Still on the sack of Lagos water corporation staff

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By Enajite Igho

This may not be the best of times for disengaged staff at the Lagos State Water Corporation (LWC). On 15 April 2024, the news of the sack of 405 staff of the corporation came as a rude shock to most Lagos residents for many reasons but most especially because it will throw a lot of families into needless hardship.

The sacked staff, many of whom have put in as much as 25-30 years of service in the water utility company are also leaving with know-how that could be useful in making the corporation achieve its mandate of providing safe and adequate water for Lagosians, which is yet to be achieved. 

With the suddenness of the retrenchments Lagosians may be set to witness more cases of misplaced aggression, stressed citizens and suicide cases owing to the lack of due process that the action of the government demonstrated.

Before the latest disengagement exercise, in November 2023 about 450 contract workers engaged by the former management to complement the work of the permanent staffers were also booted out unceremoniously by the new management. Unofficial sources say there were less than 600 staff working in the corporation before the current exercise.

Flowing from these developments the question that agitates the mind of observers of developments in the water sector is the rationale behind the gale of sack being carried out in the corporation, given the fact that most of the waterworks in the state are largely under-manned. The few staff you find in any of the waterworks complain that they are deliberately denied the resources to run the facilities smoothly.

Though about 750 million gallons of water is what is required to satisfy the daily water needs of residents, the total installed water production capacity of the macro, mini and micro waterworks in the state is a miserly 210 million gallons per day (MGD). 

The restructuring exercise of the Lagos government which the new management of the LWC led by  Engr. Tijani Muktar is implementing with speed would seem to shift the blame for the parlous state of  waterworks in the state to the workers instead of the political interference that has influenced most of the decisions that led to the calamitous state of the water utility.

The angst that the exercise has generated among the workers is legitimate and must be channelled to taking every legal step to get the government to rescind the decision.

Section 20 of the Labour Law explicitly outlines the proper procedures to be followed in cases of redundancy. The law 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.

Arbitrary mass dismissals and similar actions that contravene the law will only set a dangerous precedent of impunity within the public service and open the doors to endless legal processes that will stall the plans to make the corporation achieve its goals.

The ripple effect of these disengagement extends beyond the affected workers, and has the propensity of jeopardizing the livelihoods of their dependents and exacerbating socio-economic inequalities.

Beyond the disengaged staff, even those who survive the current shakeup may be inadvertently demotivated and fear for their job security and therefore be unwilling to take stake too much to make the corporation work.

Enajite Igho is a public commentator based in Lagos

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