Experts Blame Lack of Planning for Poor Access to Drinking Water

Experts Blame Lack of Planning for Poor Access to Drinking Water

·     French govt, Netherlands, UNICEF highlight efforts to ensure safe drinking water in Adamawa, Borno, Yobe States

James Sowole in Abeokuta, Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt, Segun Awofadeji in Gombe and Sunday Ehigiator

The Nigerian Institution of Water Engineers (NIWE), yesterday, blamed poor planning, lack of coordination and integration among government ministries and agencies, as one of the reasons, for very low access by Nigerians to safely managed drinking water services.

This is as the French government has through the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) highlighted its ongoing support for water supply initiatives in Nigeria.

The NIWE National Chairman, Dr. Adeyinka Sobowale, disclosed this while answering questions at a press conference, on 2024 World Water Day Celebration, with the theme, ‘Water for Peace’ held at Bolude Oyebolu Engineering Centre, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Quoting 2021 Water, Sanitation  Hygiene, National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) report that covers 36 states of the federation, NIWE, Sobowale said up to 87 per cent or 179 million of Nigerians do not have access to safely managed drinking water services.

According to him, residents resorted to consumption of water from unhygienic sources, with resultant effects of water borne diseases.

Flanked by the National Programme Leader, Mrs. Temitope Aboyeji and NIWE Ogun State branch Chairman, Abiola Oyerinde, the chairman, specifically, said due to lack of planning, the government ended creating another problem while trying to solve one.

He said many water water pipelines constructed with loans from the World Bank, were uprooted and some damaged during road construction.

Sobowae said the two projects of water and road would have been of high benefits to residents if planning had taken into consideration, water pipelines before road projects execution.

“Infrastructure is planned together not in isolation of one another, which brings about collaboration between line agencies of government and ministries. Now we have the Ministry of Works constructing roads which is highly welcomed by the people and very important for socio-economic development. 

“However, the roads should not take water away from people which is the case in most urban centres.

“Most of the water pipes that had already been laid by World Bank loan were removed  particularly in Abeokuta for instance 

“Now there was no contingency plan to restore them, that is where we have the gap. Any government that wants to put a smile on the people will take a loan to get those pipes back, I know that the time will come when we have a government that will take the bull by the horns. We are still going to spend more money to put it back. 

“However,  do we remove the road again or do we bring it down to houses to lay the pipes again?  Of course, there will be compensation, telecom wires are in the ground. You will realise that when the road was being constructed, we destroyed telecoms cables. We have to come back and restore. So it is back and forth, because of the lack of cooperation. What stops Ministry of Work, Ministry of Communication, Environment to sit down together and discuss together, we want to do this, we want to do that. How can we do it so that it will factor everyone into it, that is integration. Due to lack of collaboration and integration, local governments are doing their own, state government is doing their own, and the federal government is doing its own and at the end of the day, they disturbed one another,” Sobowale said.

The NIWE Chairman, therefore, called for adequate collaboration among government agencies and institutions, when planning provision of public infrastructure.

However, he commended the Ogun State Government for restoring water provision to some parts of the state especially in Abeokuta.

He admonished the government to work hard and expand water provision to other parts of the state.

Meanwhile, the French government through the AFD noted that water supply remains a major stake for Nigeria, whether in urban or rural areas.

“In 2019, more than 62 million Nigerians representing 30 per cent of the population, had no access to basic water supply. In the years to come, investment needs in infrastructure will remain important in the country. In 2018, only 16 States out of 36 had operational urban water public utilities. Six States did not have water utilities at all. In a context of global warming and with a growing population, water supply however remains a strategic sector for Nigeria’s sustainable development.

“For more than 15 years, AFD has been funding Water Boards and Corporations across 7 States. Impactful projects jointly financed with the World Bank were successfully completed in Cross-Rivers and Lagos benefiting over one million people. In Calabar and other Cross River towns for instance, water availability increased from six hours a day to 23 hours.

“In 2023, the first water project funded by AFD alone (33 million USD) came to an end. This support to the 3rd National Urban Water Sector reform program in Ogun State contributed to increase and improve the water supply of Abeokuta’s population.

“A total of USD 233 million has been invested by AFD in the sector. To date, 4 Water Boards and Corporations still benefit from AFD’s financial and technical support, namely: Kano, Enugu, Ondo, and Plateau. Through these interventions, over 1,800,000 people should either get better access or a new access to water.”

Under the Accelerating Sanitation and Water for All (ASWA II) project undertaken by the Nigeria Government with funding from the Government of the Netherland in partnership with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria Country office, a total of 997,000 people have been reached with safe drinking water.

The feat was achieved in six local government areas of Adamawa, Borno, Yobe states under ASWA II project where the people were provided with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities particularly, safe drinking water in the areas.

THISDAY reports that there are eight beneficiary countries of the project including Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire; Burkina Faso; Mali; Niger; Mozambique; Somalia; and Tanzania.

The disclosure was made yesterday during a Programme Endline Validation and Local Investment Plan Development Meeting held at the Conference Hall of Emerald Hotels, Gombe between 21st – 23rd of March, 2023. 

The programme was implemented for five years (2019 – 2023) with benefiting LGAs to include Jada and Guyuk in Adamawa state, Biu and Meigumeri in Borno State as well as Fune and Geidam Yobe state. 

The implementing partners of the project are the Government of Nigeria through the State Government and the Local Government Authorities. 

The purpose of the meeting was that as the programme comes to an end, the meeting was organised to review the achievements of the programme, validate the endline survey and impact assessment and develop strategies to sustain the gains of the programme through a local investment and sustainability plan.

People in the target LGAs were provided with safe drinking water just as 880,000 people stopped defecating in the open and are now using a safe and hygienic toilet facility. 

Furthermore, a total of 500 new water facilities were constructed and 1,000 broken-down facilities were rehabilitated just as 54 schools and 38 healthcare facilities were provided with basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. 

Three local government areas of Biu, Guyuk and Jada were declared open defecation free (ODF) by the National Task Group on Sanitation (NTGS) during the project implementation period. 

As a result of the above achievements, the programme contributed to improved health, nutrition and wellbeing of poor and vulnerable people in targeted rural LGAs and communities, especially among women and girls. 

The programme has also contributed to the positive reduction in “children on the move” and outbreak of cholera diseases in the period of implementation.

 Similarly, Association of Table Water Producers of Nigeria (ATWAP), Rivers State chapter has lamented the high cost of battles and sachet water by retailers to Nigerians.

This as the operatives of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has arrested a fake battled water syndicate who specialised in producing Eva water in Port Harcourt.

In his remarks to mark the 2024 World Water Day, State chairman of ATWAP, Mr. Okechukwu Okafor, decried that despite efforts by members of the association to step down the cost of sachet and bottled water following the economy challenge in the country, retailers have continue to make life hard for the masses by increasing the cost of the water. 

He noted that materials for preparing the water are expensive, but retailers who have not contributed in any way aside from selling to the public, suddenly increased the cost of the water to the dissatisfaction of the public.

According to Okafor, “It bothers us as producers why sachet water should be sold for N50 per one or even two. We do not see any reason. The truth is that if you look at material cost: for example, just two months ago, we were buying per kg of cellophane at N1,650, as I am talking to you now, we are buying it at N3800 per kg.

“When we go to the treatment materials, some we were buying N15000 per 5kg bad is over N100,000 per kg bag. The next thing you see is people bringing in fake products from China. The ones that are worthy to be used are very costly. 

“So looking at all these things, if we are to sell water at what it should be, nobody will buy a bag of water less than N400. But we are equally conscious of the fact that we can sell at a price where we can remain barely and smooth. When we have done that, we will see somebody out there trying to exploit it as it is selling N50 per sachet, three sachet for N100.” 

He warned that “people should stop allowing themselves to be exploited. Our vehicles are everywhere. It is disheartening to hear that people are selling sachet water very high just to make too much profit. It is not our fault and not from us.”

Speaking on this year’s theme of celebration: ‘Water for peace’, the ATWAP chairman said “The UN made the choice of the theme.The theme is all about making water available for everybody to avoid conflict. Nations, States, communities are at war just because of clean water. Anywhere there is clean water there is going to be conflict if everybody is not given access to the water”.

Meanwhile, One Chibunna James was arrested yesterday, by NAFDAC operatives where he was producing fake bottled, at PipeLine Road, Eneka, Port Harcourt.

NAFDAC Coordinator in the state, Mr. Emmanuel Onogwu, told journalists that the suspects were using a decrepit shop camouflaged as a pool house for the production. “They pick used Eva plastic bottles which they fill with contaminated water fetched from a paint bucket while using dirty rubber funnels covered with clothing material as filters.

“The already printed Eva labels were then affixed into the plastic bottles and corked with already fake fitted Eva cocks.”

He disclosed that one of the distributors of the adulterated water who identified himself as Chibunna James was arrested as he was loading the product for sale while the producer was still at large as at the time of this report.

Onogwu said about 30 packs of the fake products were eventually evacuated to NAFDAC office while the uncorked ones were emptied and the empty bottles evacuated.

The NAFDAC Coordinator, however enjoined the general public to always avail the agency of useful information that will lead to arrest of criminals and agents of death who specialise in adulteration and faking of regulated products.

On its part, a civil society group, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), said that in spite of access to water being a basic human right, about 113 million Nigerians still lack access to safe drinkable water.

The submission was made by the Executive Director, Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, to mark the World Water Day, 2024 themed: “Water for Peace”. 

Oluwafemi noted that the commercialisation of basic services like water and the privatisation agenda advanced by the World Bank, bears significant neo-colonial undertones and the risks of spurring higher water rates, sharp management practices in disregard to community needs, inequitable water distribution, and labour losses. 

The underlying water access issues, he said, is further worsened by the romanticization of water privatization in communities across Nigeria. 

“This year’s theme, “Water for Peace,” underscores the critical necessity of water for human survival and societal stability. In Nigeria alone, a staggering 113 million people suffer from painful hardship and crippling deprivation of water. 

“This saddening neglect is not due to a scarcity of resources but rather a consequence of the profit-driven logic adopted by state authorities in managing water supply and amenities. The relentless pursuit to commodify public resources at the expense of community welfare, has led to the deterioration of vital public utilities and social services. 

“While this plight is widespread across the country, the situation in Lagos State is particularly alarming for us. Despite the state’s reputation as a lodestar and mega-city, over 8 million of its residents or roughly 60 percent of its population grapple with limited access to potable water.”

He emphasised the need to reverse this trend of engineered water rationing through privatisation citing the worsening consequences of water shortages to underprivileged communities.

Oluwafemi also highlighted the need for political will on the part of the government to encourage practices which make for equitable distribution of water while playing a participatory role in making access to water available for all.

According to him, government must; “strengthen regulatory oversight and implement proper reparation mechanisms in local communities affected by water injustices like contamination, scarcity, and inaccessibility;

“Support and protect water sector workers by reversing any layoff plans,  enhancing water infrastructure conditions, and ensuring adequate wages along with comprehensive training programs to improve their skills and performance;

“Foster a participatory approach to water governance that prioritizes the voices and needs of local communities into decision-making processes related to water management reduced investments in public water infrastructure

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