Protest in Lagos as unions, groups ground Ikeja over sacked water corporation staff

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Voices in the demand for the reinstatement of the over 400 staff of the Lagos State Water Corporation (LWC) disengaged by the corporation on the grounds of redundancy have continued to grow with the latest being a labour and civil society massive protest today from the busy Ikeja Under bridge to the Lagos State House of Assembly.

The groups, led by the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies (SSASGOC) also urged the Lagos House of Assembly to probe alleged sleaze enabled by management of the corporation and blamed the practice on the collapse of water services in Lagos.

Protesters displayed placards with bold inscriptions such as Sanwo-Olu Employment is a Right! Recall Sacked Staff of Lagos Water Corporation, Mr. Speaker, Speak for the Masses! Your Silence is No Longer Golden! Among others.

AUPCTRE National General Secretary, Comrade Sikiru Waheed while speaking with the media said that the disengagement exercise carried out on 15 April 2024 by the LWC Management breached Section 20 of the Nigeria Labour Act which requires an employer to notify the trade union or workers’ representative of the reasons for and the extent of the redundancy before terminating the employment of its staff on account of redundancy.

Comrade Waheed said that the illegal action is a culmination of the planned privatization of Lagos water resources and services which started over a decade ago.

The union leader pointed out that billions of naira for rehabilitation of the ailing waterworks in the state, repairs, chemical purchase were not used for the purposes but instead, contractors and friends of successive management of the corporation got to the contracts and did nothing.

He noted that till date, no contractor has been probed or sanctioned for diverting tax payer’s money even as he insisted that the sack of the workers was to pave way for the privatization agenda of the state government.

The culmination of the protest was the delivery of a petition to the Speaker Lagos House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, detailing a list of sums allocated for keeping the waterworks running but were allegedly diverted.

They include N4 billion for construction of Otta-Ikosi waterworks awarded in 2007 yet the facility is not working and N3 billion expended on the construction of an Independent Power Plant (IPP) which also included an additional N180 million expended monthly on fueling the IPP.

They alleged that in 2018 about N897m and N789 million was released by the Lagos State government for rehabilitation of Iju and Adiyan Waterworks as well as rehabilitation of mini and micro waterworks across Lagos.

In similar vein, between 2022 and the present a whopping N2.7bn was allegedly voted by the Lagos State Government and expended on the rehabilitation of Ishasi waterworks supervised by Mr. Governor yet there is no result.

Other alleged sleaze is the budget for purchase of chemical for year 2023 which was N950 million yet there was nothing to show in terms of water production that year, N315 million paid as 50% advance payment to a contractor for the supply of liquid alum in October 2023 which was not supplied, N1.2 billion budget for chemical in 2024, the sum of N9.5 million for repair of chemical store gate at Iju and Adiyan as well as the sum of N7.3 million  for the construction of falling fence at Apapa waterworks, among others.

In his intervention, Executive Director of Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI), Philip Jakpor maintained that the disengagement exercise was an anomaly and urged the said Lagos State House of Assembly to wade in to force a rescind of the sack.

Jakpor also said that the allegations of sleaze among top management of the corporation handpicked by the state government might just hold the key to finding out what led to the poor state of the water corporations in Lagos and that those found wanting should be named, prosecuted and the monies recouped.

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