By Peter Duru, Makurdi
BENUE State enjoys theÂ privilege of being the host of River Benue which of one of the longest rivers in the Nigeria with its supposed attendant benefits especially in the area of provision of potable water for the teeming populace.
Despite this rare privilege, residents of the state whichÂ prides itself as the food basket of the nation have since creation in 1976, continued to grapple with persistent acute water scarcity.Â Successive governments apparently turned the blind eye to the situation because they took no concrete stepsÂ to address problem.
Respite however came the way of the people in 2007 when shortly after being sworn in, Governor Gabriel Suswam in his first official assignment, undertook an on- the -spot assessment of the long abandoned Greater Makurdi Water Works project and the Katsina-Ala and Otobi water works which had remained comatose as a result of the insensitivity of successive governments in the state.
The Governor who expressed so much grief at what he saw at these plants regretted that though Benue State is blessed with River Benue, the privilege did not in anyway translate to access to potable water for the people.
Hear him, â€œHow can our people be surrounded by so much water yet they can not get potable water to drink? This is a classical example of the irony of lifeâ€.
Governor Suswam who vowed to reverse the trend wasted no time in awarding contracts for the immediate rehabilitation of what was left of theÂ Makurdi and Otobi water works with a view to ensuring that residents of the state capital and Otukpo,Â had access to potable water.
The government also engaged competent firms with whom it signed new multi- billion Naira contracts for the construction of three new water works in the state.
These included the New Greater Makurdi Water Works with the capacity of over one hundred thousand cubic meters of water per day, another for Katsina_Ala with a capacity of fifteen thousand cubic meters of water per day and the new Otobi water works in Otukpo local government area.
When completed these new plants are expected to finally address the hitherto epileptic and somewhat embarrassing water supply situation in Benue state.
Experts believe that when completed, the new Makurdi water works would serve the water needs of the ever exploding population of the city and its environs for an upward of one hundred years.
The three projects which are to be completed and handed over to the state government before the end of the year, will gulp a little over N10billion. They are presently at advanced stages of completion. Specifically, work on the Greater Makurdi Water Works project has reached over 90 percent completion, the same goes for the Otukpo and Katsina_Ala projects.
The execution of these projects has continued to attract commendations and applause from both visitorsÂ and indigenes alike.
Few days ago, the Minister for Water Resources and Environment Mr. Obadiah Ando also visitedÂ to assess the water situation in Benue State andÂ see for himself the much talked about projects.
The Minister who undertook a two day comprehensive tour of the multi billion naira water projects in Makurdi, Otukpo and Katsina_Ala addressed newsmen and was delighted at the gigantic water projects being undertaken by the Benue state government.
He noted that the projects were a clear demonstration of the fact that the government is in touch with the wishes and aspirations of the people who voted it into power.
He added that the move would go a long way in tackling the recurrent case of water scarcity that had bedeviled the state in recent time.
He urged other State Governors to take a cue from what the Benue State Governor was doing in the area of provision of water for his people.
He said, â€œI must acknowledge the effort of the Benue State Government in the area of provision of water for her citizenry, what I have seen in the state is quite commendable and it goes to show that the Governor is full of visionâ€.
â€œI would advise that other state governors emulate what is happening in Benue State because President Goodluck Jonathan is serious about the provision of potable water for Nigeriansâ€, the Minister said.
According to him, the Benue State Governor had keyed into the vision of the Federal Government especially in the area of provision of potable water for his people which should be lauded and commended by all.
He added that the Federal Government would not hesitate to partner with State governments that take the initiative of embarking on people -oriented projects like the provision of potable water .
He noted that the water projects in the state would permanently address the water needs of the people and assured that the Federal Government would not hesitate to assist the state government to achieve its aims.
Speaking on the ongoing water projects in the state, Governor Gabriel Suswam pledged that his administration would ensure their full completion.
He informed that the social contract he entered with the people of the state when they unanimously gave him their votes as Governor,Â would be executed to the latter, adding that the projects were fallouts of that social contract.
According to him, â€œthe stakes are high and the challenges confronting our people in the area of water are enormous but as a responsible government we are determined to meet their needs in order to justify their overwhelming support for our administrationâ€, he said.
Suswam said that his administration has continued to ensure strict and prudent application of state resources to desired projects in order to avoid wastage and depletion of scarce resources.
Also commenting on ongoing projects in the State, the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Omadachi Oklobia stated that the though projects have continued to elicit applause from the people and visitors alike, fiscal discipline on the part of the state government accounts for the success so far recorded by the administration in the area of project execution.