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Addressing Nigeria’s water, sanitation challenge

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A woman fetching water amid water scarcity


Recently, the Federal Government declared a state of emergency to invigorate the deteriorating situation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Nigeria. KINGSLEY JEREMIAH and JOKE FALAJU write that a National Action Plan on the situation which was developed by the Ministry of Water Resources to make Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) achievable in Nigeria by 2030 would be elusive if Federal, State and Local Governments fail to double investment and work with the private sector to address inherent challenges.

As important as water, sanitation and hygiene are to livelihood, a report by the United Nations and another from WaterAid Nigeria recently revealed that over 60 million Nigerians lack access to potable water, 120 million do not have decent toilets facilities and 47 million engage in open defecation.
  
In the Northeast alone, 3.6 million people are part of the over 180 million people across crisis zones, who UN said are living without access to basic drinking water. Boko Haram insurgency has reportedly damaged about 75 per cent of water and sanitation infrastructure.
 
To underscore the situation, UN reports indicated that over $8 billion would be required yearly till 2030 otherwise; Nigeria would not address the challenge of water.  By implication, Nigeria may not overcome the challenge of malnutrition and cholera among children and other diseases unless challenges associated with water, sanitation and hygiene are holistically tackled.

  
The prevailing situation had forced the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the sector following approval of a memorandum for National WASH Action Plan by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
  
The Minister for Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu had said that the Federal Government intends to strengthen and expand WASH services while improving effective and sustainable management, adding that the plan would ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030 in compliance with goal 6.1 and 6.2 of SDGs.
  
According to him, emergency plan would see government launch a renewed Federal-State partnership targeted at improving sustainable management of existing water supply and sanitation services in both urban and rural areas and engage development and civil society organisations and other key stakeholders in the expansion of services, therefore establishing partnerships and momentum required for the duration of the revitalisation of the strategy.
  
Adamu added that the strategy also includes recovery programme, which would see the country establish an institution that would create the environment required to support effective and sustainable management of WASH services.

However, Coordinator For Youth WASH Network Africa, Nature Uchenna Obiakor said unless supporting policies, especially the National Water Management Policy are in place to drive the implementation of the plan, achieving the targets could be a problem.
Obiakor said policy needs to be approved by the Senate and assented to by the President, adding, “if government want that action plan to be effective, it has to approve the National Water Resource bill”
  
With a clear definition of roles among Federal, State, and Local governments, improvement of technical capacity, proper funding, institutionalisation of sanitation, improvement of spending efficiency, management of scare resources, improvement of functioning and creditworthiness of networked services, proper regulation of informal sector in water supply and sanitation, improvement of rural water supply provision, detailed communications strategy as well as mainstream data collection, experts said the country may be heading towards mitigating the challenges in the sector.
   
Though the Federal Government had set up a National Water Supply Policy in 2000 among other initiatives, which outlined needed policy context for water service delivery in Nigeria, Obiakor insisted that the need for empowerment through the adoption and enforcement of modern legislative, institutional and policy frameworks, which would he held accountable by customers remained crucial.
 
The National Coordinator, Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN) Attah Benson noted that the action plan for the sector remained a welcome development, stating that it signals that government was taking its rightful position and being on driving seat in the sector rather than allowing development partners to drive the sector.He however noted that there is need for the framework to be more inclusive as the federal government cannot ensure compliant at the state level.
 
In order to ensure that efforts translate into effective service delivery, the experts stressed that service delivery pathway must be established and strengthened at all stages, particularly, from policy, planning and financing, through infrastructure improvements and expansion, to effective management principles.As outlined in the action plan, by 2019 Nigerians are expected to see effective communication of political-will for WASH, a sector reform in all states through the adoption of state-level action plans, development and adoption of policies and laws to produce an enabling environment for the development of efficient, sustainable, and equitable service delivery as well as mobilization of civil society organizations and develop an effective communications policy to obtain community buy-in, while a high-powered steering committee are expected to harmonise tools, systems and approaches for monitoring and evaluation within the sector between all 36 states.
  
But to ensure a proper recovery plan actions, in the next five years, stakeholders said there would be need for states to develop WASH masterplans and investment plans with support from the Federal Government. The Federal Government through the 13 years’ plan had said it would support states in the development of their monitoring and evaluation capacity through the organization of zonal capacity building workshops and hands-on support, while conducting regular sector performance reviews
  
The Minister had said government would provide service providers operational and financial efficiency by dedicated technical assistance, expand existing WASH infrastructure, promote increased private sector participation in the sector, get states engaged in institutional development and design incentives for sustainable service delivery models as well as  create accountability through a binding performance contract on both the agency and government to accelerated and implementation in a space of five-year.
  
Going by plans in the area of sanitation, Nigerians are expected to have access to safely managed sanitation and hygiene facilities across cities, small towns, and rural communities by 2030 if sanitation milestones set by the government to eliminate open defecation by 2025 and attain 100 per cent coverage of improved sanitation with a mix of on-site and sewerage systems by 2030 and effective systems are in place.
 
As a matter of emergency government had pledged to fast track the development of the National Policy on Sanitation, identify and support states, through the National WASH Fund, to demonstrate citywide approaches to sanitation development, improve access to sanitation and hygiene services in public spaces, encourage states and local governments to enforce existing codes and related legislation regarding the minimum number of sanitation facilities required for buildings and facilities as well as a robust public awareness and education.
 
Professor of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering, Niger Delta University, Ife Adewumi had said making good water available and adequate in Nigeria must be a priority for government, noting that almost grossly polluted water body could be treated for use.
  
According to him, both flood prone areas and dessert areas can be treated using coordinated and appropriate remedial approaches.However, the experts stated that if plans must work effectively, a sanitation value chain strategy to promote investment in addressing the near absence of wastewater and fecal sludge in Nigeria would be necessary as the promotion of innovative technologies that re-use treated fecal sludge and wastewater into economically-viable byproducts, such as fertilizers, bio-gas, and water for irrigation remain critical.
  
As laudable as government plans on WASH are, an Official of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Zaid Jurgi, sees funding as a basic challenge that may thwart the efforts, insisting that achieving goal six of the SDGs alone would cost Nigeria over $8 billion yearly for the next 13 years.
 
Though through the 2000 Water Supply and Sanitation Services (WSS) policy, financing urban and rural water is shared between tiers of government; in practice, Federal, State, and Local governments, while NGOs, Communities, and Development Partners play key roles but investment in the sector is reportedly low as accurate data reflecting the actual share of expenditure on capital investments and recurrent costs across these actors are unavailable.

 
The preliminary estimates produced for government strategy indicated that Nigeria must invest about 2.5 per cent of its current GDP per year to achieve the SDGs by 2030. A large share of these needs to be supported by the public sector; 1.3 per cent of GDP, equivalent to $5.3 billion a year, which must be cost shared by the Federal Government, as well as by the State and Local Governments.
 
Similarly, Federal Government would need to invest in closing implementation gaps, supporting service delivery capabilities in the water sector, and promoting greater integration of the private sector into the water and sanitation sectors.
  
However, under the action plan developed by government, service providers would need to generate revenue to cover their operations and maintenance expenses, with the intention to partially, if not completely, fund their capital investments in the long run, while supplemental funding would be available from the Federal and State levels to make up for gaps, particularly when significant capital expenditure is necessary to improve access to quality WASH services.


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Suleiman Adamu
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