Nigerians Bemoan Lack Of Water Supply

Lagos – As the rain falls this time of the year, it is a big reminder that Nigeria sits at a very advantageous position, geographically. We are blessed with water supply from all sides of the boarder. The river Niger and Benue flows down from all sides of the North while the South sits just by the sea.  An outsider would think that water supply would not be Nigeria’s problem – but it is.

Indeed this strategic location does not necessarily mean readily available portable pipe-borne water for all immediately. In Nigeria, places where portable pipe-borne water is reasonably available include parts of Lagos State, Ogun State and Abuja. Other states like Cross River, Bayelsa, Taraba, Niger, Zamfara, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Rivers,and Enugu can hardly boast of adequate pipe-borne water with some not having at all.

Indeed, almost 90 per cent of residents in Nigeria hardly have access to portable pipe-borne water supplied by the government. To have water, they have to resort to alternative sources of water such as boreholes.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America, once remarked that ‘when the well is dry, we will know the worth of water’. This transcends societies and countries. That is because water is the driving force of all nature. In modern day, water holds just as much importance as it did in the past, perhaps even more. The importance of portable pipe-borne water to man cannot be over emphasised, as it is one of the many necessities of life today.

Asides portable pipe-borne water needed for drinking, access to safe water can reduce mortality in newborns and under age children who die annually from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says 3.4 million people, mostly children, die annually from water-related diseases, such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhoea and dysentery, even as 80% of diseases are attributed to lack of access to portable water.

United Nations (UN) posits that clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world and there is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this.

But a  survey recently carried out in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State by Odafivwotu Ohwo of the Department of Geography and Environmental Management, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Nigeria and Abel Abotutu of the Department of Geography and Regional Planning, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria, titled, ‘Access To Portable Water Supply In Nigeria Cities Evidence From Yenagoa Metropolis’, revealed that inadequate pipe-borne water has led to the proliferation of wells and boreholes in the city.

Another report on Calabar metropolis by Inah Okon and Chukwudi G. Njoku of Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Calabar, Nigeria noted that access to pipe-borne water has been hampered by institutional and physical problems. The report revealed that the issues crippling the availability of clean and portable water have left residents resorting to alternative sources of water.

“Inhabitants in metropolis especially at Four Miles, Eight Miles, Ikot Ansa, parts of Federal Housing, Ikot Ishie, Mount Zion, Atimbo, Chamley, Afokang, and others suffer from the inefficiency of Cross River State Water Board Limited (CRSWBL) service,” the report noted.

As far as Calabar is concerned, asides the problem of portable water not being available, there is also the problem of distribution, as confirmed by a field survey. The situation in Bayelsa and Calabar definitely applies to a lot of other states and cities in Nigeria.

In Nnewi, a commercial city in Anambra State, residents rely on bore holes and sachet water for survival. In Ibadan, Oyo State water shortage has been a major problem since the 80’s, with less than 30 per cent of the residents being served water from the public water system.

In the North, the situation is worse, as both human and animals drink from the streams in some cases.In Kpakungu area of Minna, Niger State, for instace, problems such as poor water supply and sanitation, long wait on queues by women and children for water, are  common sights.

Only recently, a report by WHO/UNICEF revealed that portable water consumption in Nigeria and many other Sub-Sahara African countries decreased from 49 per cent in 1990 to 48 per cent in 2004, as against the expected 65 per cent coverage.

The lack of pipe-borne water in Nigeria is vividly described by Zaid Jurji, Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for UNICEF Nigeria, when he spoke at a dialogue on water supply and sanitation sector reform project in the country organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with the Child Right Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.

According to Jurji, “over 60 million Nigerians still lack access to potable water.” Jurji advised that more funds must be invested to ensure the access of portable water to all.

Emphasising the poor state of portable pipe-borne water in Nigeria, he added that if the country continues at the present rate of development in the water sector, only about 72 per cent of Nigerians would have access to potable water supply by 2030.

While it is projected that by 2030, every person in Nigeria and other countries in the world should have access to safe drinking water and safe sanitation, the present situation in Nigeria makes it appear a tall dream, especially with the country required to invest about $8 billion annually if it must achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on water and hygiene by 2030.

If you think that the recommendation of Jurji is strange, that of the World Bank is more interesting. The World Bank advised the Nigeria government to invest at least 1.7 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product in WASH as the current investment is below 0.6 percent.

Indeed, there are questions to be asked, as Nigerian authorities maintain that they have spent trillions of Naira in budgetary allocations on the sector since 1999.

What then is happening to the projects in which these monies were put into? Were they executed or abandoned and which contractor got the contract? The questions surrounding the water sector in Nigeria are indeed ample.

The need to answer these questions, to a large extent, explains why Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), recently asked the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu to explain why water and sanitation infrastructure in the country have continued to deteriorate while millions of Nigerians have resorted to drinking water from contaminated sources with negative health consequences.

An overview of several water projects across Nigeria by Saturday INDEPENDENT reveals that they are either obsolete or operate on a very low scale.

In Yenagoa, the state water corporation is said to have been inactive for a while. The report by Ohwo and Abotutu stated as part of its recommendations, the immediate revival of the corporation to alleviate the problems of the people at getting potable water supply.

For years, the Warri Urban Water Board, which was meant to serve as the source of water for Warri and Effurun environs has been moribund. That several state water authorities have either shutdown or operate skeletal services is another hindrance to adequate supply of portable water.

A report on Water Supply and Sanitation Interim Strategy Note on Nigeria confirms this. The report states that the operational efficiency of the State Water Authorities (SWAs) is unacceptably low as indicated by the monitoring indicators compiled under the National Water Rehabilitation Project (NWRP).

Asides state-owned water corporations, there is the need to also ask questions regarding the several millions of Dollars invested into water projects by organisations such as the World Bank, African Development Bank (ADB) and United Nations (UN).

On Monday, May 15, 2017, the American government launched a new water and sanitation activity aimed at helping Kaduna and Bauchi States improve the health and hygiene of their population. The two-year, $2.5 million Water and Sanitation Coordination Project (WCP), was launched through the U.S. government’s Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Infrastructure investments are essential, but not sufficient to extend water and sanitation services to even more residents,” USAID/Nigeria Mission Director Stephen M. Haykin said at the launch. “This is where [our] new project lends support.”

Indeed, there are several of such projects, all with little or nothing to show for them in terms of portable drinking water years after they were launched.

In Lagos, a state surrounded by water bodies, the state’s water corporation is also operating skeletal services, as only selected areas have pipe-borne water.

During the World Water Day celebration in 2017, Lagosians had called on the state government to make portable water accessible to them in order to reduce the huge amount of money they spend in buying water.

“Water has now become a very scarce resource. A 20-litre gallon of water, which we used to buy for N20 a few years ago now sells for up to N100, which is an increase of about 400%. For a family of just five like mine, it means the little monthly pay goes to water alone. That makes survival a living hell for the masses,” Thomas Ike, who resides in Alagbole area of Ogun State said.

“I don’t know why water remains a big challenge in a state that is surrounded by large bodies of water. You buy a gallon of water for as much as N70 and sometimes N100, how do you survive?” asked Tayo a resident of Gbara, a suburb in Jakande, Lekki. The situation still persists.

For Nurudeen Ahmed who resides in Bodije, Lagos his “axis of Bogije does not have provision for pipe-borne water, as we rely only on borehole and sachet water produced from boreholes.

Despite complaints by residents of Lagos State about scarcity of pipe-borne water, the government recently still made a futile attempt to ban the drilling of boreholes, as an alternative source of water.

It introduced an environmental law stipulating a prison term or fine for residents who drill boreholes without government authorisation. According to the law, which was frowned at by many including activists, residents must obtain a permit before drilling boreholes.

However, following heated reactions to the new law by stakeholders such as Agnes Sessi, the president of African Women Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Network; Betty Abah, Executive Director of CEE-HOPE and Achike Chude, vice president of Joint Action Front, the state government was forced to make amendments.

In a press release signed by the then Commissioner of Information, Steve Ayorinde, the government stated that only boreholes dug for commercial purposes require license or payment and this is not a new practice as it has been in existence since.

“The position of the law today as provided in sections 253 and 259 of the Environmental Management and Protection Law as it relates to construction of borehole or well has not changed from what it used to be.

“First, landlords are free to dig or construct boreholes in their houses without any permit or licence, provided that the regulation on location of such borehole is followed; that is, the borehole or well must not be sited near a soak away or septic tank,” he explained.

The Commissioner stated that licence was required only by landlords that intended to construct a borehole or well for commercial or industrial use. “Meaning that if you dig or construct to sell water, or for industrial use, you need location permit.”

With the various state-owned water corporations trying unsuccessfully to provide pipe-borne water across the country, it is safe to conclude that this service might just be beyond the government.

Making Money Off Our Misery

As Nigerians resolve to personally provide pipe borne water, many are cashing in on the lack of action by the government. There is a booming industry where suppliers of water pumping and storage facilities are making a killing.

There are markets dotted around the country where materials for these are sold. A popular one is the Alaba Suru market in Lagos. Chidi Nweka who deals in storage tanks noted; “As government has decided not to supply water, everyone is storing their own water. There was a time this business used to be a booming one. Around the 2000, 2003, there was high demand. I could sell up to five tanks a day, sometimes more.

“Now, there are too many people in the business. If you look around, you will find tanks everywhere. It was just three of us in the business before, but now, it is everywhere.”

Chidi Bright, who trades in pumping machines in Alaba Suru said; “Pumping machine is good business; there is no house you build today that does not need one. Some even buy two or three for just one building,” According to Bright, most of his businesses these days are parts since “modern day machines don’t spoil that easy and can easily be fixed”.

When asked what he would do if the government begins to supply people water and they no longer need pumping machines, Pius another store owner in the market who says he has travelled wide, laughed at the idea and said, “That is impossible. Maybe elsewhere, but not Lagos. They have lost the chance to build infrastructure. Where will they start from? Will they break people’s houses to bury pipes? The government should have piped Lagos before the population gets to this stage. Now, the only way to get water is to pump it yourself. Believe me, it is not just a Lagos problem, it is a big city problem. Many other cities across the world face the same problem. They develop too fast and can no longer install some facilities. There is however still hope for other states now. They can still build infrastructures before their cities get too big.”

Another set of people benefitting from the lack of potable water are the street water sellers. You can see them every morning pushing carts of water or hanging water around their necks for sale.

Mustapha, a young water hawker says though the work is strenuous, the reward is bountiful. “I sell each keg for N50 and I push 10 kegs. If there is light and people pump water from their machines, I can sell between six and 10 sets every day. But if the light is bad, business is good. In one day, I can make up to N7, 000 or N8, 000.” He says he has been doing the job for over six years.

Let’s not forget the ever present ‘pure water’. A study once said that sachet water sold in Nigeria is the fastest selling packaged water in the world. The allure is that it is potable, easy to access, easy to make and most of all cheap.

The post Nigerians Bemoan Lack Of Water Supply appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.

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Author: Hazeez Balogun and Lukmon Akintola