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For Nigerians to access clean water

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One of the fundamental problems affecting millions of Nigerians is inexplicable, lack of access to safe sources of water supply. According to the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman H. Adamu, an engineer, “recent statistics show that only 69 per cent of our population has access to improved water supply from all sources. For piped water, the situation has been on the dramatic decline from 32 per cent in 1990 to 7 per cent in 2015. The case of sanitation is even worse as only 29 per cent of the population has access to improved sanitation.”

While we may not look at the validity of the data, it is obvious that access to potable water and improved sanitation has markedly declined in the country. It is a reproach. Poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) has implications, especially on females and children. Poor water and sanitation services disproportionately affect women and girls, who often bear the burden of the absence of reliable water and sanitation services. Apart from mortality and morbidity, poor access to WASH services also negatively impact on other aspects of the lives of children as they lead to increased absenteeism from schools; high drop-out rate in schools, especially among girls and the non-attainment of high level of developmental potentials.

Besides, they retard the physical, cognitive and psycho-social development of young children, which are important correlates of educational performance. In addition, women and girls confront the indignity and danger of open defecation; and urinating close to the homes, bushes, near water sources such as rivers, ponds, which further degrades the environments. Furthermore, doing house work and treating WASH-related illnesses consume a significant share of poor family resources, not discounting financial and opportunity cost of obtaining and treating water.

This is unfortunate because Nigeria is a party to the United Nations Declaration of the Right to Water, which entitles every one living in Nigeria to sufficient, affordable, safe and acceptable water for personal and domestic uses. It is indeed shameful because Nigeria is a party to the eThekwini commitments and ‘Ngor Declaration which affirmed and reaffirmed improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) by billions of people in Africa. Among other undertakings, of Ngor Declaration, African agreed on an Action Plan, which articulates the critical actions to be further developed, funded and monitored aimed at reducing by half the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Similarly, the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), the body responsible for sanitation and hygiene in Africa, during the 4th African Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene convened by the government of Senegal; reaffirmed the human right of all to access safe drinking water and sanitation.

The little progress made on WASH in Nigeria is a manifestation that the road from eThekwini in South Africa, to Ngor, in Senegal, has been very rough and bumpy as far as improving access to WASH by billions of people in Africa is concerned. In this regard, ministers and senior officials gathered again for the World Water Day celebration and launch of the UN Water Development Report 2017 at Durban, South Africa. They emerged with an action plan upon which hopes of sustainable use and management of water resources could be assuaged.

Lofty as the action plan may be, executing it requires commitment on the part of governments. So, it is heart-warming that the Federal Government is not oblivious of that fact and has taken proactive steps towards implementing projects that will ensure that Nigeria meets SDG N06, which is focused on access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all. Besides, the official steps mark an end to open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in precarious situations. Hence, the Federal Government revisit of the Ota Regional Water Supply Project 30 years after it was, raises a ray of hope of its completion, after all.

However, it is hoped that revisit of the project will follow through to the completion of the project life cycle, which is billed to last for 12 years – preparatory stage between 2016 and 2018; the expansion stage, between 2019 and 2025 and the consolidation stage between 2026 and 2030.

Now that the current government has woken up to the realities that little progress has been made in the area of human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and intervened, both the current and successive governments should ensure that they deliver on this project.

Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR) as the mandate ministry in the sector should coordinate, monitor and evaluate every phase of the project in line with the MoU. In this connection,the Ministry of Environment with sector-related mandates, especially in the areas of environmental sanitation and water pollution should live up to its billings too in area of sanitation. Other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) with some involvement in the sector including Education, Women’s Affairs, Youth Development, Special Duties, Information and National Planning Commission should work together for Nigeria to meet SDG N06 target in 2030, because the Ota Regional Water Project is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of what is needed to meet the goal.

Also, relevant state and LGA apparatus should enhance the interventions of the federal government for a trickle-down effect of this lofty programme for the people. In the main, the civil society organisations (CSOs), particularly WASH related NGOs and the media supportive role are also critical in the delivery of Ota Regional Water Project. As such, they should work and advocate for the completion of the project life cycle; promotion of accountability and good practices in terms of the project quality and standard.

The Office of the Citizen should also play an active role in ensuring that government delivers on the project by raising issues concerning the project to the plane of discussion, because government revisiting of a project does not equate completion. Only vigilance on the part of the people and CSOs robust monitoring and evaluation report can save this human development project.


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Suleiman H. Adamu
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