Editor's note: Water is undoubtedly one of the essential needs for the survival of human beings world over.
In this investigation, a Legit.ng regional reporter in Akure, Oluwadamilare Moriyeke, writes about the efforts of successive governments in Ondo state to provide potable water for people, the challenges and the way out.
Despite the tremendous efforts made by government at all levels to provide potable water for Nigerians, more than 60 million people still don't have access to water, making the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) elusive.
By 2030, Wateraid and other global organisations, who are concerned about hygiene and water as veritable sources of life, had projected that 1.9 billion people around the world should have access to clean water and sanitation.
Among other state governments in the country, Ondo state government under the leadership of late Dr. Olusegun Agagu, had awarded the reticulation of water from Owena Dam to the central senatorial district of the state.
The late former governor awarded the contract in 2008 for the sum of N13 billion and N5 billion was paid to the contractor to provide water for Ondo east, Ondo west, Idanre, Ifedore, Akure north and Akure south councils.
In July 2015, seven years after the Owena Dam reticulation, the immediate past governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, flagged off N4 billion water project at Aboto, a riverine community in Ilaje local government area.
The water project was handled by Ondo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (OSOPADEC) to ameliorate the perennial problems of hygienic potable water militating against the riverine communities of the state.
According to Mimiko, the water scheme would provide access to over 1000 beneficiary communities that are situated in the riverine area of the state, providing portable water for wholesome consumption.
For a very long time, the Ilaje people, who are major inhabitants of the area do not have access to potable water.
Investigation, however, revealed that it was available in the past till the oil spillage engendered by oil discovery in the area, deprive the people access to drinkable and hygienic water supply.
As defined in the intervention by the state government, the first phase was designed to extend from Aboto-Igbokoda and Aboto-Ugbonla axis while the second phase would cover the entire Ilaje, Apoi and Arogbo-speaking communities of the riverine area.
To actualise the project, two construction firms were contracted to undertake the works. One of the firms was saddled with the responsibility of constructing two million gallons per day capacity water treatment facility within nine to 12 months for N2.378 billion.
While the second firm was to construct the water pipeline for the reticulation to the various communities at N1.790 billion; yet the people in the area have no access to potable water four years after.
Meanwhile, the foundation for Partnership In the Niger Delta (PIND) raised an alarm that the plan to provide clean water for 1.9 billion people globally is under threat, lamenting that 884 million people are already denied access to it.
In one of its several campaigns to mark the 2019 world water day celebration, PIND's knowledge and communications manager, Chinwe Nnoham-Onyejekwe, disclosed that 67 per cent of Nigerian population does not have basic sanitation.
The world water day's theme for this year, as set by UN-Water, is "Leaving no one behind," using it as catalyst to actualize the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) campaign across the world.
The PIND's executive director, Dara Akala, decried the severity of water, sanitation and hygiene needs in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, revealing that it cuts across communities and institutions in urban, peri-urban and rural settings.
Akala noted that the region is with largely dysfunctional and non-existent WASH facilities, and polluted water sources, adding that it contributes very highly to WASH related disease burden with consequent health, economic and education impacts.
He said: “Unequal access to water fuelled by a growing demand on water resources and the impact of climate and population changes, traps people in poverty and limits potential.
“The push for economic development must not imperil current and future generations’ access to water. Unless everyone has access to clean water, there can be no sustainable economic development.”
According to him, 26 percent of Nigerian population practise open defecation, 33 per cent are without clean water, 87 per cent do not have basic hygiene facilities.
"Sub-Saharan Africa ranks lowest in the world for access to improved drinking water and sanitation. This is linked to the region’s under-five mortality rate which is one of the highest in the world.
"Around 60,000 children under the age of five in Nigeria die from diseases caused by the nation’s poor levels of access to water, sanitation and hygiene'', he said.
The executive director added that, "Some 844 million people around the world are denied access to clean water simply because of who they are, how much money they have, or where they live.
"In Nigeria, nearly 60 million people do not have clean water close to home. Lacking access to this basic need means people are deprived of an equal chance to be healthy, educated, improve livelihoods and be financially secure.
"Women, girls, people living with disabilities and other vulnerable groups are especially at a higher risk of bearing the brunt of a lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene and this World Water Day is a reminder that everyone must be carried along and included."
Whereas in its 2019 state of the world's water report, "Beneath the surface," WaterAid warned that the human right to water must take priority ahead of other competing demands.
It emphasised further that failure to do so would be leaving unserved populations behind in the race to get clean water to everyone, everywhere by 2030.
"Unsustainable production of products for export, combined with consumers’ increasing desire for water-intensive products, may leave poor communities struggling to access clean water.
"While exports of food and goods are important sources of income, production must be made sustainable, and industrial and agricultural use of water should not be prioritised over people’s ability to get water for their basic needs."
The country director, WaterAid Nigeria, Dr ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye, identified women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and the elderly as the marginalized group.
According to her, they are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination in their quest to access and manage the clean water they need to live daily.
“Even more sad is that most of the people affected live in hard-to-reach communities – riverine, uphill and interior areas that account for a significant percentage of the country’s total population.
“Poor access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene simply means lost education, lost opportunities and hundreds of lost lives each year. We cannot let this happen as a country.
"We must act now and ensure that we protect our precious water supplies for the future, and that we reach everyone with these basic needs, leaving no one behind. This World Water Day, we are more determined than ever to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone everywhere, by 2030'', she said.
To keep advocating and contributing to delivering fair, inclusive and effective access to water across Nigeria, she disclosed that WaterAid and PIND hosted stakeholders from the government and private sector as well as development partners and civil society organisations to a round-table on sustainable access to and management of inclusive safe water sources.
They expressed optimism that lessons learnt as well as shared experiences and best practices drawn from WASH interventions across key stakeholders will form concrete recommendations into ongoing consultations around the recently launched National WASH Action Plan.
According to them, it is a strategy document and guide that came out of the Federal Government’s formal declaration of a state of emergency in Nigeria’s WASH sector.
"The collaboration between PIND and WaterAid in bringing together these various key stakeholders further re-enforces the need for actors in WASH and related sectors, to work together towards improving access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene services."
WaterAid Nigeria and the foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta called for increased investment in sustainable WASH services and protection of precious water supply to ensure clean water for all
They also urged stronger protections against overuse and misuse of water supply and an acceleration in the provision of sustainable WASH services for all so as to reach everyone and ensure no one is left behind.
"Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in and should be normal for everyone, everywhere. Regrettably, the progress made since 2000 in delivering clean water to 1.5 billion people globally is now under threat."
However, the Ondo state government under the leadership of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, made some frantic moves to ensure the people of the state have access to safe water so as to achieve improved health and prevent infectious diseases.
Eleven years after, the Owena Dam water reticulation project which was abandoned by the past administration has been revisited and a whooping some of $57 million was approved to execute the water project, as pursued by the present administration.
Aside the $57 million project, Akeredolu, since he assumed office on February 24, 2017, had embarked on several water projects to provide potable water for over 3.4 million population under the "Kamomi Aketi" water programme.
Recently, the chairman of Ondo state Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RUWASSA), Yetunde Adeyanju, recounted that the water scheme has been extended to almost all communities across the state.
The accelerated water scheme, which was one of the significant aspect of the water project, was commissioned at Ayede-Ogbese, in Akure north local government area by the minister of water resources, Engr Suleiman Adamu.
Ayede-Ogbese water scheme has 5km reticulation and distribution network with a storage tank of 50m capacity that would discharge at full capacity twice a day with 100 public standpipes, 200 fetching points while one fetching point will serve 50 people.
Not too long from the implementation of the water project and impressed by the success recorded within a short period of time, the Federal Government has adopted “Kamomi Aketi Accelerated Water Scheme” as a model for other states across the Federation.
Speaking on the Owena Water Dam, the special adviser to the Governor on public utility, Engr. Tunji Light Ariyomo, disclosed that the French Development Bank had released the first tranche of $5 million to the state government for the commencement of the project.
Ariyomo, who explained the genesis and crises that bedeviled the project for 11 years, said Governor Akeredolu had ordered for the commencement of the project which would serve all the six local governments in the central senatorial district.
According to him, “All communities where the pipeline passes through would benefit from the water scheme to prevent vandalisation of the facilities as being experienced in the Niger-Delta area.
“This is the abandoned Owena multipurpose water dam. This project was completed decades ago and the federal government in its magnanimity ceded the water component to the government of the state.
“The Dr. Olusegun Agagu government awarded a contract worth billions of Naira for the construction of transmission line from this place to part of Ondo central senatorial district as well as reticulation of water to homes.
“Unfortunately, a successor administration abandoned the project, frustrated the contract. After a long time running into nine years, that contract became ineffective by the passage of time and by the virtue of our law, it is no longer tenable.
“When the new government of Rotimi Akeredolu came on board, the government reengaged the federal government and president gave the go ahead with that project.
“The Ondo state government through the ministry of water resources, was able to secure the funding to the tune of $57 million. We have received the first tranche of the fund from the French Development Bank; $5million is sitting in the purse of Ondo state government.
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"We now have a cash-backed project that will see the light of the day. We have entered agreement with the French people that this money will be used judiciously using international standard and under transparent procedures," he said.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng had previously reported that WaterAid Nigeria entered into a strategic partnership with Connected Development (CODE), a non-governmental organisation, with the ultimate goal of strengthening the profile of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) related issues amongst political office aspirants and promote citizens' engagement in WASH governance.
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