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World Water Day: Water, water everywhere, yet not enough to drink in Nigeria

By Onyedika Agbedo
27 March 2021   |   4:19 am
As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate the World Water Day (WWD) 2021 last Monday, many citizens went to rivers, ponds, wells and boreholes located far away or near their homes in search of water...

Washing in a river is very common in Nigeria following government’s failure to provide pipe borne water for citizens PHOTO: UNICEF

As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate the World Water Day (WWD) 2021 last Monday, many citizens went to rivers, ponds, wells and boreholes located far away or near their homes in search of water to either drink, cook, bath or wash their clothes. They did so because pipe-borne water, which the government is supposed to provide, was not available. And this cut across all states of the federation.

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), nearly one third of Nigerian children “do not have enough water to meet their daily needs.”

The UN body in a message to mark the WWD 2021, noted that, “26.5 million Nigerian children are experiencing high or extremely high water vulnerability.” It went further to state that only nine litres of water on average was available to a Nigerian daily, while the minimum acceptable range should be between 12 and 16 litres per day. Citing the 2020 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH-NORM), UNICEF further asserted that two-thirds or 66 per cent of Nigeria’s population of over 209 million “use drinking water contaminated at the point of collection.”

While expatiating on the theme for this year’s WWD, ‘Valuing Water’, on its website, the UN-Water noted: “The value of water is about much more than its price – water has enormous and complex value for our households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment. If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource. Sustainable Development Goal Six (SDG 6) is to ensure water and sanitation for all. Without a comprehensive understanding of water’s true, multi-dimensional value, we will be unable to safeguard this critical resource for the benefit of everyone.”

This year’s theme is, no doubt, a wake up call on government at all levels in the country to efficiently manage the huge water resource Nigeria boasts. When that is done, the water needs of Nigerians will perhaps be met; otherwise more scary statistics await the country in surveys that will be conducted by dependable global agencies in the future. The reports below x-ray what Nigerians go through on a daily basis to fulfill their water needs despite the huge investments the governments claim they have made on the sector.

‘We Have Forgotten About Lagos Water Corporation’
By Daniel Anazia, Tobi Awodipe, Ijeoma Thomas Odia and Maria Diamond
IN Lagos State, public water supply has failed abysmally to the extent that almost every residential or corporate building in the state has either a borehole or well while some depend on water vendors to source the water they use daily.

Many residents told The Guardian that they had no idea when last they saw water supplied by the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) while some residents said they didn’t know the state has a water board that is supposed to supply water to them because they had never used it.

“I moved in here in 2008; we have never seen water from them for a single day. Recently, our pumping machine in the well got bad and we had to start drawing the water by hand because water scarcity is a big issue in this area. Most landlords around here did not make provisions for water supply and in the mornings and evenings, you see residents carrying buckets, kegs and containers looking for how to get water.

Most of us get water from that factory (points to a nearby bakery) and we are at their mercy. If they decide to stop giving us water, I don’t know what will happen to many of us,” said a resident in Ilasamaja area of the state who preferred to remain anonymous.

For Mrs. Folake Akintayo, who resides in Ipaja, “we have a borehole which is clean enough to cook and bath, so we buy treated water to drink. Unfortunately, the price of the treated water we buy has moved from N400 to N650 just within months. Getting access to drinking water is becoming more of a challenge and we hope we will survive this.”

A water vendor (mairuwa) in Ire-Akari, a suburb in Oshodi-Isolo local council of the state, who identified himself as Abdullahi, said he was finding it difficult to source for water, saying that has forced him to increase the price.

“Many wells and boreholes around here were not dug. So, whenever it is dry season, the water level gets very low. Now, I have to go all the way to Isolo bus stop to look for water to sell to my customers. Because of this, I increased the price from N500/N600 to N800 for a full truck of 10 25-litre kegs,” he said.

A resident of the area, who identified herself simply as Sola, said sourcing for water was a big issue in the area.

“Buying water is very stressful as you need water for so many things and it disappears very fast. I don’t know if we are connected to LSWC in this area, but I don’t know anyone that uses its water around here. I have been living here for many years. Our landlord sells water and I am sure that is part of the reason the water dries up quickly. I really wish we could get water easily compared to what we are going through now.

It won’t be bad if the government provides water for us because I’m sure it would be far cheaper than buying water from these private sellers.

Sometimes, the water they sell to us is not very clean but we use it like that.”

Abayomi Okeowo, a resident in Ketu, said he had to dump Water Corporation after being disappointed many times.

“When I moved into this compound, our house did not have running water but I knew that LSWC had pipes running on the street. So, I applied to connect our house and we registered and did the paperwork and we were connected soon after. We bought the pipes and did all the connection ourselves and we were promised a metre that will monitor our usage. However, I am yet to see any metre till date. While the bill that was being brought to us wasn’t too expensive, the service was very irregular. The water came and went at their pleasure. Sometimes, we didn’t have water for several days but we were still billed at the end of the month. In fact, there was a time we didn’t have water for over a week and we had to resort to buying water from mairuwa and there was no apology or explanation from the LSWC. I was very annoyed and demanded for an improvement in services but instead of them to promise to do better, they said I could disconnect our house if we are not happy. This seems to be the reason most people prefer to use boreholes and wells. What is the point of paying for a service you hardly enjoy?” he asked.

Findings by The Guardian showed that most facilities of the LSWC were dysfunctional.

For instance, a visit to the Igando Water Scheme located within the Iron Market at Oko Filling Bus Stop, along LASU-Igando-Isheri Road and a few metres away from the Igando General Hospital, showed that the facility has not been working for over one year now. It was observed that the place was overgrown by weeds, with some parts of the compound converted into a cassava farm even as it was obvious that flood ravages the compound.

A source at the facility, who could only communicate in Pidgin English, said: “Na since last year the place no dey work. Na only two pumping machines dey work before COVID-19 start, but since that time, all the machines dem don stop to work. People wey we dey supply water don come here complain and we don write report tire. Even sef our report booklet don finish.

“The last time wey our oga dem come here, dem say dem go do something but till now we never see anything. No light for the place; na tap we tap from the Iron Market just to charge our phone. Sometime ago, dem come check whether we dey use their light. The burglary gate don dey spoil and we don complain but nothing don happen.”

The Managing Director, LSWC, Muminu Badmus, an engineer, could not be reached for comments.

However, the Corporation had in February this year apologised to residents over the disruption of water supply in the state.

The Corporation in a statement signed by Badmus attributed the water disruption to technical problems at its major plants, which were being addressed.

A Sachet Of Water Now Costs N20.00 In Enugu
From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
AT a recent workshop on ‘Water Availability, Quality and Affordability in Enugu State, a student of the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus (UNEC), Chidinma Okechi, narrated how they were being supplied with dirty water at the school’s hostels.

“We don’t have options than to buy and use them the much we can. This is because a gallon of clean water in the campus goes for N60.00. I don’t know the number of students that can afford that and the number of times they would need to buy to meet their water demands. What I am saying is that water has become a major challenge in this state and stakeholders must do something to help curb the problem,” she stated.

Chidinma was not alone. Ikenna Ugwueze, a 300 level student of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), said with the manner of the scarcity and the exorbitant rates being charged by water vendors, it might be difficult for ordinary people to access water in the state if urgent action was not taken.

Ugwueze, who said it has become extremely difficult for him to access portable water at his Uwani-Enugu residence, stressed that the situation might get to an alarming level soon.

Currently, residents in Enugu are experiencing difficulties in accessing water for domestic use. As a result, they resort to buying water from vendors at exorbitant rates. A 25-litre gallon of water now goes for N50.00; a bag of sachet water costs between N180 and N200 while a single sachet now sells for N20. Water tankers charge whatever that is desirable to them. From an initial price of N5,000 for 1,000 litres, the same volume now sells for between N8,000 and N10,000 depending on one’s bargaining power.

Indeed, Enugu’s water scarcity is worrisome. It is a common sight to find water containers of all shapes and sizes in the streets waiting to be filled up at wells, boreholes or streams. Supply trucks can also be seen everywhere.

The water tankers that draw supply from Ninth Mile corner in Ngwo capitalise on the porous nature of the Ugwuonyeama–Ninth Mile road to ‘cut’ the throat of residents. Those who draw from rivers around the city levy whatever they like on the residents.

It was gathered that the breakdown of the old pumps at the Ajalli Owa Water Scheme in Ezeagu local council is responsible for the current scarcity. The breakdown is compounded by the removal of the electric wirings at the water scheme by unidentified persons. The few pumps supplying water are said to be barely enough and takes longer period to pump water that could serve the residents.

The Guardian learnt that since it was built between 1980 and 1982, the Ajalli Water Works, with an installed capacity of 77,000 cubic metres, never witnessed major maintenance. The state had focused on establishing smaller water works, like the Iva Valley and Iyoke water schemes to complement Ajalli.

In 2005, then governor Chimaroke Nnamani-led administration established the Oji River Augmentation Water Scheme. The N27 billion project was expected to deliver 50 million litres of water per day to about one million residents. However, inability to reticulate the water hindered the effort. The scheme also came under heavy attacks with some of its facilities removed.

The effort by the Sullivan Chime administration to replace old water pipes in the state and extend water to new areas also failed. The project, which was reportedly supported by a foreign consortium, was bugged by political intrigues and want of transparency in the arrangement.

With the city expanding and its population growing, it was learnt that it would require about 100,000 cubic metres of water daily to meet the demands of the residents. Currently, the facilities are generating far below that as findings revealed that only about 10,000 of Enugu’s over 3.9 million population have access to regular water supply.

But the Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration seems upbeat about the situation.  Apart from the appointment of a new board for the state Water Corporation and a move to reshuffle the workforce, the governor has continued to tell anyone that cares to listen that the current water scarcity would be the last in the state.

The administration recently provided funds for the repair of the pumps at Ajalli water works. It has also begun the implementation of the French Development Agency (AFD) $50 million support for the state, which will help the state develop its water supply infrastructure in the capital city of Enugu. The five-year project is expected to address the challenges in the areas of water production, transmission, distribution, metering, revenue generation and revenue recycle management for sustainability and return on investment. About 1.2 million residents would be captured in the scheme.

Also, a contract for the comprehensive rehabilitation of the Ninth Mile Crash Water Programme, which would supply potable water to Enugu Metropolis from Oji River, Ajalli and Iva Valley water schemes were awarded last month by the state government.

Special Adviser to the Governor on Water Resources, Anthony Dubem Onyia, revealed that the contract was awarded to FordMarx Nigeria Limited at the cost of N600 million. Onyia said the contract, which has a six-month duration, would boost the volume of water being reticulated from the Ninth Mile Crash Programme Water Supply Scheme to Enugu Metropolis and environs.

Reiterating Ugwuanyi’s commitment to ensure adequate potable water supply in the state, Onyia added that the state government had commenced the bid opening and evaluation for a new Okwojo Ngwo boreholes augmentation to Enugu Metropolis.

“The Okwojo Ngwo boreholes augmentation to Enugu Metropolis, which is a network of 10 solar powered boreholes, is a newly conceived design which would help boost water production and distribution to Enugu Metropolis and environs. This would equally augment the existing water schemes in order to effectively manage and meet the demands of the growing population of Enugu metropolis,” he said.

Kebbi Residents Decry Government’s Failure To Provide Potable Water
From Ahmadu Baba Idris, Birnin Kebbi
RESIDENTS in Birnin Kebbi, the Kebbi State capital, have decried the inability of the state government to provide them with potable water.

When The Guardian visited Tudun Wada and Badariya areas of the city, it was gathered that for quite some time now, the residents have not been enjoying water supply from the government’s water works.

One of the residents, Alhaji Mohammadu Badariya, said that he fetches water from a borehole drilled by his neighbour, stressing that they didn’t have access to government’s water sources.

“You see, almost all the people have boreholes in their houses. So, they don’t care about government water because they don’t supply to us,” he added.

Another resident, who lives at Tudun Wada, also lamented the non-availability of potable water in the state, adding that people no longer depend on government’s supply.

“They used their efforts to find solutions by drilling boreholes. So, they have forgotten about government water,” the source added.

Efforts to reach the General Manager of the state Water Board failed, as he did not take his calls. A text message sent to his personal assistant was also not responded to.

Water Scarcity In Akwa Ibom Cannot Be Explained, Residents Say
From Inemesit Akpan-Nsoh, Uyo
SUCCESSIVE governments in Akwa Ibom State have invested a lot on water projects so as to make residents have access to potable water. But all efforts seem to be a mirage. This is because many areas in the state cannot boast of accessing water from the state Water Corporation.

In Uyo, the state capital, government built kiosks at different locations where residents can fetch water for their use. However, majority of these water kiosks are not functioning. But in some highbrow areas like Ewet Housing Estate and Shelter Afique residential area, the challenge of water scarcity is hardly heard of.

Over 90 per cent of residents that spoke with The Guardian recalled that in the 70s and early 80s, water was freely accessed at different junctions in the city and people’s residences. They wondered why the facilities are no longer functioning.

A resident in Abak road in Uyo metropolis, Mr. Essien Etim, said he used to have water in his house along Iyah Street, noting that the present situation could not be explained.

He blamed the problem on construction companies that destroy water pipes and lack of political will on the part of government to put in place legislations to curb their excesses.

“Government should have a clear cut water policy to regulate water distribution in the state and how those that destroy water pipes that connect people’s houses can be punished,” he said.

Some residents observed that water scarcity in the state has resulted in water vendors sinking boreholes in areas not fit for such, thereby creating health hazard to residents.

Speaking during the 2021 World Water Day in Uyo, the Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, Pastor Umo Eno, acknowledged that water plays a significant role in human existence, adding that it was necessary to value and conserve it.

In his remark during the event, the House of Assembly member and Chairman, Committee on Public Utility and Rural Development, expressed the willingness of the state to partner relevant stakeholders to ensure that residents enjoy potable water.

We Share Ponds With Domestic Animals, Taraba Residents Lament
From Charles Akpeji, Jalingo
ACCESSING potable water across the nooks and crannies of Taraba State is still a mirage despite huge investments by both the state government and international organisations.

The scarcity, especially now that stream waters have dried up, has become a nightmare to residents across the 16 local councils and Special Development Areas of the state.

Residents in the state trek several miles to source for water. In Jalingo, water vendors smile to the banks on a daily basis as majority of the residents patronise them instead of trekking far distances.

Some residents who spoke with The Guardian said they could not fathom why the huge amount so far expended in the sector has not yielded the desired result.

They lamented that they have been sharing ponds with domestic animals, noting that, that had led to the contraction of water borne diseases by a lot of people in the state.

A resident in Jalingo, Usman Ali, said: “For over three months, we have not seen a drop of water from the taps. It is very unfortunate that Jalingo has joined the league of state capitals suffering acute water problem. If people in Jalingo can be trekking several miles before accessing water for domestic use, I wonder how the situation would look like in the rural communities.”

Perturbed by the acute water scarcity in Tuyebubong community in Zing local of the state, the Catholic Diocese of Jalingo recently donated a borehole to the community.

Speaking at the event, Bishop of the diocese, Most Rev. Charles Hamawa, noted that, “this community has been without a reliable source of potable water for centuries and so the diocese has decided to take it up upon itself to reach out to them through the Justice, Human Development and Peace Initiative of the Church.”

The Manager, Taraba State Water Supply Agency, Musa S. Buba, an engineer, however, gave the assurance that the agency was leaving no stone unturned to ensure that residents have potable water at their doorsteps.

He said government was partnering with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Effective Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services (E-WASH) to achieve the goal, adding that a five million litres water works project was ongoing in Jalingo.

Imo Banks On USAID’s Intervention To Solve Its Water Problem
From Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
WHEN the late Dr. Samuel Mbakwe became the first democratically elected governor of the old Imo State in 1979, one of his administration’s priorities was the provision of clean water to the people of the state. To achieve this goal, his administration put in place many regional water schemes, which provided clean water to the people.

Unfortunately, when his administration was ousted following the December 31, 1983 coup, successive administrations in the state failed to maintain the water schemes.

Nevertheless, many residents in Owerri, the state capital, continued to enjoy water supply until the administration of Chief Ikedi Ohakim left office in 2011.

Jerry cans waiting to be filled at a water dispensing point in Enugu

The Otamiri Headworks Water Scheme in the outskirts of Owerri began to suffer poor maintenance during the administration of Rochas Okorocha (2011 – 2019). In fact, many water pipelines laid during the Mbakwe administration were punctured and destroyed during construction works.

The period also witnessed sinking of boreholes at different parts of the state by individuals. Many residents relied on the boreholes as the taps dried up. This continued unabated until the intervention of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

A resident in Works Lay Out, Owerri, Helen Onyeze, decried the stress she passes through on a daily basis to fetch water.

“We have suffered a lot going to other peoples homes to fetch water. We pray that the ongoing maintenance works at Otamiri will soon be concluded and pipes repaired,” she said.

On July 16, 2020, USAID’s Mission Director, Stephen M. Haykin, in a virtual Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony with the state Governor, Hope Uzodinma, formalised a partnership through the Water and Sanitation (WASH) services.

The agency subsequently engaged the Effective Water Sanitation and Hygiene Services (E- WASH) programme to execute the partnership with the state government.

The State Team Leader, Eutychus John, had in a statement said: “Through the $60.4 million Effective Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services (E-WASH) activity, USAID will support Imo and five other states to increase access to clean water and reduce disease by strengthening their Water Boards’ capacity to make solid investment decisions, improve billing and collection systems and ensure greater responsiveness to customer concerns.”

In a chat with The Guardian, the Commissioner for Water Resources, Chief Tony Umezurike, expressed optimism that with the intervention of the USAID E-WASH, water scarcity in the state would be a thing of the past soon.

Residents, Government Differ On Water Supply In Delta
From Monday Osayande, Asaba
IN Delta State, the government said it has established a pilot Water Scheme in Asaba, Ughelli and Bomadi communities to provide affordable and potable water for residents.

The Commissioner for Water Resources, Martins Okonta, while commending Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for doing so much in providing treated water in the state, said the state was running what he called the first pilot water scheme operated with ATM card.

His words: “Just go to the water scheme at Ogbeogonogo Market, put in your ATM, then you get as much water as you want. It is clean, potable and well treated. It is unlike the sachet water, which is more or less like a poison.”

Okonta, a one-time Speaker of the state House of Assembly, noted that the water scheme would soon be replicated in the 25 local councils of the state.

He said the government would soon start to link water to houses, adding that Okowa was very passionate about ensuring steady water supply in the state.

However, residents in Asaba, the state capital, countered the claims of the Commissioner, saying there was nothing like government water supply in the state but only exists in the air.

“We have not been enjoying government water for years but borehole water. That is what you get almost everywhere in the state; there is no single government water. Most times, you see people trekking to far distances in search of water. It is as bad as that. So, government should do something about it,” said Mrs. Joy Chinututu.

Epileptic Water Supply Worry Kogi Residents
From Ibrahim Obansa, Lokoja
THE water supply situation in Kogi State is very epileptic. Residents in the state still do long-distance trekking to be able to access potable water.

Some residents who spoke with The Guardian described the situation as very pathetic. They lamented that there have been no supply from the public water works, forcing them to patronise the water vendors, popularly called mairuwa

A middle-aged woman, Mrs. Kende Usman, stated that in Lokoja, a truck of mairuwa water costs between N300 and N350, adding that she buys it twice a week because of the size of her family. She lamented that the situation was putting more pressure on her little resources.

Another woman residing at Lokoja New Layout, who simple identified herself as Mama Sule, said she treks for over a kilometer before she could get water. Asked why she was not patronising mairuwa like others, she said: “We are far away from where we could easily get mairuwa and sometimes we do not even have the money.”

The Commissioner for Water Resources, Abdulmumin Danga, however, said the present administration in the state has made the provision of water to residents a priority.

Danga stated this recently when the Commandant General of Chaplain Corps, Nigeria, Sam Kennedy Balogun, paid him a courtesy visit at his office as part of activities to mark the 2021 World Water Day.

He gave the assurance that no stone would be left unturned to ensure the provision enough potable water to the people.

Dilapidated Facilities Hindering Our Service, Laments Adamawa Water Board
From Mansur Aramide, Yola
TO many residents, Adamawa State Water Board (ASWB) has outlived its usefulness, as water supply by the agency has remained a mirage. The residents see politicians who dig boreholes in strategic areas in the state as their heroes.

However, the state government said it has been investing huge resources towards ensuring steady water supply in the state.

The General Manager, ASWB, Adamu Halidu, explained to The Guardian that the state has four water treatment plants in Numan, Yola, Jimetta and Mubi, with each pumping not less than six million litres of water daily.

He lamented that almost all the plants were undergoing rehabilitation, saying they were built as far back as 1976.

“They are all under rehabilitation but we are providing skeletal services. On a good day, save for the rehabilitation, the Yola treatment plant normally pumps 10 million litres on a daily basis. The problem we are having with this Yola treatment plant is that of reticulation; it is the major challenge because the pipes were laid as far back as 1976,” Halidu said.

He disclosed that the agency drilled 270 boreholes to supplement the treatment plants, regretting that, “less than 40 per cent are functional.” He, however, noted that the government was taking measures to revive the remaining boreholes and ensure that residents in the state do not lack water for domestic use.

“I believe that at the end of the day, consumers will appreciate our efforts. The governor has promised that before the end of 2021, every community will know that he has really tried in terms of water supply,” he added.

Benue Residents Groan Under Acute Water Scarcity
From Joseph Wantu, Makurdi
THE poor state of water supply in major cities across Benue State has remained a daunting challenge despite efforts by the state government and other interventionist organisations to avail the people with potable water supply.

The state is made up of 23 local councils, but just a few of these councils including Makurdi, Gboko, Otukpo and Katsina-Ala can boast pipe borne water in their headquarters not to talk of the hinterlands.

Cursory observations by The Guardian showed that wealthy people in the state have resorted to sinking boreholes in their houses while the less privileged ones live at their mercy or fetch water from rivers and streams.

Some residents who were in search of water in Makurdi, the state capital, including Blessing Efong, Jane Abel and John Atema, told The Guardian that the government was insensitive to their plight, stating that they were living by the bank of River Benue but wash their hands with spittle.

Speaking with The Guardian, the state Commissioner for Water Resources, Dondo Ahile, an engineer, said the ugly situation of water supply in the state would be a thing of the past very soon, disclosing that government has entered into an agreement with development partners to boost the water sector.

According to him, “government is sourcing for $55 million to complete work on the reticulation of Greater Makurdi Water Works.”

On his part, the General Manager, Benue State Water Board, Mr. Gideon Shenge, said most water pipelines in the state broke when he came on board. He stated that the agency has repaired the pipes, assuring that the water supply situation in the state would soon improve.

Residents Still Waiting To Feel Gov. Ayade’s Impact In Water Sector
From Anietie Akpan, Calabar
WATER supply in Cross River State has been on and off since the Governor Ben Ayade administration launched an aggressive water supply policy in 2019.

The policy led to the appointment of a new Managing Director, Chief Victor Effiom Ekpo, for the state Water Board.

However, Mr. Peter Effiong, a resident of Ikot Ansa in Calabar, said the board was still performing below expectation.

He said: “In the days of former governor Donald Duke and early part of then governor Liyel Imoke’s administrations, water supply in Calabar and some other parts of the state was regular and clean. In fact, the supply system was so good that borehole water dealers felt threatened.

“At that time, the government provided small outlets by the road side where people who could not afford direct connection to their houses fetched water at little or no cost at all. But today, the situation is different even though government is struggling hard to make water available.”

A social critic and publisher of Cross River Watch, an online publication, Mr. Agba Jalingo, said there was no water supply in most parts of Obudu, adding that even in the governor’s village, people suffer to get potable water.

However, poised to make potable water available in the state, the Cross River State Water Board Limited (CRSWBL) recently took delivery of N52 million worth of water pipes.

Managing Director of CRSWBL, Mr. Victor Effiom Ekpo, who appreciated the efforts of the state government, said the pipes were distributed to all the eight sub-stations in the state towards ensuring that residents get potable water.