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Unsafe Water As Refuge From Water Scarcity

With about 40 per cent of households and 69 million people with no access to clean water sources, and 19 million people walk long distances to collect unsafe water from lakes, streams and rivers daily, Nigeria is said to be sitting precariously on the verge of an epidemic resulting from water borne diseases. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE (Abuja), ANKELI EMMANUEL (Sokoto), MUH’D ZANGINA KURA, (Dutse), ANDY ASEMOTA (Katsina), ABDULGAFAR OLADIMEJI (Kano), SAM EGWU (Lokoja) and Chuwang Dungs (Gombe) report

Madam Felecia Agi, 55, and her three children must trek a distance of about 500 meters to scoop water for consumption daily. Though this could be described as a short distance, the danger is not the source of water for her family but the danger of having to risk her life and that of her children crossing the busy Abuja-Lokoja expressway that never sleep of traffic.

The mother of three resides in a shanty in Giri, a rural settlement on the outskirt of Abuja, in Gwagwalada area council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Like Agi, many other residents of the settlement must undertake that dangerous crossing daily to scoop water from the pipes of FCT Water Board supplying water to nearby Gwagwalada town.

Giri, about 42 km from Abuja city, is a rural settlement grappling with access to clean water and other challenges. Although, water merchants are reaping from the situation, those in the category of Madam Agi who cannot afford to buy, bear the consequences.

About 70 million people, out of the total population of about 180 million are said to lack access to safe drinking water, and over 110 million lack access to improved sanitation in 2013.

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that access to safe water and sanitation is a major challenge in Nigeria. Water and sanitation coverage rates in the country are amongst the lowest in the world.

Nigeria is off-track with respect to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets for water (75%) and sanitation (65%) with major gaps in the rural areas. Among countries with similar population and similar GDP per capita, Nigeria fares poorly on the sanitation front.

Access to safe drinking water remains a challenge to majority of Nigerians, especially those living in the rural areas. The recent Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), conducted by the federal government in 2016/17, indicates that about 40 per cent of households and about 69 million people, do not have access to clean water sources.

The survey further indicated that in the rural areas, 19 million people walk long distances to collect unsafe water from lakes, streams and rivers.

According to UNICEF, children without access to safe water are more likely to die in infancy and throughout childhood from waterborne diseases. Diarrhea remains the leading cause of death among children under five years of age in Nigeria.

Waterborne diseases also contribute to stunting. A stunted child is shorter than she or he could have been and will never be able to reach her or his full cognitive potential.

It further posited that lack of safe water and sanitation also makes children vulnerable to other threats beyond health. Many children in rural areas spend hours daily collecting water, missing out on the opportunity to go to school.

“Improving water and sanitation services, as well as basic hygiene practices in Nigeria, calls for a strong commitment from all partners – the government, the civil society, the private sector and communities,” said Zaid Jurji, chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, UNICEF Nigeria.

“For Nigeria to achieve the global goal of providing access to safe water for every citizen by 2030, it needs to make water, together with sanitation and hygiene, a national priority. This goal is closely linked with three key results for the country – good health, environment sustainability and economic prosperity.”

Although, the plight of rural dwellers are often brought to the front burner every March 22 as part of the activities to commemorate the International World Water Day, their difficulties are forgotten soon after the event.

Even though ‘water is life’ and sufficient water supply is central to life and civilisation, it is still a huge challenge for most of the states and local governments across the federation. Water is part of the five basic human needs and plays a key role in the other four. Nigeria is abundantly blessed with water resources, yet millions lack it for their survival.

The responsibility of water supply in Nigeria is shared between three tiers of government – federal, state and local. While the federal government is in charge of water resources management and state governments have the primary responsibility for urban water supply through state water agencies; local governments together with communities are responsible for rural water supply.

In 2003, a Presidential Water Initiative: Water for People, Water for Life, was launched by former President Olusegun Obasanjo with an ambitious target to increase water access (including a 100 per cent target in state capitals), 75 per cent access in other urban areas, and 66 per cent access in rural areas.

However, little has been done to implement the initiative and targets have not been met. The National Water and Sanitation Policy was also launched in 2004 with emphasis on water management and conservation.

Nigeria was also not able to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for water and sanitation. In June 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a Water Resources Roadmap (2016 – 2030) with the goal of reaching 100 per cent water supply to Nigerian citizens by 2030.

The roadmap encompasses several priority areas including: the establishment of a policy and regulatory framework for the sector; development and implementation of a National Water Supply and Sanitation Programme to attain the Sustainable Development Goals 6; and identifying alternative sources for funding the delivery of water supply and sanitation through improved collaboration with development partners, states and local government authorities, communities and the private sector.

As at 2018, residents of Sokoto metropolis, the capital of Sokoto state and its environs still complain of the absence of potable water in the city, saying they rely on bore holes and sachet water for domestic use.

The residents decry what they describe as low or near absence of water supply by the state Water Board.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend on their plight, those from within Sokoto South, Sokoto North, parts of Denge-Shuni, Kware and Wamakko as well as Bodinga local government areas which form the metropolis said they rely more on water vendors for their domestic water need.

Though, efforts to get response from staff of the Ministry for Water Resources at the time of filing this report was not successful, a source in the ministry said that, it is their greatest satisfaction to supply 24 hours water to all the nooks and crannies of the state, but unfortunately, he said that is not possible at the moment.

While stressing that, the state government had continue to drill functional hand pumps across the state, he said the ministry is determined to overcome the challenges of water supply soon.

Preliminary investigation showed that very few local governments are actually linked up with pipe borne water while most of the local governments have to rely on alternative sources such as bore holes and hand dug wells for their water need.

Across the metropolis, however, it is a daily sight as water vendors push their wheel barrows loaded with water to supply residents all the time.

It is also a common sight across the state to see overhead water tanks constructed by politicians with the aim of supplying potable water to communities, however, nearly 90 per cent of those projects are not functional because they were either poorly done or are not properly maintained after construction.

Decrying the ugly scenario of such unproductive projects across the state, a resident, Garba Dan Illela said, most politicians derive pleasure in playing on the people’s intelligence because they knew that such projects were not meant to stand the test of time.

The Jigawa State government says it has so far provided potable and clean drinking water to over 87 per cent of its population in collaboration with other partners.

The director, Administration and Finance of the state Ministry of Water Resources, Alhaji Lawan Mohammed Bello, revealed this in an interview with LEADERSHIP Weekend in his office.

He noted that based on their target they are hoping to reach 90 per cent before the end of 2018 fiscal year.

Lawan added that, from the inception of the present administration in the state, over N6 billion has been spent in the rehabilitation, expansion construction of new water scheme as well as supply of fuels across the 27 local government areas of the state.

While shading more light, the managing director, Small Town and Urban Water Supply Agency of the state, Ali A. Umar said, presently the state has over 700 small town water scheme and over 136 urban water scheme which are all functional.

The managing director, Rural Water Supply Agency of the state, Labaran Adamu, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that his agency has over 23,000 functional hands pumps across the state.

He added that, the provision of the hands pumps and the policy of monthly purchase and distribution spare parts for their repair to each local government has contributed in making them functional to their full capacity.

However, according to reports from DFID supported programme under UNICEF, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) revealed that, over 80 per cent of Jigawa people have access to potable and clean drinking water.

The chief officer Sanitation and Hygiene, Bauchi office, UNICEF Nigeria, Uba Lawan revealed this while presenting a paper at a two day-workshop organised by UNICEF on ethical reporting/media dialogue on child survival, development and protection issues.

For the, its partnership with UNICEF is giving hope to rural dwellers in the state. The state government said the partnership with UNICEF is to ensure 100 per cent coverage of rural communities in term of water and sanitation with 50:50 ratio funding.

The Executive Secretary of the state Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RUWASSA), Aminu Dayyabu Safana, said: “From the inception of the present administration in 2015, the state in collaboration with UNICEF has awarded contracts for the drilling of about 3,126 hand pump bore holes and between 70 to 75 per cent of the project had been completed.

“People in rural communities are benefitting from this landmark achievements that has been recorded in collaboration with UNICEF under the leadership of governor Aminu Bello Masari.”

He however said he does not have an idea of the percentage of the rural communities have access to clean water supply. According to him, “For now, we don’t have any scientific evidence of the percentage of access to water supply in rural areas because giving percentage has ties with study conducted. I think the last study conducted was in 2015 under Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). At that time, I think we were around 55 per cent access to safe water in rural communities of Katsina State. Since then, a lot of things have happened in terms of improved access to water and sanitation in the rural communities.”

The challenge of acute shortage of quality water supply in Kano state is as old as when the state was created.

Overtime various governments in the state were conscious of this singular challenge and had rolled out various policies and intervention schemes to address the problem.

The local government areas that constitute Kano metropolis may rightly be said to be afar from the acute shortage of water supply, no thanks to government owned water supply sources, such as boreholes, public taps, private ownership of water supply sources such as boreholes in homes, and water vendors.

The story in over 30 local government areas that constitute the rural parts of the state are battling with the problem of access to quality water supply. They and their herds rely on streams, wells, rainfall and faulty boreholes for water supply. The rural dwellers and their animals are under constant threats of water borne diseases.

In 2016, Kano State governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje could not conceal his worries over the need to squarely confront the menace of poor water supply in the state.

Ganduje said, “In 2016, we had allocated the sum of N3.66 billion for the financing of ongoing water supply projects and programmes. I am happy to report that the challenges bedeviling the water sector have now been reduced drastically. Part of the feat attained in this regard is the completion of pipeline extension from Kundila roundabout through Maiduguri road to NNPC mega station. As a result of this development, the inhabitants of Hotoro area and nearby places have started enjoying water supply.

“However, the project of pipe laying at the eastern bye-pass is ongoing. We have also repaired several damaged pipelines that slow the flow of water to different parts of the state, including but not limited to the repairs of the pipelines from Garun Malam Water Works to Garun Malam Town.

“Similarly, the incessant power supply challenge at Challawa Water works has also been resolved through payment of the sum of N196 million to Kano Electricity Distribution Company. The Tsanyawa Water Works has also been completed. In the same vein, the procurement of water treatment chemicals for all the major water works and the regional water schemes have been sustained.”

LEADERSHIP Weekend discovered that in 2017 the state rural water supply agency constructed over 462 boreholes across all the 44 local government areas in the state.

The agency is engaged in the implementation of a second phase water intervention programme which encompasses the construction of about 789 boreholes.

The state government is also enjoying the partnership of donor agencies and other international partners in the pursuit of making water available especially in the rural areas.

The government of France, courtesy of its overseas development agency, Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), promised to commit $75 million to the provision of water supply in Kano State.

The state governor however at a meeting at the AFD headquarters in Abuja, complained that the execution of the water intervention project by the French government was sluggish.

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has shown a lot of commitment to the provision of clean water to rural dwellers in the state, but more still needs to be done.

Until the intervention of the Bello led administration in opening up water supply to communities, water supply has been a major concern of the rural areas in Kogi State.

In Olamaboro local government area of the state, crossing from Ikem, in the West axis of the local government, the stream called Imaria is the only source of water to the people.

Another area seriously affected is Awo community in Ankpa local government, the only source of water supply to the entire community of 15 villages is exact spot where coal is mined. This leaves the people with polluted water to drink.

In Ankpa and Olamaboro local government areas, the major sources of water supply is by tanker and deep and wide pits where rain water is stored for use during dry season. The purity of this water is questionable, but the people have no choice.

The resorted to storing water to avoid the incidence of having to trek travel several kilometers in search of drinking water as is the case with some communities like Udaba, Etutekpe and Igah Ugbamaka. These are communities who only have relief from water scarcity during rainy season.

A medical officer in one of the communities, Dr Drew Shan told our reporter that the rain water would have been the best, but with the long stay it would attract other things that could cause health hazard.

Despite huge spending by the Gombe State government, Gombe town, the state capital and other local government areas across the state are still facing acute shortage of potable water due to lack of funds to maintain the city’s main source of water, the multibillion Dadin-Kowa dam.

The situation is worse in rural communities as residents of such communities are finding it hard to get potable water as they either depend on streams or buy borehole water from vendors.

In Gombe, the situation appears a bit better, as pipe borne water run in some areas within the state capital but residents complain of irregular water supply for domestic use. It is estimated that about 80 per cent of residents still have no access to pipe borne water.

Mr David Hassan, who resides around Tunfure axis of the capital, said that he had never seen tap water in the area.

“Talking about pipe borne water is strange to us in my area; we depend solely on water vendors for our water supply needs,” Hassan said.

He explained that 1500 liter of water costs between N1, 200 and N1, 500 in the area.

Queena Paul from Federal Low Cost area corroborated Hassan’s position. She said that taps only run in few locations around the state capital, maintaining that majority of the population rely on water tank vendors and they are not even sure of the source and the hygienic condition of the water which they have no choice but to patronise.

“At times you buy this water you perceive a very strange and disgusting odour,” she said.





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