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Potable water still luxury 23 years after return of democracy 

By Lawrence Njoku (Southeast Bureau Chief), Azeez Olorunlomeru, and Gbenga Salau, (Lagos) Murtala Adewale (Kano)
24 April 2022   |   3:02 am
On Thursday, December 14, 2022, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Husseini Adamu, while presenting a memo to members of the National Economic Council (NEC),

Youths jostle for water at a public tap

On Thursday, December 14, 2022, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Husseini Adamu, while presenting a memo to members of the National Economic Council (NEC), made a startling revelation about the country’s water situation, vis-à-vis access to potable water by Nigerians.
   
Adamu while briefing the group said that in percentage terms, more Nigerians had access to potable water in 1990, than in 2017. 

  
In the memo that he presented to the council, Adamu said that Nigerians who had access to pipe-borne water dropped from 32 per cent in 1990 to less than 7 per cent in 2017. The consequence of this, he added, is the country lagging in terms of adequate water supply, the prevalence of water-borne diseases, and an upsurge in open defecation among others.
 
Adamu, who further explained that the pathetic water situation has led to an embarrassing increase of about 25 per cent in open defecation in 2017, added that an estimated investment of N1.9t was needed in the next 15 years to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, specifically SDG 6 – clean water and sanitation for all.

Water scarcity bitting hard across the country


More than four years after the minister informed the council that urgent steps must be taken if the country must overcome the challenges of water supply, sanitation, and water governance issues, as well as achieve the 2030 SDGs on water supply and sanitation, very little has been achieved by the country along this line.
 
Since 1993, the global community has been celebrating World Water Day (WWD) every March 22. Among other things, the celebration, which highlights the importance of freshwater, also lays great emphasis on the importance of water and sanitation measures in enhancing economic growth, reducing poverty, and ensuring environmental sustainability. 
 
On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, the world, yet again celebrated the WWD with the theme, “Groundwater: Making The Invisible Visible.” 

Espousing the theme of this year’s celebration, as well as stressing the sheer importance of groundwater in the scheme of things, the United Nations (UN) described it as an invisible resource with an impact visible everywhere. It added: “Groundwater is water found underground in aquifers, which are geological formations of rocks, sands, and gravels that hold substantial quantities of water, added that it also feeds springs, rivers, lakes, and wetlands, and seeps into oceans. 
  
According to the UN, “Life would not be possible without groundwater. Most arid areas of the world depend entirely on groundwater. Groundwater supplies a large proportion of the water we use for drinking, sanitation, food production, and industrial processes. It is also critically important to the healthy functioning of ecosystems, such as wetlands and rivers. 

  
Even though the theme of this year’s event is on groundwater, immense emphasis in the Nigerian milieu remains on access to clean and safe water.
  
Across the country, access to clean water has remained a luxury with water taps in almost all states of the federation remaining dry 23 years after the return of democracy to the country.
  
Expectedly, individuals and groups have continued to deplore the high level of insensitivity exhibited by political leaders, especially when evaluating the plight of the populace that has been living with the consequences of lack of access to potable water.
  
The situation is so bad that the latest report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), noted that although about 70 per cent of Nigerians reportedly have access to basic water services, more than half of these water sources are contaminated.  

The report, which also explained that even though 73 per cent of the country’s population has access to a water source, added that only nine litres of water are available to a Nigerian on average daily.

Furthermore, the UN agency the report stressed that globally over 1.42 billion people (including 450 million children) are living in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability. 
 
This means that one in five children worldwide does not have enough water to meet their daily needs. 
nThis bleak scenario notwithstanding, many found it very discomforting when Minister Adamu, rather than serenade Nigerians with efforts that were being made to improve the water situation, was busy informing them that the Federal Government was not responsible for providing water in homes.  
  
In an interview with a national daily, Adamu reportedly said: “Nigerians need to understand that it is not the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide water to people in their houses. It is the responsibility of the state governments to do that, and local governments going down further. That is why this ministry does not have a water board.

   
“The only federal water board that we have is the one that is managed by the Federal Capital Territory Administration. And that, of course, is for the Federal Capital Territory. So it’s not under the municipal taxes.”
   
Stressing that the Federal Government was only expected to construct dams, which states could take advantage of to meet their citizens’ water needs, he added: “So, every time people ask me that there is no water in their towns. I tell them, go and ask your states. In the last four decades or so, the Federal Government has built over 400 dams, I think. We just launched the compendium on dams last year across the country. There are over 500 dams that have been captured.
   
“Almost 400 of them were built by the Federal Government and that’s the role that we play; we provide bulk water; we go and build the dams. And it is for the states to now tap into that water, treat it and distribute it. That’s the way it is supposed to be,” Adamu was quoted to have said.

WHILE the Federal Government continues to proliferate the country with dams, it is such an irony that a state like Lagos, with its massive, constant boast of being a megacity, cannot provide its residents, thereby forcing the bulk of them to take solace in the arms of water boreholes.

  
While speaking on a radio programme to mark the second anniversary of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration, the Group Managing Director, Lagos Water Corporation (LWC), Badmus Muminu, blamed the non-availability of potable water on customers’ breaking water pipes.

At regular intervals, the two major waterworks in the state, the Adiyan, and Iju get grounded leading to the non-availability of water. In April and May last year, for instance, they both produce less than 10% of their installed capacity. 

Muminu’s allegation that customers were breaking water pipes did not only elicit angst among residents, it also subjected the corporation and indeed the state government to an unending stream of invectives from aggrieved members of the public.
  
As of today, Eti-Osa, Apapa, Victoria Island, Badagry, Ibeju Lekki, Surulere, Ikorodu, Agege, Ojo, Mushin Kosofe, and most locations in the state are without access to clean water. Consequently, millions of residents now rely on boreholes, rivers, rainwater, as well as comprised wells for their water needs. 

  
On its website, the LWC claims that it has a total installed water production capacity of 210 million gallons per day (MGD), which is far lower than the current estimated daily water demand of 540 million gallons per day.
  
Also, its plan to produce 745 million gallons per day by the year 2020 through the Lagos Water Supply Master Plan fell flat with the actual number of citizens having access to potable water dropping, rather than increasing 11 years after the launch of the master plan. 
   
A senior staff of LWC, who preferred anonymity said that at present, its agency only supplies water to Lekki, parts of Ikoyi, Victoria Island (VI), Ojodu, Iju, and some parts of Ikotun. 
  
The official explained that the agency’s capacity to generate raw water and distribute it to the residents was affected by the poor power supply and decaying infrastructure, but the government is taking steps to reverse the trend. 
   
“We are in the process of repairing all the decaying facilities across the state, and very soon, there will be water everywhere. The government is not relenting. We have challenges generating raw water for treatment to distribute because of the power supply. The boreholes that are being dug across the city are not helping the matter, even when many cannot consume the water from them. Also, the raw water that ought to get to us cannot because of the several boreholes across the state. And to help residents to be able to use the water from these boreholes, we now have a quality-testing laboratory to test the water and provide information that would help citizens to better use such water,” the staff concluded. 
RESIDENTS of Abeokuta have also been having a harrowing experience due to the perennial water shortage in the ancient city. For some time now, getting potable water for drinking and other domestic uses daily has been alarmingly difficult.
  
Often, people scramble to get water from boreholes and wells provided through private initiatives within communities. Most times, residents return home with unclean water or in some cases, without water.
  
This is the narrative in Kugba and Ago-Oba areas of Abeokuta where residents always struggle to get water for cooking and other house chores. 
  
Kola Adebari, a resident of Isale-Igbein told The Guardian that water scarcity sets in during the dry season, making life miserable for people. “That is when you would usually see people trekking from one location to the other with jerry cans as they try to locate where water is available,” he said.
 
 
A student of one of the higher institutions in Abeokuta, who identified himself as Francis, said: “I usually wake up around 5a.m every day to search for water. There is no water in my area. If you wake up by 7a.m, you may not bathe that day because there won’t be water in the wells anymore. I am tired of this.”
  
In some parts of Abeokuta, it is not uncommon to see residents scooping water from broken water pipes in gutters. The Guardian checks confirmed that more residents also fetch water from unhygienic sources, defying warnings that they might contract cholera or other waterborne diseases.
  
From Ojere to Olokemeji, Oluwo, Adigbe, Onikolobo, Isale Igbehin, Sapon, Ake, Itoko Abiola Way, Ijemo, Asero, Obantoko, Lafenwa, Olomore, Ago Owu, Abiola Way, Kuto, and Agbeloba, among others, locals daily lament that many of the public water pipes provided by the government, as well as some boreholes built by politicians and NGOs in different locations in the city, were mere “decorations.”
  
Hazzan Babajide, an elderly resident of Ake told The Guardian that: “Water has been a problem in Abeokuta from time immemorial. A larger percentage of the people cannot afford to dig boreholes or even wells. This is because of the rocky nature of the soil, which makes digging more difficult and expensive. That is why most people are seen on the streets with containers, searching for water from one place to another.”
  
Another resident of Oluwo, Mr. Sulaimon Imran, called on governments at all levels to come to the aid of the Ogun people by providing state-of-the-art solar-powered boreholes in strategic locations and placing same under the supervision of the Community Development Associations (CDA) for proper maintenance. This, he said, would reduce water scarcity. 
 
Government sources however disclosed that, as part of the government’s response to the water challenge, Governor Dapo Abiodun recently visited the Arakanga Water Works. 
  
They also confirmed that contractors working on the Ogun State Water Corporation dam in Iberekodo, Abeokuta were intensifying efforts at automating and making it function effectively again to supply potable water to the city in no long a time.

IN Enugu State, water scarcity is a major issue and water vendors and tanker drivers are “kings.” Not only are they in business, they determine how much they dispense the liquid to households. This year alone, they have increased their charges twice, and well over 50 per cent with little or no resistance from the people. 

Sachet water better known as pure water manufacturers in the state are also experiencing a business boom. 

To date, there are many abandoned water projects that if made functional, would reduce the suffering of the people, some of whom trek long distances to get clean water for consumption. 

All year round, residents parade the streets with various sizes of jerry cans in search of water, and the situation is such that newly developing estates don’t have water pipes, not to talk of water flowing in them. Sadly, even those that are living in old estates, where water pipes pass through rarely get sufficient supplies for weeks.

Many residents of the coal city have now resorted to using wheelbarrows and their cars to ferry water from locations like Bishop Ayogu, Kenyatta Road; P&T Quarters; Railway Quarters, where thriving water businesses have cropped up. 

 
Thriving water businesses are also found in the 9th Mile/Udi and the Agbani area of the state. 

To beat the perennial scarcity, most compounds in the urban area are dotted with underground wells, but the inability of these wells to retain water during the dry season remains a serious disincentive.

The WASH Rights Network, a coalition of 23 civil society organisations in the South East, while on a visit to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi recently, pointed out that as they work on universal access to water and sanitation, findings since 2019 reveal that the state has been plagued by “perennial water scarcity orchestrated by the state topography, making it difficult to access groundwater.”

They informed the governor that what they discovered working in the water sector was that “most of the state water production facilities were working well below capacity, while some were completely abandoned, with no monitoring, or accountability system in place.”

The group added that the state’s water challenge is “compounded by the spike in its population, which makes it extremely difficult for clean water to be accessed by millions of residents.”

They, therefore, urged the state government to increase its pace of interventions that are aimed at addressing the problem. 

There are about three water schemes in the state namely the Ajalli Water Scheme built over 40 years ago, with an installed capacity of about 77, 000 cubic metres; the Oji River Scheme built over 16 years ago with 50, 000 cubic metres, and the Nsukka Water Scheme 19, 000 cubic metres. 

These schemes put together are about 150, 000 cubic metres, while the state requires over 250, 000 cubic metres of water supply daily. But several factors including, erosion, inadequate electricity supply, obsolete pumps, and vandalisation have continued to make them inefficient. 

It was also gathered that at some point, things went so awry for the Ajalli scheme and it could barely deliver 10, 000 cubic metres daily. The story is the same with the Oji River Scheme that water travels about 20 kilometres to get to the reservoirs in Enugu.

From the Chimaroke Nnamani era to Sullivan Chime, and to the incumbent administration, the Ajalli Water Scheme has undergone rehabilitation. At a point in the administration, it injected about N400m into the water sector and began the expansion of the pipeline network, apparently with a World Bank loan, which it allegedly secured during the time. The project, which includes the replacement of the asbestos pipes, however, was not concluded, hence no end to the intractable water problem.

Even though his administration would hand it over in the next year, Governor Ugwuanyi is upbeat that he would permanently solve the water crisis in the state before handing it over. 

He has severally assured residents that putting an end to the perennial water scarcity in the state was his legacy project.

Speaking when he received members of the coalition, the governor explained that at inception, he met a heavily challenged water sector, especially at the production end. 

He also revealed that the Oji River and Ajali water schemes were decrepit with daily production of water being far below their installed capacities, while the 9th Mile Crash Borehole Programme was comatose, and its major installations vandalised.

On the progress made by his administration in providing potable water to the people of the state, the governor listed as follows: “Emergency rehabilitation of Oji and Ajali water schemes resulting in the improved water supply to most parts of Enugu city, including the GRA, New Haven, Asata, some parts of Independence Layout, Achara Layout, Trans-Ekulu, and Coal Camp areas.”

The governor added that the construction of additional five functional water boreholes in Nsukka “has led to a great improvement in water supply in Nsukka Urban; construction of water pipeline extensions in many streets and communities in Enugu Urban and Nsukka due to increased water supply; complete rehabilitation of 9th Mile Crash Borehole Programme that is fully powered by solar energy.

“Eight water boreholes are already productive in this scheme and soon, with the imminent inauguration of this project, water supply to Enugu metropolis will receive a significant boost. Rejigging and retooling of Enugu State Water Corporation to ensure a competent, well-equipped, and well-motivated workforce; bidding process for drilling of 10 new solar energy-powered water boreholes in Okwojo Ngwo is on the course, and the Enugu State government’s participation in the French Development Agency (AFD) Support to 3rd National Urban Water Sector Reform Project will deliver end-to-end water supply solution to Enugu metropolis,” he said.

The government 2020 approved the release of N600m for the rehabilitation of the 9th Mile Crash Water Scheme that was abandoned over 37 years ago. 

The engineering firm, Fordmax Limited, has already recovered eight out of the 12 boreholes on the site and has started bringing water into the major manifold at Okwojo Ngwo, when it was discovered that the asbestos pipes had become too weak, and that water pressure was bursting them.

The Managing Director of the Enugu State Water Corporation, Mr. Martins Okwor, told The Guardian that currently the pipes “are being replaced,” adding that, “apart from the solar power system fitted on the scheme, there was provision for electricity to alternate, especially at night when the solar system would no longer function.

“This is to ensure that we pump water regularly. We are very hopeful that with the ongoing rehabilitation at Ajali, Oji River schemes, and the 9th Mile Crash programme, water supply to Enugu residents would soon receive a boost,” he said.

KANO State has had its fair share of water scarcity. The situation, which has gotten worse, has dealt a devastating blow to the social, economic, and environmental well being of the residents. 
  
The pains experienced in this Holy month of Ramadan are searing, as fears are mounting that the ancient city may soon be hit with a deadly health condition.
  
For several months now, the eight local councils within the metropolitan city, as well as areas such as Sabon Gari, Tudun-wada, Gama, Hadiaja Road, Fagge, among others have been battling acute water scarcity. 

  
A resident of Yoruba Road in Sabon Gari, Johnson Michael, told The Guardian that the community only relies on local water vendors for personal hygiene and cooking, while sachet water is consumed individually. 
  
“Sincerely speaking, I’ve not witnessed water supply from the public water source in the last five years,” he said.
 
Aminu Shuiabu, of Tudun-wada Quarters, in Nasarawa Local Council, shares Johnson’s views about the situation in the metropolis.
   
Shuaibu lamented that despite their total dependence on groundwater, the sudden increase in the cost of a 25-litre jerry can of water, from N50 to between N100 and N150 was crippling financially.
  
Interestingly, while the management of the Kano State Water Board attributed the perennial water shortage in Kano to the unending poor electricity supply, a development that has allegedly affected the treatment plant, the authorities of the Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) were quick to refute the claim.
  
The director of water management at the board, Garba Ahmed Bichi, had told The Guardian that despite the monthly bill of over N150m on power, the supply has not been impressive, resulting in the acute scarcity of water, which is being experienced.
  
The present administration, in 2021, budgeted over N9b for water resources, and also allocated over N6b for the same purpose in the 2022 budget. This is in addition to several millions of dollars obtained as loans for improving the public water supply. Regrettably, the supply of water from the public water source is yet to improve significantly.
  
However, a water resources expert, Balarabe Yasid, insists that the failure of the government to invest, especially its failure to expand the existing capacity, and build a new water plant was responsible for the shortfall. 
  
According to him, the existing capacity of Challawa Water Works, Tamburawa, and Watari water plants that were constructed several years ago was presently operating at less than 40 percent. 
  
Yasid explained that with the increasing demand of over 850 million litres of water daily, in Kano, the acute shortage of the liquid would persist unless new facilities are built, with large storage capacities. 
  
But as an increasing number of residents depend solely on water from boreholes, the proliferation of the facility is also becoming worrisome. 
  
A geologist at the Kano University of Science and Technology (KUST), Wudil, Dr. Illiyasu Garba, warned that the rising number of boreholes dug in the state might soon constitute an environmental challenge.
  
“Some of the dangers of increasing the number of boreholes are low water supply, as well as the quality of water. By the time everybody begins to drill boreholes, we may begin to experience building collapse because there is no regulation on what is going on. The government must, therefore, urgently come in to save the situation,” Garba said.