· Says interest of service providers and customers must be balanced
The Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission (LASWARCO) has said it would leave no stone unturned to properly regulate the charges and water quality by commercial water and wastewater service providers in estates across the state.
Executive Secretary of LASWARCO, Mrs. Funke Adepoju gave the assurance during a stakeholders’ engagement held at the Commission’s office in Alausa, Ikeja with the Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association (LERSA), which is the umbrella body for over 120 Lekki Estates, Communities, and Stakeholders from 1004 area to Epe and Ibeju Lekki.
In performing its functions and exercising its powers, Adepoju said Section 311, Subsection 1 of the Harmonized Lagos State Environmental Management Protection Law, 2017 empowers LASWARCO to protect the long-term interests of consumers with regards to price, quality and reliability of services in the water sector.
The Commission, according to her, is also statutorily empowered to regulate activities relating to abstraction, provision, consumption, production, supply, distribution, sale and use of water, the quality of service and the tariff payable to ensure the financial stability of the water sector and regulate allowable returns to the operators, be it public or private water service provision.
“In line with its mandate, therefore all required efforts will be channeled in line with the provision of the law to ensure that utility service providers in estates (of more than 50 tenements) across the state deliver value for money, comply with standards and guidelines, including having the prescribed license and permit to operate as water service providers,” Adepoju said.
She added that even as the law empowers the Commission to ensure the viability of the sector, it also has the mandate to ensure that customers are not subjected to unfair charges by the operators of water and wastewater services, be it public or private.
She said the engagement with LERSA is one of the series that will be taking place, as it had become necessary to sensitize the consumers of water in estates across the State of their basic rights and responsibilities and that of the service providers and government, thereby clearly stating the obligations of all concerned in the scheme of delivery of effective water supply and sanitation services and the laid out mechanism for complaints and seeking redress with the Commission.
“Before now, water service providers operate without recourse to the Commission and were not held accountable, and considering the direct nexus between public health and drinking water quality, the administration of Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu is keen on ensuring that consumers are protected in a way to improve access to safe and clean water and most importantly, that the misuse of monopoly or non-transitory market is prevented.
“As a Commission, we must establish that balance. However, even as we make progress with ongoing huge efforts to ensure the availability of public water supply, the government still has the responsibility to protect consumers from unfair market price.
“Therefore, as a service provider, the provision of the law is that you cannot just wake up and decide that you are jerking up your charges or make people pay for poor quality water or impose arbitrary charges for services that should ordinarily come as value addition. What we are saying is that there are regulations that operators must subject themselves to in terms of tariff setting and standards. And we are doing the same for government service providers,” Adepoju said.
Responding, President of the Environment Committee, LERSA, Olorogun James Emadoye who led the delegation, said the association was delighted to note the regulatory reforms being championed by LASWARCO, saying the efforts of the government are well appreciated.
He said aside from pricing and water quality, the regulatory initiative of LASWARCO would also help to garner useful data which, in the long run, will help in effective mapping and environmental protection.
“We are glad that all our fears are being addressed by the Commission. Where there is regulation, it is not meant to oppress one for another but meant to discharge equity to all stakeholders and this is where we also stand,” Emadoye said.
The meeting was attended by representatives of various estates in the Lekki area including Victoria Garden City Property Owners and Residents Association (VGCPORA), CarltonGate Estate, Chevron Drive, among others.