A community exists in Bwari Area Council, Abuja where women reject suitors from within because of the scare of having to travel long distances in order to fetch water. ENE OSANG writes that the story of this community is akin to a forgotten people.
Water is a basic necessity of life which no one can do without just as it is easier to live without food than without water.
According to scientific reports, water allows the body to assimilate necessary minerals and other useful substances. It also flushes toxins and wastes out of the body, beside regulating the body temperature.f
However, in the Ijabesa community in Bwari Area Council (BAC) FCT Abuja, water is a scarce commodity. The only source of water is a small flowing river often dry whenever the rainy season is over; oftentimes, the available water cannot serve the community due to the population.
The chiefs bares it all
The chief of Ijabesa, Dauda Useni, a 56-year-old who works in Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) told a couple of journalists who visited the community recently during an outreach by a non governmental organisation, PAGED Initiative that the community drinks from same water where people wash, bathe and defecate.
According to Useni, water is a major problem, saying due to its scarcity, women in the community have to trek long distances to get it from a small flowing river which is their only source of water, thereby making life extremely difficult for the women.Ijabesa women and girls, like in most communities, have the responsibility of walking long distances to fetch water for daily family use, a stressful job that often makes them fall ill.
Theirs is a peculiar case with the location of the river in a slope area which makes traveling back home with water on their heads much difficult.
According to Useni, due to the stress in fetching water daily, most girls now reject suitors in the community. He added that the situation is so serious that even some women have left their homes because they got tired of the suffering.
“You know girls of today are agric; they are not strong to fetch water or go through the stress of some difficult tasks that come with marriage. Because of this, they are all running out to get suitors where they won’t suffer to fetch water.
“As I speak, my own wife left me because she got tired with the stress of fetching water and always taking care of sick children. I have also received complaints from our young men that our young women reject their marriage proposal because they don’t want to suffer,” he said.
“Water is our major problem in this community. Our wives go a long distance to get water under much stress because our only source of water is located in a sloppy area and so they have to climb hills when coming back with water on their heads. This is stressful and makes them fall sick.
“Whenever we drink water we get different kinds of sickness because the water is not clean. Three of my children are currently sick and my aged mother is on drip due to intake of bad water.
“The only bore hole in Ijabesa has been dug since 1985 and it does not bring out water anymore. This river which is our only source of water, people defecate in it, wash, bathe, yet we drink from it because there is no alternative,” he lamented.
With Covid-19, no water to wash hands
On how they are coping with the outbreak of Coronavirus, the chief said they are doing their best but wished they have water closeby to always wash their hands.”I heard about Coronavirus disease and how dangerous it is. Everyone is advised to wash hands regularly but we don’t have water and our women are tired of fetching water. How can we keep to these instructions,” he asked.
Continuing, Useni said poor health conditions of most people in the community is alarming due to intake of unclean water, adding that this has brought hunger to the land because most people no longer cultivate very big farms which is their main occupation because they always fell sick.
“All of us are farmers and that’s how we feed, but when you are sick and don’t have strength, you cannot farm. In fact, we eat most of what we farm as there is nothing left to sell. Bad water intake is the problem and we know that.”It got so bad that we decided to task ourselves to dig a bore whole but most people didn’t have money to contribute; the farm produce is not much and the bad road condition is another obstacle because we can’t take our goods out to sell, we seldom get vehicles in the community.
“Personally, I was moved to apply for a loan; unfortunately I could not get it, so we are just here hoping that one day luck would come our way to attract government intervention because it is only NGO’s that have tried for us.”The only borehole was dug in 1985 by an NGO and since it broke down, we have been suffering. Other villages around us have settlers from other tribes who come to do businesses there because they have some amenities but here in Ijabusa, we are losing everything including getting married, he added.
Another indigene corroborates story
Corroborating him, Mohammed Sani Musa, a 42- year-old farmer and father of six children narrated that he has been married three times because his first and second wives couldn’t stand the stress of going far to fetch water.
“My children and wife go to Pasepa, a neighbouring village to fetch water because the water we have here doesn’t serve us anymore due to the population.
“I married my first wife from Jabi and after 10 years with two children, she left because she couldn’t face the stress that comes with water anymore. I wanted to marry another woman here but because of the water situation, she refused.
“I went down to Gbazango to marry another woman and she accepted to marry me and we have four children together but I do assist her to go fetch water with my bike before going to work.
“I do help my present wife to fetch water because I don’t want her to leave me again. I’m a driver in a construction company and have to be at work early, so I wake up very early to fetch water so that I won’t be late. Also if I go to work and don’t fetch the water, it would be too much work for her, so I do my best in that regard.
“In Islam, men are supposed to provide and take responsibility of catering for the family; so, I always advise other men to help their wives so that they don’t suffer much because it is the suffering that makes them to leave the marriage,” he said.
Musa explained further that government presence is not felt in Ijabesa except during campaigns when they come with bags of salt and rice to beg for votes, saying afterwards, they won’t visit the community again.
“Apart from the renovation of the old primary school, nothing else has been done. We have complained bitterly but they always do make promises they never keep.”These residents are praying and hoping that help would come their way soon so that they can, at least, be healthy to take care of their needs and that if their families through farming, since the available health facility is not equipped to take care of them they fall sick, also no good roads to ply when they have to honour to the city.
It is said that when you give the people what is rightly theirs they will still thank you for it, but this has always been a difficult task to achieve by politicians who represent most constituencies in Nigeria.
The lack of water, health facility, electricity, schools, good roads and other basic amenities has continued to be a herculean task to achieve by the government, enabling the increase in rural-urban migration which further makes the cities over populated with amenities not enough to serve everybody.
Most communities with basic amenities do their businesses to develop themselves but with the increase in migration to cities and even brain drain it raises the question whether the rural areas will ever develop further than they are and as most experts have argued, the frustration in most rural communities is what leads many youths to commit crimes which threaten the peace of the nation.