Sachet water producers’ balk at illegal fees

Producers of sachet water, also known as ‘Pure water’ in Lagos State are presently embroiled with the Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission (LSWRC) over a newly introduced collection of all water related fees by the agency.

A spokesperson for the Association of Table Water Producers (ATWAP) in the state accused the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr. Ahmed Abdullahi of allegedly diverting hundreds of millions of naira paid to the state into a private account owned by ‘Expanse Resources Consulting Limited’.

The group’s spokesperson, Mr. Adisa Akinlade, said that the recent activities of the water regulatory commission have adversely affected the businesses of its members and the welfare of the people, adding that “it has further made life unbearable for our customers who rely mainly on our products for their livelihood”.

Abdullahi’s action is mainly selfish for asking us to pay for each of our produce after we have paid the legitimate taxes to the state government. Instead of the Executive Secretary to render help that will boost our business, his actions have only succeeded in blocking more employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths in Lagos and in the process undermining revenue generation for the state.

We are not saying the commission should not regulate the activities of our members but it should be done with utmost good faith and not in an exploitative manner,” Akinlade said.

A producer of sachet water, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained:

We started producing sachet water 22 years ago. It was not until late last year that the price of a sachet of pure water was inevitably increased to N10 due to the excessive demands of the commission. Consequently, some of our members were forced to close business”.

It is alleged that Ahmed Abdullahi, the Executive Secretary of LSWRC imposed a N5,000 levy on each water producer, stating that they were illegally using Lagos State water for production of ‘pure water’ and should be paying abstraction charges. He began to close down factories of defaulting firms, while negotiations were still ongoing.

It is alleged that “Two sachet water factories were closed down during negotiation. The two factories are Shower Pure Water Factory in Shomolu Local Government and Mavis Pure Water Factory in Surulere Local Government,” according to sources.

It was also alleged that Abdullahi imposed N10 surcharge on each bag of sachet water produced which led operators to increase the price of pure water sachet. The producers were incensed because the alleged directives coming from Abdullahi said that the money should be paid into a private account instead of the government account, and failure to pay would lead to closure of factories which do not comply with the charges.

The group also alleged that the private account belonged to a family company identified as ‘Expanse Resources Consulting Limited’.

Reacting to the allegations brought against him by producers of sachet water, Abdullahi said it was “untrue and the handiwork of those that want the activities of the commission to fail.

He added that the commission has the responsibility to regulate the business activities of the water operators in the state, stressing that the commission operates according to the law that created it.

The Lagos Water Sector law provides that water service operators should be licensed. It is based on the law that the commission is operating.

Some of the water service operators are already complying with the directive of the government and they are operating freely without any disturbance; so the disgruntled elements among them are the ones playing funny,” he said.

LASG Reacts

While responding to allegations brought against one of its agencies and the Executive Secretary of the agency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has ordered an investigation into the activities of the agency. Also, the state government, through its Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, said that the State Government did not authorize any consultant to collect revenues on its behalf.

The commissioner added, however, well-intentioned the agency was to use a consultant in facilitating the payment of government revenue might be, “it remains a procedural error, which must be discontinued with immediate effect.

Consequently, it has become imperative for LASG to clarify that it has not appointed any consultant to collect revenues on its behalf. Therefore, all water abstraction related revenues should be paid by individual water service providers into the Treasury Single Account, TSA, with the following relevant codes: Ministry/Agency Code: 4360013; Licensing Fee: 4030022; Permits: 4030023; Regulatory Charges: 4020173 (5% Water Consumption Surcharge).

Members of ATWAP and the general public should be apprised of the best wishes and intention of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to continually serve the good people of Lagos State with the highest quality of human, infrastructural, and social capital development in an atmosphere of transparency and accountability”.

In the meantime, members of the association of water producers are waiting for the State Government to take appropriate action against the water regulatory agency.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *