Amid billions of naira and foreign currency denominations sunk into water projects across the country, Nigerians still groan under scarcity or non availability of potable water.
Blueprint’s sampled investigation across the geo-political zones showed water plants put in place between 1929 and 1987 have become obsolete or insufficient to meet the growing needs of residents.
Consequently, consumers grossly complain of pains and hardship encountered as a result of this development, especially with the associated risk of residents being afflicted with waterborne diseases.
In Kaduna, a north-west state, before now, most people within the metropolis enjoyed regular water supply, especially in areas hitherto connected to the distribution network, while the new areas and pockets of old areas are facing crisis in water supply.
Kaduna city currently relies on three water treatment plants; the 150million-litre-per day plant built in 1987, the 90million- litre-per day plant built in 1976/77 and that of 27million-litre- per day built in 1929.
All of them, our reporter gathered, have become inadequate to serve the ever- expanding population in the city, thus necessitating a planned expansion scheme of water facilities to gulp $600million.
Following infrastructural decay over a long period of time, many of the distribution pipes became rusty and could therefore not carry water to their delivery points, hence the need for replacement.
It was also observed that leakages in some areas, resulting from the activities of vandals, often lead to sharp cut in water supply.
A resident, Alhaji Dauda Suleiman, who lives in Kakuri, Kaduna South, said he used to enjoy constant water supply until recently when the water ceased.
“We were enjoying water from water board and the supply was constant but for over a year now, we have not been seeing water in our tap.
“We complained and they promised to address it but it has not improved. Since we are enjoying borehole water from a neighbour, we depend on that and kept the money we are supposed to use to pay water bill.”
For Mrs Christy Semilore, who lives in Barnawa, also in Kaduna South, the last time she enjoyed tap water was in 2006.
“We were enjoying water supply until 2006 around July or August of that year when water stopped and since then we have been getting water from borehole.
“Nobody on our street – Dan Alhaji and others in the environ – enjoyed tap water from water board under successive governments that have been making promises without any result.”
Also speaking, Alhaji Tijjani Tajudeen, whose office is on Muhammadu Buhari Way, former Wharf Road, said, “We do have constant supply of water from Kaduna water board in recent times but at times it is epileptic, which could be frustrating.”
The water treatment plants were built to cover a 25-year-projected-population increase after which a new plant needed to be built to complement the old ones, but none had been put in place since 1987.
Perhaps, in a response to the dwindling fortune of water supply in the state, Governor Nasir el-Rufai planned to embark on greater Kaduna water supply expansion and sanitation project that would expand water supply to New Millennium City and other developing layouts.
He said the design consists of construction of new dam, transmission and distribution network, reservoirs dedicated to each of the developing Kaduna neighbourhood among others.
Speaking further, the KASWAC boss said despite paucity of funds, government was able to improve water supply in the state by repairing pumps and other facilities as and when due and planning ahead to ensure optimisation of existing facilities.
“The greater Kaduna water supply expansion and sanitation project that will expand water supply to new developing areas is expected to cost $600 million. The plan will take off probably next year because this year is already half spent.
“The costs at Kaduna state water corporation are many, there is the establishment of new water treatment plants, new reservoirs, new transmission and distribution network and maintenance of old ones.
“On the average, water treatment chemicals consume about N150 million monthly, energy consumes about N70 million monthly. Then Kaduna state government built the new 150m litres per day water treatment plant in Zaria at the cost of N24 billion,” he further said.
Also, the perennial Zaria regional water project that gulped billions of naira under successive administrations in the state has finally come to fruition.
Though initially billed to cover Zaria and Sabongari local government areas, it would now serve Makarfi, Kudan, Kubau, Giwa and Soba local government areas.
Director of operations of the state water corporation, Malam Abdulrazak Abubakar, said Zaria and its environs now enjoy water supply.
Although there was no record to suggest any major water-related epidemic in the state, some students of Government Day Secondary School Kawo in 2017 suffered from cholera outbreak, following impurities passed into their water source.
They were all treated and later discharged.
In Kwara state, the story is not any different as residents have to come to terms with living their lives without drinking water.
This is notwithstanding the claim by the immediate past governor, Abdulfattah Ahmed, that his predecessor, Dr Bukola Saraki implemented the first phase of the water expansion project partly financed under the N17 billion bond facility obtained by the state government in 2009.
The former governor also said further efforts geared towards improving the supply between 2003 and 2008 had raised the production to 25.5 million gallons per day.
“The Ilorin water distribution network was implemented at the cost of N6.5billion, funded partly through the N17billion bond, a commercial bank facility and the Kwara state Infrastructure Development Fund (IFK),” the immediate past governor reportedly said while commissioning the N6.5 billion Ilorin metropolitan water network project in Agaka area of Ilorin West local government area of the state.
‘‘With today’s commissioning, 48,000 homes located along the following routes will now enjoy clean and affordable water. The routes are Eastern Reservoir to Oja Oba, Eastern Reservoir to Taiwo Road, Western Reservoir to Sobi, Maraba to A Division, and Baboko Market to Abdulazeez Attah Road.
‘‘Others are Taiwo Isale to St. John Church, Government High School to Abdulazeez Attah Road, Oja Oba to Oloje, Abdulazeez Attah to Taiwo Isale, Basin Road to Mayode Hotel and Umaru Audi to Jebba Road,” Ahmed further said.
…Yet no water
Despite the claim, the water situation in most parts of the listed areas seems not to have improved as residents still face hardship getting access to potable water.
The state water corporation however blamed the development on myriads of challenges.
The general manager, Mallam Tunde Omoniyi Yahaya, listed the challenges to include power cut, lack of water treatment materials, vandalism coupled with the growing population in the state.
Yahaya further said, ‘‘Lack of constant electricity supply and treatment materials are the major challenges’’.
He said all the 94 waterworks were currently disconnected from power supply because they owed the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) at least N24million. He said they have a monthly electricity bill of N9.7million
Apart from the recent strike embarked upon by staff of the water works, Tunde also said they needed modern equipment that can monitor water pressure and detect when pipes go bad.
AbdulRasaq’s marching order
And on his assumption of office, Governor AbulRahman AbdulRazaq visited the ministry of water resources, and gave a marching order for constant water supply to some areas in Ilorin and all other parts of the state within 100 days.
He also asked the ministry and affected consultants to deliver water to every part of the state by getting all the dams working, pledging to give them the necessary support.
The governor, who also visited Agba Dam and Asa Dam Water Works as well as Western Reservoir (Adewole) in Ilorin, expressed worry over the fruitless search for water by residents of the state despite the huge investment.
The governor said he might wield the big stick in form of “house cleaning” if the ministry did not deliver on his directive.
“We have a mandate to deliver water to our people and within the next 100 days. For a start, I want to see constant water supply in specific areas of Ilorin, it may be Ilorin East, South or West or anything (where these particular dams cover),” he said after listening to the ministry’s officials.
“Don’t keep talking. We want action. Our people want water. No part of Ilorin or anywhere in this state do people have water. Raise a memo to state what the problems are and what’s needed to fix them. People are tired of (empty) talk.
“We have to solve the problems now. Forget the big word reticulation, let’s fix the problem. We need immediate memo on what the problems are and we will give you all the support.
“We need to think out of the box. I’m serious about having water in our homes within 100 days. We have the mandate to deliver water to our people,” he said.
With just few days after the governor’s marching order, some residents of Ilorin who had hitherto complained of access to potable heaved a sigh of relief.
Confirming the developments, a resident of Adewole area, Ilorin, Abubakar Owolabi said, ‘‘Last Sunday, we observed that water was flowing in most of the pipes but there is the need to carry out some repairs on damaged pipes for water to get to its destination.”
The story was however different in some other areas as residents said they still relied on their boreholes and water storage facilities.
From Bayelsa, our correspondent reports the pathetic condition of residents always at the mercy of the water vendors otherwise known as Mairuwa and other borehole owners.
A breakdown shows N1.8 billion was budgeted in 2017, N1.4 billion in 2018 and N1.5 billion in 2019.
With this huge investment, residents lamented non availability of potable water, thus leaving them at the mercy of water vendors.
The Mairuwa collects between N20 and N30 per 20-litre-jerry can while those living in storey buildings pay up to N50 for same quantity owing to the stress involved.
On daily basis, some homes spend between N200 – N500 to meet their water requirements, depending on the areas and number of persons per home.
This is even as the sum of N6 billion was budgeted for water reticulation in the last few years.
The water vendors smile to the banks everyday while residents, especially the indigents, groan as they struggle to get water proportionate to their daily use.
Blueprint gathered that some families in Yenagoa, the state capital, go to bed at times without taking their bathe due to scarcity of water.
It is not only individual families that suffer the menace of absence of potable water in the metropolis, as the state secretariat and several government agencies are also not spared.
At the state secretariat where the water ministry is housed, for instance, the water vendors climb with jerry cans of water to the fourth floor of the storey-building for workers’ use in the toilets.
‘Water no longer free’
In what appears a way out, the state government has said for effective delivery and supply of potable water, residents would have to pay for the services, Commissioner for Water Resources, Nengi Tuborah stated at a forum in Yenagoa. He said, “This is in line with the declaration by the United Nations Children Fund and the European Union that water provision should no longer be free.”
Risk of waterborne diseases
There are fears among residents that the water from vendors might be gotten from contaminated sources, thus putting them at the risk of waterborne diseases.
Such fear was expressed few days ago when the state government announced an outbreak of cholera in Yenagoa and its surroundings and warned Bayelsans to stop drinking from waters whose sources they don’t know.
Also Blueprint observed that the water supply chain by some vendors are not hygienic enough.
For instance, it is the same containers they use in supplying water to the toilets that are also used to supply for the kitchens.
Meanwhile, report from Ibadan, the Oyo state capital revealed same trend as water scarcity has become the lots of residents across the state.
The story remains same in Ibadan,Oyo and Ogbomosho among others under successive administrations in the state.
For instance, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) administration under the leadership of late Lamidi Adesina between 1999 and 2003, latched on efforts of the past military administration in the state to ensure regular water supply to some parts of the state, particularly, Ibadan.
This was however short lived as the same administration in 2002 directed the state water corporation to commence production of sachet water for sale.
It’s been similar story under the administrations of Rashidi Ladoja, Adebayo Alao- Akala and that of the immediate past governor, Abiola Ajimobi.
Although Blueprint could not readily lay hand on the sum expended on the project in the last couple of years, it was however gathered all the administrations committed a large chunk of money to the rehabilitation of the aged Water Dams in Eleyele and Asejire in Ibadan, Olugbonku Dam in Oyo among others.
With the complaint galore of water scarcity, especially during the dry season, majority of those who could not afford sachet water or borehole, usually resort to doubtful sources available for their water needs, thus putting their health at risk.
But a source at the state water corporation told one of our correspondents that government should not be blamed for consumers’ woes.
‘It will be unfair to put all the blames on past administrations as most of the administrations put up measures at making the corporation effective and efficient, but the efforts were not all that were needed to actually tackle the problems facing the corporation,” the source said.
For instance, our source said, despite the meagre resources available to the state government, the Ajimobi-led government was able to carry out certain face-lifting at some of the aged water facilities in the state, saying if the present administration on the state could show more commitment, the situation would improve for the better.
Further investigation showed hope of residents of Eleyele, Mokola, Agodi gate and some parts of Ibadan where few years ago, some old water pipes were replaced, but this did not translate to water supply to any of the areas.
Making a plea, a community leader in Okoro area of Mokola, Prince Adeleke Awoyale, lamented the prolonged scarcity of potable water in the entire area and the state in general, and pleaded with the new administration to fix the rot.
Speaking with Blueprint on Governor Seyi Makinde-led administration’s plan to restore water to the state, the governor’s chief press secretary, Taiwo Adisa said provision of potable water to people of the state ranked high on Makinde’s priority list.
He said the present administration “is to enhance the state water corporation for the provision of potable water and also look into the issue of repositioning some of the water dams in the state.”
Adisa further said, a committee had been raised by the governor to ensure proper sanitation in the state, saying “there is no way you can talk of sanitation without the provision of potable water to the people of the state.”
However, despite the scarcity of drinking water, there was little or no cases of waterborne diseases in any part of the state in the last three years, said a source at the state’s ministry of health.
It is so serious a challenge in Abia state that the state government is planning to take a loan of 20 million euros from a Belgium Bank to fix the rot.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Utilities and Water Resources, Dike Nzenwa told Blueprint that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu was not leaving anything to chance in solving the water crisis in the state.
Communities like Ozitem,Itumbuzor and Bende Ovu in Bende local government area of the state, as well as those in Umuahia, the state capital are worst hit by the menace occasioned by water scarcity.
This development, observers believe, is responsible for the springing up of boreholes across the state with government finding it difficult to redress the ugly situation.
Those who can’t afford to own this alternative water source, most times resort to “commercial boreholes owners making quick business out of the peoples’ predicament.”
Speaking on what the Ikpeazu-led government had done to improve the state’s water supply, Mr Nzenwa said government understood the need to have potable water, as using untreated water would cause ill-health via diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera and other waterborne diseases.
The permanent secretary further said the government had committed substantial amount in providing water for the people.
He cited the Ozuitem surface water scheme in Bende loca government which he said, cost N61.017million with the job at 55 per cent completion, the Nnamdi Azikiwe civil service secretariat, Umuahia water borehole scheme valued at N14 million out of which N3 million was paid and the job put at 21 per cent completed under direct labour.
“The government has also rehabilitated water projects in three communities as “Ezi na Erim Civic Centre, Nsirimo in Umuahia South valued at N7.5 million with the job reaching 15.5 per cent completion, Umudike Ohia River in Ikwuano LGA contract valued atN101 million yet to commence,” he said among others.
Ezenwa said by the time all the water scheme projects are put in place, patronising boreholes on commercial basis would be a thing of the past.
He also said the state government was collaborating with E WASH even as the USAID had wanted to take over Umuahia regional water scheme which services the whole of Umuahia and beyond.
But the organisation could not, “because of the capital intensive nature of the project, thus making it necessary for the state government, through the federal government, to approach Belfiux Bank in Belgium for a loan facility of 20 million Euros for the total turnaround maintenance of two major water schemes in the state”.
This, he said, had been incorporated in the 2018/2020 external borrowing plan of the federal government.
And in Gombe state, some communities in Gombe metropolis are yet to feel the effect of the directive issued by the governor, Muhammad Inuwa Yahya, that potable water be made available to residents.
Among areas worst hit by the acute shortage of the commodity include Nayinawa, Tabra, Wuro-Biriji, Bomala and Burunde.
One of our correspondents reports that some residents of the affected areas have now resorted to buying water from the water vendors for consumption and other domestic use.
In Barunde area, a community leader, Ahmadu Umar, said they suffered the scarcity as a result of the disconnection of their lines by staff of the state water board even with their genuine receipts and connection permits.
He said, they now rely on water vendors who sell water to them at exorbitant prices, with 10 jerry cans of water, initially ignored when sold at N80 or N100, now selling for between N200 and N300.
“As you see me now, we’ve been out here for a long time waiting for the water vendors who only sell to the highest bidders. It is very unfortunate that the executive governor is being misled or not advised properly,” he stated.
Reacting to the situation, chairman of the task force on water supply and the overseeing officer of the state water board, Engineer Abubakar Bappa, attributed the scarcity to the locking up of the supply from the reservoir.
He said: “Most of these consumers take the water to their orchard farms, some for their block industries, and some for their reservoirs for commercial purposes and water tankers who sell to the public.
“The most unfortunate thing is that these reservoirs have capacity for up to 50, 000 litres, if they are to fill it five times a day, that will be the time they are shutting the supply to the public from the reservoir. They don’t use up to 50 per cent of the water because it leaks away.
“When we identified these and many other problems, I told the people that in order for us to rectify the problem; we will have no option than to disconnect the supply. And two days after the discovery, I ordered the disconnection of all these lines.”
He said some of the communities who were angered by that decision and also his directive for a palliative measure to send some tankers to their communities vowed that they would set the tankers ablaze.
“I won’t send tankers to be set ablaze and that is why they are saying they had water during the previous administration but they don’t have it now.”
In Bauchi state, residents have pleaded with Governor Bala Mohammed for improved water supply.
Speaking with Blueprint, a resident of Unguwar Bakaro quarters, Abdulrazak Albani, said the tap in his area runs once weekly, while the people complement with well water.
He also said water vendors are also making quick business with a jerry can sold for N50.
“You cannot buy only one jerry can, you either purchase the whole cart they push which has 12 jerry cans or fetch water from wells. It is for those who can afford it, and therefore, the cart cost N600,” he said.
Other residents lamented that although they fetch well water as alternative to the tap water, many wells dry up during hot seasons thereby compounding the problems.
Also in an interview, a staff of society for water and sanitation, a non-governmental organisation in the state, Mr Sukumun Ezekiel, said Gubi Dam which is the main source of water for people of the state, is not catering for the needs of the increasing population.
He said, when established, the dam was projected to cater for the water needs of the state from that time to 2007, saying now that the deadline lapsed over 12 years ago, government needed to look for alternative sources to complement it.
He said the state is usually being supported by NGOs such as WaterAid, UNICEF and World Bank, fearing that if the interventions stop, there might be much challenges.
Ezekiel who said his organisation was advocating for adequate supply of potable water, hygiene and sanitation, advised that good water, toilets and hygiene and sanitation facilities should be provided in all schools and hospitals in order to prevent the plague of cholera that recently broke out in the state.