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Public water system fails as government spends billions

Despite billions of naira allocated yearly for the provision of potable water, Nigeria remains immersed in poor infrastructure for collection, treatment and distribution.

Amid the water scarcity, Adebayo Alao, Head of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Acting Director of Programmes, WaterAid Nigeria, shocked watchers recently when he quoted data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showing that access to water had increased from 68 per cent to 70 per cent.

Minister of Water Resources Suleiman Adamu, however, contradicted this claim, when he said: “Access to public water supply declined from 32 per cent in 1990 to less than 7 per cent in 2015,” with marginal improvement since then.

In 2020 alone, N39 billion was approved for the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, yet little progress appeared to have been made in the provision of clean water. Blaming states and local governments, Adamu had made “the fact very clear” that his ministry “is not directly responsible for the provision of potable water to the citizens. That responsibility lies with the states and local governments.”

In Lagos, with a population of over 20 million residents, it is estimated that less than 30 per cent of the people have access to public water, as the majority depend on private boreholes, wells and packaged table water.

At the Kosofe area, residents reportedly wrote an open letter to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu lamenting that the community has been cut off from water supply. Also, from Ilupeju to Ajah, Somolu to Surulere, FESTAC Town to Okokomaiko, Idimu to Ejigbo, among others, public water supply is so erratic, people no longer depend on it.

But the Lagos Water Corporation attributed the dismal performance to damage of its facilities by construction projects. Public Relations Officer Nike Fashola claimed the corporation treats and distributes 210 million gallons daily but requires 540 million gallons to meet demands. She added that approximately 40 per cent of Lagos residents have access to water.

In Kano State, based on surveys, over 60 per cent of the population lack potable water. The challenge has defied successive governments. The state water corporation still deploys old facilities at about 40 per cent capacity.

Although N20.1 billion was allocated by the Kano State government for water in the 2020 budget, the shortage has dragged on for six months into the fiscal year. Besides routine expenses on generators, payment of electricity bills and monthly salaries for workers, there is no evidence of procurement or award of capital project for expanding the state’s water infrastructure.

Dakata, Konar Jabba, Hadejia Road and several suburbs within the eight metropolitan local government areas have never enjoyed public water.

A resident of Yankaba, Yasid Ahmad, decried the failure of the government to provide water to the area in the last five years. He told The Guardian how residents are forced to rely daily on underground water packed by vendors.

As far back as 2010, when the daily water requirement of Kano residents in the metropolis was about 500 million litres per day, the daily output from the four water treatment plants was about 200 million to 250 million litres.

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The Director of Engineering, Kano Water Board, Garba Ahmad Bichi, however, said the government was working with foreign partners to boost supply. He acknowledged the situation, which he attributed to the depreciation of the plants. He also noted that the government was spending N350 million monthly on running costs.

In Kebbi State, over 80 per cent of the population depends on private boreholes. One resident, Musa Usman, told The Guardian that a few houses were using public water supply and “they do not get water regularly, sometimes once in a week.”

Commissioner for Water Resources Nora Kangiwa said only civil servants pay water rates in the state through monthly deductions from their salaries. Yet, most of them have no water.

A senior staff in the ministry said billions of naira had been budgeted for the supply of potable water with nothing to show.

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, is also not spared from the inadequate and irregular water supply. Johnson, a resident of Aco, Airport Road, said the government has failed in the provision of water; hence many households depend on boreholes.

On his part, Eze Onyekpere, Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice, said the minister of the FCT must move beyond mere pronouncements that government was working; Nigerians must be able to testify to the availability of water. He added that the Federal Government must wake up if the country hopes to overcome its dwindling access to potable water.

FCTA’s 2020 water projects are expected to gulp N10.6 billion. But yearly budgets have not translated into adequate water supply. Public Relations Officer of the FCT Water Board Segun Kayode explained that there are infrastructural challenges because the FCT is developing in phases.

In Oyo State, residents narrated different sour experiences. In Ido Local Government Area (LGA), they bemoaned lack of water supply. In the Molete area of Ibadan, they complained of burst pipes. In Adegbayi, Egbeda Local Government, the residents said they have not had water in the past three years.

There is water supply at Felele, Ibadan South East LGA. However, a lot of this is wasted as a result of burst pipes. In several parts of Bodija, burst pipes dispense water, but not to residents. This is also the case at Oluyole Estate, Ibadan Southwest LGA.

There are three water schemes in Ibadan: Eleyele Water Works, Asejire Water Works, and Osegere. Eleyele supplies 30 million litres per day. The Oyo State Water Corporation said the state charges N125 per cubic metre as tariff for domestic water; N200 per cubic metre for industrial/commercial water; N35 per cubic metre for raw water; and N2,000 monthly estimated tariff for domestic supply.

The state government allocated N4,035,000,000 to the corporation in the 2020 fiscal year. Of this, N685,000,000 was for recurrent expenditure, while N3,350,000,000 was slated for capital expenditure.

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The chairman of the corporation, Adebayo Adepoju, said the challenges facing water supply in the state would be addressed.

In Enugu State, the government provides water at subsidised rates but the supply is erratic. This is blamed on poor infrastructure and erosion at the Ajalli Water Works in Ezeagu council.

The facility was built in 1985 to supply 77,000m3 of water daily. But the population of the state has dwarfed its capacity. Of over 3.9 million people, only about 10,000 residents have access to regular supply. The residents of Enugu currently depend on water transported from boreholes at 9th Mile Corner, Udi.

Past administrations have failed to expand water infrastructure to new areas. The last administration of the state led by Sullivan Chime began the replacement of weak pipes and extension of supply to new areas in the state. The project, however, stopped when the administration exited office in 2015.

The Country Director, Global Awareness on Anti-Corruption, Amaka Nweke, affirmed that residents of the state are faced with perennial water shortage. She said part of the campaign her agency and others carried out early this year was to draw the government’s attention to the anomaly.

But during the Water Day celebration this year, Dubem Onyia, Special Adviser to Enugu State Governor on Water Resources, said the state was expanding water networks following the receipt of $50 million from the French Development Agency.

In Ondo State, the government claimed it had made efforts to provide drinkable water for the citizens. Most of the semi-urban and rural areas, however, remain deprived.

A rural water scheme tagged: ‘Kamomi Aketi’, was launched by the current administration to provide water. The initiative was first planned by the late Governor Olusegun Agagu, when he awarded the water extension contract from Owena Dam to the Central Senatorial District in 2008 for N13 billion and paid N5 billion to the contractor to provide water for Ondo East, Ondo West, Idanre, Ifedore, Akure North and Akure South councils.

In July 2015, seven years after the Owena Dam reticulation contract, the immediate past governor, Olusegun Mimiko, flagged off an N4 billion water project at Aboto, a riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area, According to Mimiko, the scheme would provide water to over 1000 communities.

The first phase was to extend from Aboto-Igbokoda and Aboto-Ugbonla axis while the second phase would cover the entire Ilaje, Apoi and Arogbo-speaking communities of the riverine area. Two construction firms were contracted to undertake the work. One was saddled with constructing a two million gallon per day water treatment facility within nine to 12 months for N2.378 billion.

The second was to construct the water pipeline for the reticulation to the various communities at N1.790 billion. Four years after, people in the area still don’t have access to potable water.

Speaking on the Owena Water Dam, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Utility, Tunji Light Ariyomo, disclosed that the French Development Bank released the first tranche of $5 million to the state government for the commencement of the project.

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IN Taraba State, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) partnered with the government and improved availability but rural and sub-urban areas remain unreached.

The General Manager, Taraba State Water Board, Sani Buba Siam, said the state was chosen for the $65 million USAID intervention because it has one of the most responsive water boards in the country.

Over N647 million was allocated to the water sector in the 2020 budget, however, only 4,446 customers have access to potable water in Jalingo, the state capital.

The Bauchi State government is partnering with the World Bank on an N20 billion project to salvage its water problems. Managing Director of the State Water Corporation Aminu Aliyu-Gital said the rehabilitation of Gubi Dam and the expansion of Gubi Water Treatment Plant is ongoing as part of the project. He said 707,000 residents of Bauchi would benefit from the initiative, even as the corporation targets an N20 million monthly revenue.

He said: “We hardly generate N3 million and our monthly expenditure in the procurement of water treatment chemicals, maintenance and other services is N85 million.”

IN Abia State, supply is unavailable as most water schemes went moribund several years ago, forcing people to depend on private sources.

The General Manager of the water corporation, Leo Ogbonna, said the state inherited 57 dysfunctional water projects from the old Imo State. He said Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in 2015 tried to provide clean water and drew up a programme, which was scuttled by the scarcity of resources.

He said public water supply ceased in Umuahia since 2007.

CLEAN water supply is still a huge challenge in Kogi State. The Lokoja Greater Water Scheme only services parts of the state capital as a result of poor reticulation and infrastructure.

In the 2020 budget, N3,215,422,000 was set aside for water. The waterworks in Okene, Anyigba, and other towns have collapsed, forcing the people to depend on the popular mairuwa (hawker). A cartload by the hawkers costs between N250 and N300 in Lokoja.

Commissioner for Information and Communications Kingsley Fanwo recently said water scarcity in Lokoja and its environs would soon become a thing of the past. Ironically, the state hosts the two biggest rivers in the country – Niger and Benue.

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