Ebonyi: Water fountains everywhere, but none to drink
Anyone visiting Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital, for the first time would think water runs free at most homes. This is assumed to be true, as water fountains are found in almost every major road junctions in town.
The gushing sound of water flowing ceaselessly from the fountains amid glittering coloured lights, according some people, is an indication that government is living up to its words to give the state capital a facelift under an urban renewal policy.
Many have come down hard on the government for wasting water in the name of improving the aesthetics of the capital city, whereas there is acute water scarcity in the town and homes. Greater part of the water consumed in the town comes from either neighbouring Enugu or Afikpo and others. This has in the past few months made the cost of a bag of drinkable sachet water supplied from Enugu, the major source of portable water in the city, to between N140 and N150 per bag.
For 28 year-old trader, Agbom Cletus, a native of Nkomoro village in Ezza North LGA, it costs between N180 and N200 to get a bag of Aqua Rapha Sachet water. “Majority of our village people make use of streams and in dry seasons such as we are now, the streams dry up or become stagnant; so we depend on the water companies for supplies,” he said.
From the time of Dr. Sam Egwu, the first civilian governor of the state, to the immediate-past Chief Martin Elechi administration, of which Engr. Umahi was a key-player, one can convincingly say that none made deliberate efforts to provide the people with adequate portable water.
For Egwu, the Ezillo water project that was constructed sometime in his first tenure to supply water to the capital city and beyond did not function for long. A few months after his assumption of office in May 29, 2007, immediate-past Governor, Chief Martin Elechi embarked on a massive construction of two gigantic Water projects, namely; the Oferekpe Water Scheme in Ikwo Local Government and Ukawu in Onicha Local Government Area respectively, as part of the first of his tripod agenda of Infrastructure Development, Civil Service reforms and attitudinal change.
He had in addition earlier awarded the contract for the comprehensive rehabilitation of the existing Ezillo Water Scheme started by his predecessor and also the Abakaliki water works said to be at the cost of N900 million. The Oferekpe and Ukawu projects were both awarded to Israeli firms with the estimated cost of about N9billion. Each was designed to produce 100 million cubic litres of water per day.
The Oferekpe Water Scheme was almost completed, when the contract was stopped, as a result of government’s inability to keep to its part of the funding. Although government sources claim otherwise, the fact is that the Oferekpe Water Scheme, which gulped a greater percentage of the bond borrowed by Chief Elechi, is still under lock with little or no hope that it would be completed in the near future.
It is believed that the present condition of the Oferekpe Water Scheme is such that would take more funds and also more time to complete, hence, the governor’s promise to look towards the southern part of Ebonyi for water.
Apart from the plans to rehabilitate the Ezillo Water Scheme project, the Umahi led-administration said it is looking towards building two water schemes in Ebonyi South; one in Ishiagu and the other at Uburu.
While efforts are being made in this direction even with the creation of Ministry of Water Resources, the people are still very thirsty and every morning, residents are seen dragging wheelbarrows in search of water. The story is even worse for those in the rural areas. The Guardian visited Enyibichiri Village in Alike-Ikwo, Ikwo LGA and found villagers scooping very dirty water from dug ground.
One of the villagers, Nwigboji Miriam, said: “Everyday we scoop water from this dug ground, most times late in the evening. We put alum in them and when the dirt settles down, we drink it or use it for cooking.”
A greater percentage of rural dwellers in the state make use of streams and ponds, as the only available alternative. The State Commissioner in charge of Water Resources, Mrs. Euphemia Nwali who was redeployed to head the newly created Ministry, last year, is yet to respond to questions posed by The Guardian on the state government’s water policy. She has also refused to pick calls or respond to short messages sent to her phone.