Appraising Water Resources Development 

Folalumi Alaran chronicles the efforts put in place by the Minister of Water Resources, Prof. Joseph Utsev towards enhancing access to sustainable water and improved sanitation

Water, the very essence of life. It sustains every living organism, drives economic activity, and underpins national development. Yet, access to clean and reliable water remains a challenge for many Nigerians. Recognizing this criticality, the administration of His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has placed water resources development of both surface and ground water resources for socio-economic development at the forefront of its agenda. Leading this crucial charge is the Minister of Water Resources, Prof. Joseph Terlumun Utsev.

With a steadfast and focused determination to support the President’s agenda in addressing the water needs of Nigerians and enhancing food production through irrigated agriculture, Professor Utsev assembled a formidable team and fostered collaborative efforts with allied agencies to set the mandate in motion. 

This mandate is twofold: ensuring food security through irrigated agriculture and making water accessible to all citizens. To initiate this endeavor, Professor Utsev embarked on a comprehensive nationwide tour of the twelve River Basins, assessing their operational capacity and commitment to achieving food security and providing safe water for citizens. This tour also afforded the Minister the opportunity to inspect ongoing water projects, engage with contractors, and emphasize the importance of quality work and timely completion.

His tenure has been distinguished by an unwavering commitment to transforming the Ministry of Water Resources, driving efficiency, enhancing service delivery, building capacity, and relentlessly pursuing water security for all Nigerians. During his tenure, He has implemented a series of comprehensive reforms aimed at repositioning the ministry for optimal efficiency and effective service delivery.

 These reforms, which are both far-reaching and innovative, have been designed to address the long-standing challenges that have hindered the water sector. They encompass policy reforms, institutional restructuring, and the introduction of cutting-edge technologies, all of which have significantly enhanced the management and utilization of the country’s water resources.

He frequently embarks on nationwide tours, visiting project sites, interacting with stakeholders, and ensuring projects are delivered on time and within budget.  This hands-on approach ensures transparency, accountability, and fosters a culture of excellence within the Ministry. 

While on his visit to Kano and Jigawa States, Professor Utsev  commissioned many water projects executed by Hadejia Jam’are River Basin Development Authority aimed at ending water scarcity in the Birnin-Kudu communities of Jigawa State.

He also commissioned the two hundred thousand litres corrugated surface steel water tank serviced borehole powered by hybrid solar inverter to supply water to seven hundred households in  Dutsen Dodo Birnin-Kudu, Jigawa State and the one hundred and thirty five kilowatts capacity solar panels installed  at Birnin-Kudu water works    as replacement for the diesel powered generators for both the intake and booster pumps that ensure sustainable operations of the treatment plant and distribution of safe drinking water.

At the headquarters of the Hadejia Jam’are River Basin Development Authority, Kano, the Minister also commissioned a water bottling factory meant to provide potable water on commercial basis for citizens of Kano in line with the partial commercialisation arrangement of the Federal Government.

Aside from providing clean water to citizens of Kano at an affordable rate, the water factory has provided  jobs for youths with a projected annual turnover of over three hundred million naira. Professor was in Kogi, Benue and Niger States to commission dam projects in Kabba Bunnu, Lessel in Ushongo and Rafin Yashin Multipurpose dam in Minna,  aimed at providing water for the citizens and scaling up irrigation farming.

To ensure that these water schemes being provided to communities across the country are judiciously utilised and managed, Professor Utsev, along with his team in the ministry, the African Development Bank and other critical stakeholders in the water and sanitation sector across the thirty six states and FCT met recently,  and developed  a Framework for WASHCOM formation and management in Nigeria.

The framework is aimed at  involving community members in the management of WASH facilities in their areas to address frequent breakdown and abandonment of water and sanitation facilities in communities for attainment of SDGs Six Point One and Two .

The Ministry, under Professor Utsev’s leadership, was able to translated its reforms into tangible results for Nigerians through adopting some key initiatives which include:

Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme

Recognizing the disproportionate burden of water scarcity on rural communities, the Ministry has aggressively expanded the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme. This program drills boreholes, constructs water treatment plants, and promotes hygiene practices in rural areas. 

National Irrigation Development Programme

Agriculture is the backbone of the Nigerian economy. The National Irrigation Development Programme is revitalizing irrigation infrastructure, enabling farmers to cultivate crops throughout the year, irrespective of seasonal rainfall patterns. This program holds immense potential for boosting agricultural productivity and ensuring food security. 

Urban Water Renewal Projects

Rapid urbanization has placed a strain on water resources in cities. The Ministry is addressing this by initiating urban water renewal projects.  These projects encompass infrastructure upgrades to reduce water loss through leakage, improve distribution networks, and expand water treatment capacity. 

Data-Driven Decision Making

 Effective water resource management requires accurate data. The Ministry has invested in robust data collection and analysis systems. This data is used to inform strategic water resource planning and prioritize interventions.  

Public-Private Partnerships

Recognizing the limitations of solely relying on government funding, the Ministry has actively fostered Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). PPPs leverage private sector expertise and financing to accelerate water infrastructure development. 

Prof Ustev understood that Water resources management is a complex endeavor, and to ensure  a long-term sustainability, the Ministry prioritizes capacity building. Key initiatives include:

Training and Development Programs

The Ministry invests in training programs for water sector professionals. These programs equip engineers, hydrologists, and water resource managers with the technical expertise necessary to manage water resources effectively. 

Community Engagement

Sustainable water management requires active community participation. The Ministry actively engages communities in water resource management initiatives. This fosters a sense of ownership and accountability, ensuring the long-term viability of water projects. 

Research and Development

Innovation is key to addressing future water challenges. The Ministry fosters research and development initiatives aimed at exploring alternative water sources, developing efficient water treatment technologies, and promoting water conservation practices.

Professor Joseph Terlumun Utsev is renowned for his dedication and unrelenting efforts in promoting the development of water resources, tirelessly striving to underscore the President’s unwavering commitment to this critical area. His ceaseless endeavors involve traversing the nation to inspect water projects, engaging with stakeholders, and fervently advocating for the conservation of this precious resource, and these actions has helped him sustain the progress in the water ministry. Notably, the Tinubu administration, through the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, is currently implementing a comprehensive array of water schemes across all thirty-six states in the Federation, poised to alleviate water scarcity in numerous communities upon completion.

The strategic development of water resources has had a profound impact on the nation’s growth and development, driving various sectors of the economy and significantly enhancing the quality of life for citizens. In this context, Professor Utsev and his ministry have played a vital role, not only enhancing the management and utilization of the country’s water resources but also championing sustainable development. Through their concerted efforts, they have ensured the efficient and responsible utilization of water resources, thereby safeguarding them for future generations. This has contributed significantly to the nation’s economic growth, as well as its social and environmental development, leaving an enduring legacy.

Professor Joseph Terlumun Utsev has achieved remarkable milestones in transforming the ministry, driving efficiency, enhancing service delivery, and fostering capacity building. His comprehensive reforms and tireless daily efforts have not only optimized the management of the nation’s water resources but also reinforced the President’s unwavering commitment to this critical area. Consequently, the country is now optimally positioned to harness the full potential of its water resources, driving growth and development.

While acknowledging the invaluable support of development partners over the years, which has contributed significantly to enhancing access to sustainable water and improved sanitation, a scaling up of this support is earnestly solicited. This collective effort will enable Nigeria to achieve the lofty goal of one hundred percent access to sustainable water and improved sanitation by the year 2030, a testament to the nation’s unwavering dedication to the well-being of its citizens and sustainable development.

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