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Performance assessment survey is required to rescue abandoned dams— Othman



Prof. Mohammed Khalid Othman is the Executive Director, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), one of the 17 National Agricultural Research Institutes under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and also one of the Research Centers of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State. The Professor of Irrigation Engineering, in this chat with GBENGA AKINFENWA, underscored the need to resuscitate abandoned dams across the country in order to realise the goal of self-sufficiency in agriculture, especially food security and overall national development.


What is your take on the management of dams across the country in the last 30 years?
Yes, in the last 30 years, government at all levels has not been consistent in policy formulation and implementation. As regards dams, which is one of the country’s water resources, stakeholders are not consulted or otherwise involved in planning, development and management of this essential resource. Most of these dams were constructed by the River Development Authorities to serve as reservoirs for irrigation purposes, supplying of raw water for treatment and township water supply, as well as generate hydro-electric power.

In most cases, funds are released for the design and construction of dams, which is the initial stage of water projects, and the subsequent stages suffered inadequate funding and thus, we have dams constructed more than 30 years without adequate facilities for irrigation, township water supply and hydroelectric generation.

Consequently, the dams are underutilised, silted and dilapidated. This is what brought about the sorry state of many dams across the country.

There have been conflicting figures on number of dams across the country. As an expert, how many dams do we have?
This is really very difficult to answer because, it depends on the capacity-small, medium and large dams, as well as state owned or Federal Government owned dams.

For example, I participated in water resource survey of Katsina State in 2008/2009; we visited 27 small and medium dams constructed by the state government over long period of time. We also visited three Federal Government owned dams-Zobe, Safke and Jibiya dams constructed more than 30 years ago with less than 40 per cent facilities for water utilisation.

There was Dallaji Dam that started more than 40 years ago with less than 60 per cent completion. Dallaji Dam in Bindawa Local Council Area is yet to be completed and cannot be talking of water utilisation. This is an example of one state.

Almost all the states have dams of various capacities. As a country, we should have data of all the water resources in Nigeria with their capacities. However, from Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) site (, 112 dams were tabulated with their locations and capacities, status, etc.


Investigations showed that majority of the dams are lying fallow and abandoned, just as the Ministry of Water Resources is helpless. What could have been responsible for this attitude to dams?
Funding is one of them, but we have to develop National Water Plan and judiciously implement such plan. Failure to do this will put Nigeria in a very serious water crisis. This is because, Nigeria’s population at independence was just 43 million people, today, the population is slightly above 200 million people and will likely be 430 million by the year 2050. How can we supply water to the large population of tomorrow without adequate planning today? Water is life and all living things can only survive with water.

Sometimes ago, the former Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh revealed that less than 10 per cent of the dams were in use. What is the problem?
Yes, this may be correct. However, we need to conduct research to assess the dams, their states and performance to enable us categorically state the percentage of dams being used.

To the best of my knowledge, being a professor of irrigation engineering, I am not aware of any study on performance assessment of dams covering the whole country. I am aware of the study supported by FAO and conducted by ENPLAN GROUP on “Review of The Public Irrigation Sector In Nigeria, 2004,” which contained “Recommendations for Dams Assessed under ROPISIN,” in that study, only 17 dams were assessed.

So, there is need to conduct such survey and there is Federal Government Agency with mandate to conduct such survey, the agency is National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), located in Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State.

From your experience, how has the ineffective nature of the dams affected farmers’ productivity in attaining food sufficiency?
Farmers’ productivity are grossly affected because less than 20 per cent of the irrigable land are being cultivated. With irrigation facilities, many farmers can cultivate their land three times a year, which means the productivity will be three times compared with the present status.


The implication is that food sufficiency can be achieved with irrigation and the excess can be exported to other countries.

Reports have it that several billions of naira has been expended on the dams, exposing government’s reckless abuse of public funds without result. Don’t you think the Federal Government needs to institute a probe to unravel the financial waste?
I don’t think so, because there is always adequate check and balance on how government funds are expended. However, if there are allegations on misappropriation of funds, then we should investigate.

Again, water projects are highly capital intensive and that was why projects were started but not completed. We should try and complete all existing water projects before we initiate new ones. Probes are sometimes wasting of time. Nevertheless, we should not condone waste and misappropriation of fund

What steps can the Federal Government take to ensure effective deployment of the dams to farming, to reverse the sour foreign trade order?
Assess all the major water resources, develop national water master plan, which was initiated some years back, complete all the ongoing water projects nationwide, carry along all the relevant stakeholders in design and implementation of water projects.


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