and learn from the Kenyan example which has become an observed pattern that BAT is replicating across Africa.

“BAT aversion to the life-saving laws is not new. It only adds to a woeful list of the company’s antics aimed at continuing the marketing its deadly wares on the continent unchallenged. While we continue to anticipate the findings of current and pending investigations into BAT’s alleged bribery of officials in neighboring countries, we remind Nigerian authorities that BAT acts the same in Nigeria as it does in Kenya. We must be watchful for similar activities in Nigeria.”

While we are yet to get over the recent revelations of BAT employee-turned-whistleblower, Paul Hopkins, that BAT has engaged in systematic bribery, to thwart tobacco control laws throughout Central and East Africa, including Kenya, the corporation is at it again.”

Oluwafemi explained that, “For Nigeria which is BAT largest market on the African continent, we anticipate that the health ministry will meet intimidation and open and subtle pressure as it espouses regulations for implementation of the NTC Act.

“The Ministry of Health must be watchful and refuse BAT presence on the table or its suggestions through bodies that it may be affiliated with. The Kenyan litigation should serve as eye-opener for the sort of tobacco industry tactics we could face in Nigeria. We must be prepared to protect our recently-passed act to ensure it reaches its life-saving potential”, Oluwafemi noted.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

+234 803 725 6939

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ERA, FRIENDS OF THE EARTH GROUPS FROWN AT DELAYED IMPLEMENTATION OF UNEP OGONI ASSESSMENT

The Environmental Rights Action, member organisations of Friends of the Earth International and community-based groups from the Niger Delta have called on the Nigerian government to match talk with action in the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Assessment on Ogoniland.

At a media advocacy meeting on the non-implementation of the UNEP assessment report on Ogoniland held in Abuja, the groups said the call became imperative in the light of the observed inactivity in relation to the clean-up of Ogoniland nearly one year after government released a $10 million grant for the commencement of the exercise.

The groups said that on the contrary the plight of the Ogoni have worsened following the politicization of the exercise, a development that has spurred violence in the communities as the local people are denied the basics of life such as clean water, a clean environment and sustainable livelihood.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: “As we march towards the fifth year of the release of the UNEP assessment and its non-implementation, no one is in doubt that the Ogonis continue to bear the burden of the environmental degradation, livelihood losses and other fallouts that is blamed solely on Shell”.

Ojo expressed dissatisfaction that even after the announcement of the take-off grant for the clean up by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 the administration is yet to put in place the relevant institutional structures and frameworks to actually instigate the commencement of the exercise.

He explained that while this administration must be commended for taking the bold initiative of committing to take actions that the previous administration did not, the $10 million still remains the only action taken, and this represents a mere 1 per cent of the N1 billion that the UN agency recommended as take off fund for the exercise.

Geert Ritsema of Milieudefensie said: “We stand in solidarity with the Ogoni people in their legitimate demand for immediate actions to remediate their degraded environment. There should be no delay in making Shell take full responsibility for this mess ”

In similar vein, Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Justice delayed is justice denied. The more the delay in commencement of the clean-up recommended by the UNEP the more the people suffer deprivation.”

The groups reiterated their position that Shell is liable and should be prosecuted for the crime of ecocide since it had wantonly destroyed the environment of the people of the Niger Delta consistently and over a long period.

They also demanded among others:

Compensation for Ogoni people, the need for establishment of a clean-up fund of $100 billion for the entire Niger Delta and the baring of Shell from the cleanup process except financial contribution in line with ERA/FoEN recommended Polluter Pays Principle.

The highpoint of the engagement was the release of a report titled: No Progress: Will Shell Evade Justice? which pinpoints specific issues the government has failed to address in getting the implementation of the UNEP report on auto pilot.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

08037256939

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Prioritise people over profits in provision of water, ERA/FoEN tells state governments

As the world marks 2016 world water day, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has urged the federal and state governments to put the interest of the people and jobs over profits in the pursuit of providing the citizenry portable water for drinking and other uses.

The international World Water Day reminds governments and peoples about the significance of fresh water and sustainability of fresh water resources management. The 2016 commemoration has as theme: Water and Jobs. It focuses on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods and even transform societies and economies.

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said the global commemoration should be a wakeup call to the Nigerian government that water is a human right and in its provision, the livelihoods of people should not be mortgaged to privatisers.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “as we mark this global event which reminds governments of their responsibility in ensuring citizens have the highest basic standard of life which unhindered access to clean water represents, the sad reality in Nigeria is that the federal and state governments overtly or covertly dodge this duty and would rather go cap in hand to the World Bank and other promoters of privatisation whose interests are solely “for-profit only”

Oluwafemi explained that government at all levels should fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation, and that in doing this, the government should integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.

“Prioritising water for the people will lead to a comprehensive plan that invests in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, create jobs, improve public health, and invigorate the national economy.

Citing Lagos as an example of a potentially dangerous experiment in water privatization, Oluwafemi explained that, “in this state of nearly 21 million people the World Bank through its private arm – International Finance Corporation (IFC) is suggesting a Public Private Partnership (PPP) which will mortgage the future of the citizens of the state. The PPP water failures in Manila and Nagpur mirror what awaits countries that adopt this model”

The ERA/FoEN boss stressed that, while the World Bank and other agencies talk of the challenges of providing water for people like human rights activists do, their path to solving the challenges differ, even as he added that the solution to the identified challenges rests in keeping public water in public hands and not in the hands of a few who would rather exploit the situation for personal gain.

He listed fallouts of PPPs in the water sector to include rate hikes, poor service quality, and shut-offs to the poor who may not be able to pay the cost of water. He added that, “these happenings do not guarantee our right to water as espoused by the United Nations in 2010”

“Like the power sector privatization in Nigeria, water privatization will rob our people of their jobs in addition to other unanticipated fallouts. Privatisers in any cloak are only interested in maximizing profits to the detriment of workers in the sector. We reject this idea”, Oluwafemi insisted.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

08037256939

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Holloway resignation: Groups commend Ambode’s first step on water, call for probe

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has commended Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for playing a pivotal role in spurring controversial former Group Managing Director of the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) Shayo Holloway to resign his post. The group urged the governor to go beyond merely accepting the resignation of Holloway by probing the management of the agency since 1999.

Holloway quit the LSWC on Friday 16 October 2015 following a strongly-worded query issued by the office of the Head of Service demanding he explain the parlous state of water infrastructure in all parts of Lagos even after receiving huge sums in the last 16 years.

Holloway became head of LSWC in 1999. The agency, apart from budgetary allocations, has attracted loans from the World Bank and international donor agencies to fund water supply expansion schemes such as the Iju, Adiyan, and Ishasi Waterworks, as well as expansion of distribution networks. These loans, running into billions of naira have not translated into improved water supply for residents. Over 18 million Lagos residents – about 90 percent – still lack daily access to clean and safe water, exposing citizens to water-borne diseases like cholera.

ERA/FoEN and partners – Corporate Accountability International, Public Services International (PSI), the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and a coalition of civil society advocates including Dr. Joe Odumakin, Priscilla Achakpa, and Auwal Rafsanjani, had written to Ambode on 9 October 2015 demanding that he publicly reject the public-private partnership-model (PPP) water privatization scheme that Holloway was promoting, on the grounds of proven failures across the globe.

Former governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Oba of Lagos, His Royal Highness Rilwanu Akiolu also received similar letters from the groups, asking that they side with the ordinary citizens of Lagos in rejecting the PPP.

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN described Holloway’s ouster as “a welcome development” which should send a clear message to the World Bank and promoters of PPP-model water privatization schemes that Lagos citizens will defend their rights to a free gift of nature which water represents.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “We commend Governor Ambode for taking this first step to deliver universal access to water for Lagosians, and the obvious next step is to reject the PPP water privatization scheme Holloway has been promoting once and for all. Holloway’s resignation will only make sense to Lagos residents if he now explains what the funding from donor agencies in the last decade was used for.”

Oluwafemi noted that resignation does not answer for the poor performance of LSWC in delivering water to the people nor the grievances of staff of the corporation who have been sidelined in decision-making and initiatives that would have made the agency work better. He added that it was not only the responsibility of the Ambode administration to get to the root of the causes of the decay, but also a welcome opportunity to show pro-people leadership.

The ERA/FoEN boss also said, “We feel encouraged by the governor’s latest action, and want to re-echo our demands that Governor Ambode’s administration fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the government, representing the people and integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water.”

“The governor should openly reject contracts that pursue corporate water management, especially those designed by or involving the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the private arm of the World Bank which operates to maximize private profit – and disclose all IFC and World Bank activity and discussions with Lagos government officials regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.”

“With Holloway’s resignation, we look forward to working cooperatively with the next LSWC head and Governor Ambode to grow public investment in a democratically accountable public water system, rather than enable corporate profiteering,” Oluwafemi insisted.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

08037256939

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Groups urge Ambode, Tinubu and Akiolu to reject Lagos water privatisation

A coalition campaigning against water privatisation has written the trio of Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, former Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu to ask that they publicly reject water privatisation in Lagos and promote solutions within the parameters of the human right to water.

Signatories to the letters include Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Corporate Accountability International, Public Services International (PSI) and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE). Others are Women Arise led by Dr. Joe Odumakin, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HoMEF), led by Nnimmo Bassey, Women Environment Programme led by Priscilla Achakpa, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) led by Auwal Rafsanjani, Peace and Development Project led by Francis Abayomi, and Grassroots Africa led by Hawa Nibi Amenga-Etedo.

In letters delivered to the trio on Monday, the groups report that the public-private partnership (PPP) model of water privatisation has proven exceedingly difficult for cities around the world to exit, despite rate hikes, service cutoffs, contract violations, and unfulfilled infrastructure promises. They prevent cities from making crucial progress toward real solutions to water access challenges.

The Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC), according to media statements and its website, is pushing a water PPP plan in Lagos that experts say mimics failures in other parts of the world. The groups urged Governor Ambode and other decision-makers to stop this and any other form of water privatisation in Lagos, while asking Asiwaju Tinubu and Oba Akiolu to support and lend their voices to the pro-people campaigns by Lagos citizens to halt the privatisation plans through public statements.

As a workable solution to water shortages and access issues, the groups demanded real solutions that truly address people’s access to water from the prism of human rights. They insisted that solutions cannot be found in corporate management of public goods, but rather in collective investment in water infrastructure and democratic decision-making prioritising the human right to water above profits.

As the letters point out, decades of influence by the World Bank and the private water industry have pushed the currently proposed public-private partnership (PPP) model of water privatisation in Lagos and similar schemes throughout countries of the Global South. The groups stressed that a conflict of interest drives the World Bank Bank’s misleading marketing, especially its promotion of key “success stories” like Manila, Philippines, Nagpur, India, and Bucharest, Romania, where water PPPs have failed.

Most recently, a top executive of Veolia, one of the world’s largest water corporations, has been formally charged with bribery and influence peddling as part of Romania’s crackdown on corruption. As part owner of water corporations that win PPP contracts, the World Bank has positioned itself to profit from this model.

In addition to calling for leadership in rejecting water privatisation, the groups also asked the state government to disclose all International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank activity and discussions with the state government officials and the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.

Philip Jakpor

Head, Media & Communication

ERA/FoEN

08037256939

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Oronto Douglas demise a loss to the nation – ERA/FoEN

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has expressed shock at the death of Barrister Oronto Douglas, Senior Special Assistant on Research, Strategy and Documentation to President Goodluck Jonathan, describing his demise as a loss to the nation and the human rights community.

Douglas died of cancer-related complications today (April 9) in Abuja.

As special assistant to the president, Douglas used the platform to continue advocating for the rights of Niger Delta communities suffering from environmental degradation and marginalisation. Despite his worsening health condition in the last four years he worked tirelessly for the cause of the down-trodden.

Along with Nnimmo Bassey, former chair of Friends of the Earth International and ERA/FoEN executive director, Godwin Ojo, Douglas co-founded ERA/FoEN in 1993, and has used this platform to increase environmental awareness and citizens’ response to environmental issues in Nigeria.

Oronto served as one of the lawyers of the late Ogoni playwright and activist, Ken Saro Wiwa who was executed by the Abacha junta on 10 November 1995. He is the first Niger Delta activist to have been hosted at the White House by a serving American President in the person of Bill Clinton.

“Oronto was a model of relentless and untiring defence of the oppressed and the cause of the environment, the cause for which he was molested and suffered greatly. He was the voice of the voiceless and a strong defender of freedom of speech. He was an epitome of peace, justice and the rule of law. Nigeria has lost a rare gem”, said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Uyi Ojo.

“Nigerians and particularly the human rights community will never forget his dogged struggle during the military repression years particularly during the General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha years when the rule of law was trampled upon with impunity.

“We extend our condolences to Douglas immediate family and pray that God will strengthen them at this time of grief. As the nation mourns, the government and the people of this country should reflect and interrogate on those issues that Douglas stood for, lived for, and died for,” Ojo added.

Philip Jakpor

Head of Media

ERA/FoEN

08037256939

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Clear your mess before divesting, ERA/FoEN tells Shell

The Federal government must not allow Shell to sell off its assets that have ruined the environment and livelihoods of Niger Delta communities without remediating the impacted environments and adequately compensating the locals, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has said.

ERA/FoEN demands are coming on the heels media reports that Shell is planning to sell a productive Nigerian oil block to a consortium led by oil-trading firm Taleveras Group for more than $2.5 billion.

Media reports indicated that in addition to OML 29, the largest of the southern Niger Delta assets Shell put up for auction last year, the current deal includes the 60-mile Nembe Creek pipeline, which moves oil through the Delta to the Atlantic coast and serves as one of the country’s main crude arteries.

Shell has been working to sell several of its onshore Nigerian holdings, which have been plagued by leaks coming largely from poor maintenance and poor monitoring to check the leaks.

The Nembe Creek pipeline for instance, has been responsible for a host of spills, some of which the local communities have accused Shell of trying to cover up or blame them for. In a multiple spill incident of August 2012 the communities alleged that Shell even attempted to forge the report of a Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) which involved representatives of the locals.

In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN insisted that, “Shell cannot divest without clearing its mess and paying the full price”

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: “It is evident that Shell is divesting its toxic infrastructure in order to shore up its dwindling capital caused by heavy environmental burden and social risks it has incurred. The company is attempting to flee from the nest it has fouled thereby shifting the odium to local communities of the Niger delta. This will not be accepted”

Ojo said that the Nigerian government should immediately halt the divestment plan until Shell cleans up every pollution it has caused and provide verifiable remediation in line with global standards.

“We are in solidarity with the impacted communities and Friends of the Earth International groups that recently at its Biennial General Meeting in Sri Lanka demanded that the Nigerian government must muster the political will to implement the UNEP report recommendations on cleanup of Ogoniland after three years of inaction on the report.”

The ERA/FoEN boss said: “There is no doubt that Shell has been a very bad investor that the communities of the Niger Delta will like to get rid off but it must be held accountable for donkey years of pollution and devastation which cannot be erased by the whim.

This is also to sound a note of caution to companies buying Shells toxic assets that they will be liable to the assets and liabilities which will continue to hunt them until environmental justice is served. Shell’s divestment without doing the needful is not acceptable and must be halted,” Ojo stressed.

Philip Jakpor

Head of Media

ERA/FoEN

08037256939

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