As Governor Darius Ishaku continues to make concerted effort to provide potable drinking water to residents of Taraba state, ANDREW OJIH writes on how the state water corporation is working round the clock to ensure that the agency is repositioned.
The effort by Taraba state Water Supply Agency (TSWSA), towards repositioning itself into a role model in terms of service delivery is paying off as it has successfully transformed it into a public utility that is commercially-driven with financial viability for sustainable service delivery and consumer satisfaction.
The agency was established through an edict in 1992 after the creation of the state, thereafter, it stated with 13 water supply stations.
Much later, 29 other stations were constructed by the state government in collaboration with MDG’S-CGS and handed over to TSWSA. The agency is presently responsible for water supply in 42 towns of the state.
The agency is responsible for the operations and maintenance of water supply facilities in towns and cities of the state and ensure quality management of water in line with NDWQS/WHO standard and distributes bills to customers, collect revenues on behalf of government and remit such into government account. Also, the agency is in charge of developing and strengthening the institution with emphasis on improved finances, human resource capacity and skills development.
The services of the agency cover all urban and semi urban towns with populations of 5,000 and above. TSWSA, at the moment, has 42 water supply stations, some of which utilise surface sources.
The general manager of TSWSA Engr Musa Siam Buba said the agency has made significant progress through the state government intervention, national rehabilitation project, AFDB intervention, Governor Ishaku’s intervention and E-WASH.
According to him, every previous regime in the state attempted in one way or the other to improve water supply and sanitation, adding that each of them however came with their problems. He however noted that wrong procurement was fundamental to the poor project delivery in the previous years.
The federal government initiative aimed at rehabilitating existing water supply infrastructure across Nigeria yielded positive result in Taraba state where few waterworks were rehabilated in Jalingo, the state capital, Gembu and Takum, respectively.
The African Development Bank (ADB) intervention in the state equally improved access to safe water supply services from 30% in Jalingo to 80% by 2017. This was possible through the rehabilitation and extension of existing infrastructure, and by extension the improvement of sanitation in public places.
The intervention also improved the sector’s overall performance and long term financial viability through institutional and management reforms including tariff increases, capacity building and adaption of viable public-private partnership (PPP) model.
Governor Ishaku, since assumption of office in 2015 restored water supply across the state after 11 months of operation by increasing the Jalingo primary water source project to seven billion. This was after a study tour to Kenya led by the governor, employment of 50 young professionals to cover manpower gaps, procurement of modern treatment chemicals, quality control, granting of autonomy to retain revenue, acquisition of land at Jalingo Hilltop for the construction of water facilities and headquarter for the agency. These, Blueprint learnt, were the reform that he brought into the agency that made him the ‘waterman of the year 2018’.
US Govt assisted programme also helped
E-WASH-The effective water sanitation and hygiene(E-WASH) programme is a technical assistance support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for four years with the objective of creating professionally managed and commercially- oriented state water supply agencies, improve financial and operational viability, strengthen policy, institution and regulatory framework. Even though the partnership is still at infancy, it is quite promising.
The ADB, USAID E-WASH are assisting the agency in institutional reform and capacity building, delineation of water supply districts from two to nine to cope with the expanding city and ensure effective management of water supply to the people. Also, setting revenue targets for managers to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation unit in order to carry out its civic functions properly.
The creation of new department for commercial services, investment and business plans, billing and revenue collection, customer care services and creation of the NRW department to cater for physical and commercial losses has also greatly reformed the state water supply agency.
The employment of 50 young professionals by the administration as well helped to boost staff strength.
Engr Buba while speaking with Blueprint maintained that the rehabilitation and expansion work under the AFDB assisted WSSIP is almost been completed.
He noted with excitement that the administration of Ishaku gave Tarabans potable drinking water, saying the government awarded another contract for further expansion of the water supply system for Jalingo to complement the effort of the AFDB project.
He announced that the standardisation of the water quality laboratories in Jalingo, Ibi, Wukari and Gembu towns has assisted to bring succor to the people of those areas.
According to him summary, the of key performance indicators of successful urban water utilities are availability of service, service coverage, revenue billing and collection efficiencies, among others.
Opinion leaders say that Gov Ishaku within four years of his administration has meet the needs of Tarabans in terms of provision of drinking water to its citizens. They argued that his administration has recorded a significant milestone that will transform the water agency into a role model in Nigeria.
According to them, it is evident that TSWSA as an underperforming urban utility is evolving into a modern service provider aiming at delivering quality service delivery and a solid financial performance.