Nigeria’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector has reached an alarming state of decline with nearly one-third of the population lacking access to improved drinking water sources and approximately two-thirds living without adequate sanitation facilities. With one of the fastest-growing urban populations in the world, Nigeria’s municipal centres in particular are likely to face increasing difficulty in meeting the water and sanitation service needs of citizens.
In particular, water supply has been a challenge to successive governments in Niger State. This is so because some of the equipment at the state water works across the state are obsolete and others are in state of disrepair.
Water supply to most urban areas remains a challenge to successive governments in the state because investments and collaboration in the sector, hitherto, is low and continuity in projects which were initiated especially between 1999 and 2007, were abandoned by succeeding governments between 2007 and 2015. This created a huge vacuum.
Access to safe and clean water and sanitation facilities is however a basic right of all people, including those with disabilities the denial of which can have serious implications on their well-being. For example, inaccessible toilet and water facilities are major contributing factors to school dropout among children with disabilities, especially girls.
Access to clean water and basic sanitation is a right also guaranteed under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Also, meeting the basic needs increases self-reliance of individuals and provide opportunities for persons with disabilities to contribute to the family and community in the following ways: Having a clear understanding of the disabilities within the target population; inclusion of the specific needs of people with disabilities in access and use of WASH facilities and services; advocacy and support to policy development and capacity building of WASH professionals in recognising and responding to the specific needs of people with disabilities, and paying specific attention to disability in WASH in school programmes: Effective WASH in schools programmes seek to remove barriers by promoting inclusive design. Toilets and washstands, for example, need to be customised to meet the wide range of needs of children with disabilities.
Water supply to major cities of Minna, Bida, Kontagora, Suleja, New Bussa and a host of other semi urban centres have posed a lot of challenges to the present government.
For instance, in Minna, the state capital, new settlements have emerged without reticulations, while the water works in the capital city have not witnessed major turnaround maintenance in years with obsolete equipment being used until between 2016 and 2019 when the government made some investment on the water works.
The present government, however, has decided to take the gauntlet in order to change the narratives through granting semi autonomy to the water corporation through a new law.
The Niger State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, had on May 20, 2020, signed into law, a new water and sanitation bill, which ushered in a new collaboration that would transform the former Niger State Water Board to Niger State Water and Sewage Corporation with the hope for more efficiency in service delivery.
Enacted to improve urban water delivery and sanitation services, the new corporation is supported by USAID, through its Effective Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (E-WASH) activity and Connected Development (CODE), a leading civil society organisation, led by its executive director, Hamzat Lawal, through its “Improving Nigeria Urban WASH Service Delivery Project” facilitated by the organisation to support urban WASH reform in Niger State through multidimensional engagement and mobilisation.
The restructuring of the water management entity into a corporation will help provide services more effectively in urban areas of Niger State.
“This is a new dawn for our water supply in Niger State,” said Alhaji Abubakar Idris Sadiq, permanent secretary, Ministry of Water Resources and Dams Development. “Now, we can boldly say we have an autonomous Water and Sewage Corporation that will supply potable water to our people and help improve sanitation. USAID has played a pivotal role in making this law a reality.”
The secretary to Niger State government (SSG), Ahmed Matane, who performed the unveiling of the corporation, said that the intention of the government was to create a semi-autonomous entity that would provide quality water.
The SSG said that the new idea was to promote efficiency on service delivery to the people by providing quality water to all the people of the state.
Suleiman Yusuf, commissioner for Water and Dam Development, said that the people should expect more quality service with the new corporation.
“What Nigerlites should expect is far more than they had before, now the water will come as frequent but the public should be ready to pay for the services they enjoy.”
He said that there was collaboration with the USAID E -WASH to boost water supply and with the new board chaired by Inuwa Musa Kuta, the people should not expect less.
The chairman of the corporation, Inuwa Musa Kuta, said the corporation, as an entity, would hold themselves accountable before holding the staff accountable, stressing that in a few months, there would be significant difference from the way it used to be.
The managing director, Hassan Mohammed Chado, said that the corporation would do its best based on the necessary support received, assuring the people that they would be served better.
The renewed effort was further engineered based on the fact that Niger State was one of the six states to benefit from USAID’s support through the E-WASH programme.
The core vision of the programme was to make Niger State Water Corporation a professionally managed and commercialised entity.
Consequently, the state government has upgraded the power supply system and also upgraded the laboratory for testing the quality of water supplied to the people, customer care unit to get feedback.
Adegoke sent this piece from Abuja