Zaria Water Scarcity: Rethinking el-Rufai’s July 2017 Deadline

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Residents of the ancient city of Zaria and its environs have been shrouded in deep perennial water scarcity for nearly 20 years, as efforts to supply portable water to suffering residents has yielded no results. However, the pledge by Governor Nasir El-Rufai to end the multi billion naira project next year has rekindled the hope of a suffering residents, MIDAT JOSEPH reports.

Recently, Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-rufai vowed to bring to an end the persistent water scarcity in Zaria and its environs, by ensuring that his administration see to the completion of the Zaria water works project. He noted that the 210 million litres of Zaria water works project upon completion and commissioning will alleviate the sufferings of residents in eight council areas that border Zaria.

The governor, who stated this during his inspection visit to three Zaria water project sites, disclosed that his administration inherited billions of arrears from the past government. He said his administration has commenced monthly payment to contractors handling the project for speedy work. The governor added that, with the measures put in place, the project will be completed within the 2017 deadline as agreed by both parties.

Accordingly, he called on contractors to put in their best on the water project, stressing that his government will not ask any of them for any kick back. He said, “This administration will not and will never ask you to give anything back. The era of demanding money from contractors has gone. We are determined to serve our people and nothing less. If anybody asks you for money report the person to EFCC for prosecution.

“Our government will end the endless Zaria greater water works to serve eight local government areas. Our people have suffered enough over potable water. We are impressed with the level of work and we will continue to monitor the work even after office work, we can come here and supervise the work.

“We inherited billions of arrears on Zaria water project and we are paying contractors on monthly basis to clear the arrears. With what is going on now, the project will be completed within the deadline. The foreign exchange affected our contractors but now more materials are on the way” El-rufai said.

Zaria, an ancient city with many higher institutions have to grapple with looking for water on daily basis for nearly 20 years. Occasionally, they fetch water from polluted rivers. Some residents, including students go through hell before they get water. Majority of the population have to rely on commercial water vendors, popularly called “Mai Ruwa”, to buy at exorbitant rates.

Some residing close to the motorized solar borehole are given opportunity to fetch first before residents of other areas. A resident in Samaru, Bala Ahmadu said,  “We ask Allah to bring an end to this water scarcity problem. We have been in this problem for decades and all the previous administrations promised to bring the problem to an end in Zaria. All those promises ended in political dustbin”.

Water scarcity in Zaria, particularly in areas like Unguwan Juma, Kwarbai, Kaura, Babban Dodo, Unguwan Alkali, Tudun Jukun, Samaru, Gwagwaji, Sabon-Gari among others has been like a cancer, especially during the dry-season.

In a dry season, the wells usually dry off. Therefore, the only source of water for the people is the vendors. The vendors also are often not available. Even when available, most residents cannot afford the cost. An average family would require about N1000 worth of water daily. How many people can afford that? This is why some residents spend the whole day queuing for water, if available, at the motorised solar boreholes.

“Some of us have to travel all the way to Tudun Wada (a journey of about 20 kilometres from inside the ancient walls of Zaria) in search of water. It is high time that our government come to our aid by finding a lasting solution to this water scarcity,” said Abubakar.

Residents said the scarcity had defied all remedies. To remedy this cancerous disease, former governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, after assuming office in his first tenure as the governor of Kaduna State in 1999 initiated the expansion and upgrading of the then existing fifty million litres per day Zaria Water Works Plant to start producing up to 150 million litres per day. Tagged “Zaria Water Project”; the project attracted billions of naira borrowed from foreign financial institutions without producing a single drop of water.

The first phase of this contract was awarded but the project was later abandoned as a result of dearth of funds to execute it.

After Governor Namadi Sambo took over the reins of power in 2007, this same project yet again took the front burner under his administration and it was reviewed to cost in the excesses of N15.7 billion. The earmarked funds were stipulated to be sufficient enough in getting the work done by the year 2011. The contract once again stalled in 2010 after Sambo became the country’s vice President.

Late Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa made frantic efforts to continue where Sambo stopped, but could not complete it as a result of his death. Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero promised to complete the contract but never did inspite all the loans the State government collected from foreign banks for the projects at that time.

A visit to Zaria by LEADERSHIP Weekend to follow up on the governor’s vow showed that all contractors who had hitherto abandoned the project are now back to site, working day and night to meet the December dateline.

Speaking to our Correspondent, the state Commissioner for Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Aliyu Lere, said with work now 90% completion, the 2017 July deadline is sacrosanct. He noted that when completed, the money spent on the Zaria and environs water project would be put at an estimated sum of N69 billion.

“We are expecting the whole project to be completed by July 2017. That is the aspect of the construction of the transmission lines and the distribution, but the construction of the water treatment plant will be completed in December 2016 and by that time there, will be serious improvement in the supply of water even before 2017.

“By the time we are completing the project in 2017 we would have spent an estimated sum of N69billion. That includes the construction of the water treatment plant constructed by the state government and the Dam constructed by the federal government and others already outlined.

“The water requirements currently for Zaria and its environs are about 100million litters a day and what we have on ground is 60million liters now. Even though it is not operating at optimal capacity because of the dilapidated nature of the old water works and the challenges of power, by the time this new ones come on board we will have a total capacity of 210 million liters a day, which will have the potential of not only supplying to Zaria and Sabon Gari with potable water but additional communities within the 6 local government areas that surround Zaria and Sabon Gari”, he noted.

The commissioner added: “There are other areas that have to do with expansion and the rehabilitation of the old pipes that have already been laid tens of years ago. There is also the construction of the booster stations that will take water to Zaria and other envisaged local government areas that are to benefit from the project.

“There is also the water treatment plant that hopefully would be completed by the end of this year. There are so many other projects you can see going on in Zaria, particularly the construction of transmission lines going round Zaria for about 500 KM. You can see that the whole of Zaria is turning into a construction site and we thank God”, Lere said.

On his part, Dr.Henry Kiemeg, Project Manager, Gamji Nigeria Limited, handling part of the Zaria water project, complained about some residents who illegally  built on right of way, saying the ongoing laying of water pipelines in some areas was a challenge.

Kiemeg who commended the present administration for its commitment to end water problem in Zaria and its environs said, “The way the Kaduna State government under Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has supported us, it is on record that unlike what obtains before now, in the past government will be pushing you left, right and center. Now, we are rather getting support.”

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