When Mallam Nasiru Ahmad el-Rufai, in the build up to the 2015 polls, made a promise to ensure the completion of the 150ml/day Zaria Water Project, l was one of those who doubted him. Then I felt it was one of those political gimmicks of politicians when they seek power. At the time, l was not only a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but also the spokesman of the Governor of the state, Muhktar Yero.
The Zaria Regional Water Project began in 2008 by former Vice President, Arc Mohammed Namadi Sambo then as the Governor of the state. But sadly, soon after he had ascended as the Vice President to former President Goodluck Jonathan following the demise of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, the multi billion naira project was abandoned with huge liabilities unpaid by successive regimes of late Patrick Yakowa and Mukhtar Yero. The duo were both senior government officials of the Namadi’s led administration as Deputy Governor and Commissioner of Finance respectively.
I recall that a few days before Yero handed over to el-Rufai in 2015, the outgoing Governor, flagged off the rehabilitation and expansion of distribution network in Zaria but that never moved the project even by an inch from where Namadi Sambo left the work in 2010.
The people of the ancient city of Zaria and environs have lived several decades without access to potable water. Not fewer than a generation had grown without an experience of water drop from the tap. Most residents rely on wells and motorised boreholes for water. To several others, water vendors were the only source of water and this came at exorbitant cost. As a native born in Zaria, l know the only source of water in our family house until recently was a well that was dug even before l was born.
The story is no longer the same today, as liabilities to the tune of N3.6 billion owed contractors since 2010 were settled which accelerated the pace of work by contractors and subsequently led to the continuation and completion of the phase 2 of the Zaria Regional Water Project that was graciously commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari about a week ago.
With this feat, safe water now flows in Zaria and Sabon Gari local government areas, while the next phase of the project is designed to provide potable water to Lere, Ikara, Kubau, Kudan, Makarfi and Giwa local government areas.
Another major part of the commissioned project is the construction of over 350 units of modern toilet facilities in various primary and secondary schools as well as market places. This is to ensure good sanitation and guard against open defecation in schools aimed at preventing the spread of infectious diseases among the people. According to statistics recently issued by WaterAid, a child dies every two minutes from water related disease.
Interestingly, the built toilets in schools and market places is aimed at preventing the spread of infectious diseases thereby improving the health status of the people, and ultimately reduced child and maternal rates among the people of Zaria and environs especially women and children.
No doubt, the completion of the Zaria Water Project gives potential opportunity to resolve multi-dimensional challenges of healthcare, education, poverty, sanitation and hygiene.
Access to safe water turns time spent to fetch water from long distances into time saved and inadvertently increases enrolment in schools for children, especially the girl child. It also translates to more time for their parents to explore economic opportunities to do work that will help break the circle of poverty.
It is however instructive to note, that beneficiaries of the project must reciprocate this gesture of government by guarding public infrastructure jealously and ensure prompt payment of water bills.
The subsidised social metering framework put in place to capture the water needs of our poor and vulnerable groups who cannot afford to pay water bills is indeed laudable. Truly, el-Rufai deserves accolades for this pro-poor policies and efficient service delivery in governance. Everyone deserves safe water regardless of their social class.
With this major milestone, el-Rufai has not only kept to the promise he made in 2015 but has proved cynics like me wrong. And it is therefore gratifying to note that el-Rufai has completed such an all important project since it began almost 11 years ago. What matters most to great leaders is not who begins a job but who ultimately benefits from it.
– Maiyaki wrote this piece from Kaduna
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