Although there have been conflicting statistics about the percentage of Nigerians that have access to potable water, the bottom line, however, is that the situation does not portray the country as being committed to the provision of this basic necessity of life. Yet, Nigeria joins the rest of the world yearly in celebrating the World Water Day which is set aside by the United Nations to draw the global attention to the need to make the commodity available and safe for humanity’s consumption.
Recent statistics released by the Ministry of Water Resources showed that only 7% of the country’s population had access to potable water. Set against the country’s population which is about 180m, less than 17m now have access to clean and safe water.
The figure represents a steep decline from the 30% that had access to running water in 1992, a proof that rather than making progress on providing the essential human requirement, the country is regressing. Sadly, Nigeria is one of the nations with declining rates for water supply.
Prof. Osinbajo was speaking in Abuja at the launch of the water and irrigation policies developed by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources as well as the unveiling of an initiative of the ministry tagged “Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASSH)”.
He lamented that over 150,000 children under the age of five die annually from diarrhoea-related diseases traceable to unsafe drinking water, noting that the situation was even more frightening in the rural areas where polluted ponds and streams remain the only sources of water for drinking and other household chores. The vice president, however, vowed that the situation must change nationwide.
The Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu, who also spoke at the occasion said the PEWASSH, projected into the next 13 years, was designed to be a national collaborative instrument among all stakeholders and was divided into three phases.
In Nigeria, accessing safe water has become a mirage despite the establishment of ministries of water resources both at the federal and state levels. The rural communities which harbour more than 75 per cent of the populace do not have access to safe water. They largely depend on streams, ponds, rivers and other unhygienic sources. Consumption of water from untreated sources comes with grave health consequences like diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases. The story is also pathetic in the urban centres. Public water works are either inefficient or there is no electricity to power them. The populace is thus left at the mercy of the ubiquitous water vendors whose supply chain is invariably unhygienic.
To fill the vacuum, the wealthy ones in our midst resort to self-help by drilling boreholes. It is also public knowledge that some businessmen have cashed in on the situation by drilling boreholes for commercial purposes. Promises of boreholes have also become instruments of campaign by politicians, resulting in the arbitrary perforation of the earth across various communities in the sub-urban and rural areas.
According to experts, proliferation of boreholes comes with its own danger. Not too long ago, a renowned hydrologist, Mr. Olalekan Omojowa, cautioned the federal, state and local governments on the possible occurrence of earthquakes in most parts of the country as a result of indiscriminate drilling of boreholes. Mr. Omojowa explained that “the earth crust is what the people are puncturing when they drill boreholes in their various homes”, adding that when the earth is punctured more than necessary, all that is needed for an earthquake to happen is just a shake from any source.
The cliché, “water for life”, captures the importance of this basic social amenity to the survival of mankind and its environment. Governments at all levels should harness the abundant water resources in the country to provide the essential commodity in the urban and semi-urban centres where human and physical activities are putting enormous pressure on the earth. While provision of potable water through drilling of boreholes may be inevitable in the rural communities and arid settlements, we urge the government to live up to its responsibility by ensuring that this basic amenity is readily available to its citizens. This could be achieved through the construction of mini dams across the country where possible.