My regrets as Water Resources Minister, by Adamu
With barely five months to the end of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, has scored himself high but expressed regrets about his inability to execute some major projects and programmes that would have improved the well-being of Nigerians.
He said the Buhari administration has performed tremendously well in the water resources sector through the completion of numerous irrigation projects, the launch of the P-WASH programme, the Clean-Nigeria campaigns and general improvement in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) subsector with 83 local councils in the country declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) following the massive awareness created by the government.
Adamu also stated that Nigeria’s assent to the UN Convention on Water was another significant step towards discussing further on inter-basin water transfer.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian in Abuja, the minister listed the successful completion and construction of about 6, 700 water supply schemes nationwide as another achievement of the administration in the sector.
“The water resources sector is not like something you can have a snapshot of. As long as there is water, there would be challenges of flood, disasters, sanitation issues and as population increases you need more water to provide to the people. It continues to cycle,” he said.
He added that it was for that reason that the administration developed a 16-year water plan, even though it was aware that it has a maximum of eight years in office.
He, however, regretted that all efforts by the President to get international support for Lake Chad Inter-Basin Water Transfer failed despite its importance.
The project was designed to provide water to Maiduguri and a large part of North East region for irrigation and water supply for the next 50 years.
“Unfortunately, the Russia-Ukraine war diverted the attention of the international community from matters of socio-economic development,” he said.
On the domestic front, Adamu attributed the factors that prevented the administration from completing some of the projects that would have consolidated the government’s diversification drive to bureaucratic bottlenecks, lack of funds, time, the disruptive effects of COVID-19, amongst others.
He added: “The challenge is that the government process takes time. You have to do this and that. At the end of the day, sometimes, some of the things that need to get running in one or two months take six months. I understand it is all part of the effort to secure the system. I think, honestly, some of these procedures and regulations work against the progress of the system for some of us that come from the private sector.”
According to him, because the government has been very successful in terms of diversifying the economy and putting agriculture on the front burner, and since agriculture cannot do without water, there were certain projects it would have wanted to complete.
“For instance, if time and resources had permitted, the Hawal Inter-Basin Water Transfer and the South Chad Irrigation projects, when put in place, would have further boosted Nigeria’s agricultural sector through the irrigation system,” he said.
He, however, noted that government is a continuum, adding: “We came here. We inherited a lot of issues; we improved on them. I will make sure I leave a good handover note so that whoever is coming after me will continue from there.”
The minister said he plans to become a WASH advocate when he leaves office to enable him continue to impact and improve the sector. “I want to remain involved in issues related to WASH even as a private citizen,” he said.