Recently, agitations against the privatisation of public water took centre stage when participants at the National Summit on the Human Right to water rejected plans to privatise the water sector in some states of the country.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, is also joining the agitation.
In fact the communique issued at the end of that two-day meeting called for a review of the water policy in Nigeria to make it mandatory for all states to collaborate with local governments to ensure that adequate fund is made available to resuscitate all water facilities.
It also rejected privatisation projects designed by the World Bank and its corporate partners, including the Public-Private Partnership success myth the bank is aggressively advocating in poor and developing country.
But an aspect of water sector seemingly unnoticed inspite of such intervention by civil organisations and huge sums of money Nigerians have expended in the past in making sure that water being the basic need of life is available is that little or no result is yet to be seen or experienced.
Even as so much have been paid without getting water running let alone to drink.
The fact is staring everyone on the face as most citizens have had to sink boreholes to access water for themselves and lives have been lost in communities where water is lacking, even as government have claimed they provided water for communities in the country.
This time the SERAP with the support of OMIDYAR network is channeling its energy to change the narratives as it facilitated a public hearing on Tuesday in Lagos on building the capacity of citizens on the use of Freedom of Information Act, FOI, in promoting transparency and accountability in the water sector.
Participants across the civil societies, communities, the media and other stakeholders gathered to that effect.
SERAP says citizens role in ensuring that they put government agencies and private institutions making use of public funds on their toes is critical to the change so that they could provide portable and clean water to Nigerians.
An instrument critical to challenging the government to do the needful the organisers say is the FOI act but discovered that citizens do not know what the FOI act is and what they can do with it.
Against this background, SERAP encouraged citizens to demand their right to water responsibly.
Facilitator at the event, Mr. Adetokunbo Fassy Yussuf enumerated steps for using the FOI act.
“A citizen, contacts relevant authourity, give his details such as name and address, specify the information needed, wait for a week, use whatever information receives responsibly and judiciously.”
Adding that in the event of unresponsiveness from any public official or organisation, a citizen could employ civil measure in terms of court action or organised protest.
A representative of SERAP Executive Director, Mr. Mumuni Adetokunbo, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, Deputy Director highlighted that citizens can also utilise the law to promote transparency and accountability beyond public institutions, as the law also applies to private institutions that utilise public funds and religious organisations that are business focused.
He urged that an applicant using the FOI act is obligated to make request in writing as he discouraged oral method which may be faulted most times.
He noted “that section 2(2) of the act empowers an applicant to the extent that he is not oblige to tell a government agency what he wants to do with an information being sought.”
He further stressed that the request must be attended to by the head of an organisation.
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