Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM


On 8 May 2024 hundreds of disengaged workers of Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) gathered at Ikeja Under Bridge to kick off a protest march against their unlawful disengagement by the Sanwo-Olu-led government in the state. The protest was called by three unions in the sector – the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical & Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporation and Government-Owned Companies (SSASCGOC) and the National Association of Nurses and Midwives (NANNM).

By Davy Fidel

About 391 permanent staff of LWC were disengaged on 15 April 2024 in contravention of section 20 of the Labour Act which stipulates procedures for redundancy. Prior to then, about 425 casual staff of the same corporation were dismissed in December last year. This has brought the total staff strength of the corporation to less than 200 – a move which lends credence to the rumour making the round that the mass disengagement is part of a plan to privatize public water in Lagos State.

The LWC is a public corporation in charge of production and distribution of pipe borne water in Lagos state – a city of more than 22 million. But for years, the corporation has not been able to supply water to up to 20 percent of Lagos residents. Many have to depend on digging wells and sinking boreholes to access potable water. This decline in a city on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and which had the first water works in the entire country is scandalous to say the least. The Iju Water Works was commissioned in 1915 by the British colonial Governor, Lord Lugard.

The Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) – campaign platform of the Democratic Socialist Movement – which has been playing a central role since the workers were disengaged was present with its members to give solidarity to the workers. There were other civil society groups too and unions like PERESSA and NIWELFU that came out to give solidarity to the workers.

In hundreds, the disengaged workers under the state leadership of their unions began to gather at the convergence point – Ikeja Under Bridge – before 6:45 am. They were with placards and their banners for the protest and demonstration to the House of Assembly in Alausa.

A few of the placards had the following slogans: ‘Probe Water sector contractors. Leave workers alone!’ ‘Go after the politicians and contractors, not workers!’ ‘Like water, our work is our right!’ ‘EFFC should probe all projects in LWC from 1999 till date!’ The workers who held these placards demonstrated displeasure about their unlawful disengagement. They were not happy about it and they were embittered that they are being wrongfully disengaged after serving 10, 15, 25, and 30 years of their life working. At least three of the disengaged workers have died.

The comrades of DSM engaged the protesting workers with leaflet produced under the joint aegis of AUPCTRE, SSASCGOC, and NANNM. Hundreds of the leaflet were circulated. The workers also joined in the circulation of the leaflets to the public

In the leaflet that was in circulation, the central demands of the workers were [i] Immediate and unconditional recall of all wrongfully disengaged staff. [ii] Democratic public probe of the Lagos Water Corporation from 1999 till now. [iii] Water is a right. We say No to privatisation of water in Lagos. [iv] For the emergency crash public programme to revamp the water sector in Lagos State in order ensure provision of potable and affordable water to Lagosians. These central demands arose from the two joint leadership meetings between trade union members and civil society groups at PERESSA’s office on May 4 & 6, 2024.

The meetings were held before the Wednesday 8 May protest. Decisive actions were taken in both meetings. The central focus was to organise the workers and thereafter to sustain the struggle. Even though it shall be protracted, the three central unions – AUPCTRE, SSASCGOC, and NANNM – in the disengaged workers’ struggle didn’t disagree with the central plan. Both meetings agreed on a few steps to be taken while the struggle continues. Among those plans are social media publicity, press conferences, picketing and other tactics that shall aid the struggle.

It was through that spirit of the meetings that the three unions decided to work together so the workers could win concessions.  This also helped to fortify the May 8 protest. Before the kick-off of the protest, Abiodun Bakare, AUPCTRE Lagos State Secretary, addressed the workers. In his words, he reaffirmed the reasons the workers were on the protest ground and what they were fighting for. He spoke briefly about the redundancy benefit and cited section 20 of the Labour Act that explains the process by which workers shall be disengaged. He urged the workers to be peaceful in the protest while they marched to the government Secretariat to register their grievance. The General Secretary of AUPCTRE was also there in the protest as well as the national president of PERESSA – comrade Rufus Olusesan [Ero]. Comrade Rufus is also a leading member of the DSM and the National Coordinator of the CDWR. Comrade Rufus and the AUPCTRE National Secretary addressed the workers and also the Nigerian police

At the House of Assembly, the government officials welcomed the protesting workers. Thereafter, the AUPCTRE National Secretary presented the protest statement. In his words, he assured the workers that the national leadership shall do everything possible for the government to reinstate the disengaged workers. He added that if the government didn’t act on the protest statement, the national leadership of the union shall mobilise all trade unions to force the government to meet the workers’ demands unconditionally.  In their response, the government representatives assured the workers that they would look into the matter.


In DSM, we salute the courage of the workers and pledge our continued solidarity. We, however, want to urge the leadership of the unions not to relent in this struggle. This is a struggle that can be won if labour cenres like the NLC and TUC are ready and willing to give their support to the affected workers

Therefore, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) call on the leadership of the NLC and TUC to throw their weight behind the cause of the disengaged staff of Lagos Water Corporation. This is when the workers need the support of all trade unions to rally behind them.

If at all the workers might want to go to the Industrial Court to challenge their unlawful disengagement. In our view and perspectives, legal struggle still needs the weight of political struggle to force the government to meet their demands. And that is why we are calling on the labour leaders in both the NLC and TUC not to take the matter with levity. But to take it seriously and fight alongside the workers to earn victory. Not only that, the DSM is also calling on the Joe Ajaero-led leadership to issue a national press statement and condemn the fraudulent process the Lagos State followed to disengage the workers.

In addition, it should also join the workers in condemning the Lagos State government’s intended plan to privatise Lagos Water Corporation. Doing this, in our view, and as we have affirmed in the joint meeting held with the workers, privatisation is not the answer to LWC. It is for the government to carry out an emergency crash program that shall revamp the water corporation and make water available to many homes in Lagos. The DSM is convinced the NLC and TUC throwing their weight behind the workers shall win more concessions against the peanut the Sanwo-Olu-led APC government is offering workers.


Our solidarity with the workers is to intensify the struggle. It is to continue to play a central role alongside the workers until victory is ascertained. It is on this note we applaud the solidarity support that is unconditional of other civil society groups and unions, who continue to throw their support behind the workers. The DSM/CDWR also uses this medium to urge the state leadership of AUPCTRE, SSASCGOC and NANNM not to relent in the struggle but to continue with the pressure until victory is ascertained. We want to urge workers in the affected unions to unite so they sustain the struggle against the challenges ahead.

In the protest, the DSM comrades sold 32 copies of Socialist Democracy (SD) – the paper of the DSM. The sale was not only to the workers protesting, but also to concerned Nigerians who empathised with workers and were displeased with the Tinubu-led government that have been responsible for the economic hardship since the removal of oil subsidy last year. A few of the persons that bought the May/June edition express the views that it is unfair of the government to disengage the workers. The comrades also used the opportunity of the protest to engage a few persons that collected the leaflet and told them to oppose the government’s plan to privatise the Lagos Water Corporation.

As we have seen with the power sector, privatisation does not work. Rather it will only lead to exploitation for the profit of the CEOs and shareholders of the privatized company while leaving consumers worse off with poor service delivery.

The task for the working class as we have continuously reiterated in our publications is for workers in and outside the trade unions to educate themselves and build consciousness so they can begin to understand they have potential to turn things around. The DSM comrades in the protest were emphatic with these statements to the workers and other struggles that the organisation is giving solidarity to workers in their various struggles. We also made sure to register the fact that a Socialist alternative remains the only way out of the impasse of capitalism.