By Julius Oweh
Historical accounts speak of the relationship between water and commercial activities of man since the dawn of creation and the growth of major civilizations and empires. The clearest example is the historical lesson that could be drawn from ancient Egyptian civilization hence the saying : No Nile, No Egypt.
In other words, the development and growth of Egypt was traceable to the famous River Nile. That interplay between water and commerce came to the fore last week when the Commissioner in charge of Water Resources Development, Sir Okenmor Fidelis Tilije and his counterpart of Commerce and Industry, Barrister (Mrs)Mary Iyasere met the press and explained the underpin philosophy of the Okowa administration in those areas.
Sir Okenmor Fidelis Tilije went memory lane by tracing the birth of the Water Resources Development Ministry to March 2001, saying that the ministry was charged with the mandate of delivering potable water and liquid sanitation services to Deltans and residents in the state. He also explained that in carrying out these functions, the ministry has oversight supervisory functions of its agencies namely: Delta State Urban Water Board, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation agency and Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Agency.
Tilije explained the imperatives of his Ministry : “In support of the prosperity on improvement of general health conditions of Deltans as enshrined in the Senator Dr Okowa SMART AGENDA, we have continued to advocate and sensitize our people that not all the water is good particularly for drinking and accordingly water can no longer be regarded as a social good.
We are gradually through the setting up of Water Community Consumer Associations across the state advocating not only, the buy-in of communities in appreciating water assets in their communities as their own and that these assets must be cared for by them, because water and sanitation are not and can no longer be treated as a social good but must now be known and treated as an economic good”.
The Water Resources Development Commissioner stated that the Okowa government has made some landmark achievements. These achievements according to him are: Delta State Water and Sanitation Bill, EU/UNICEF Niger Delta Support Programme on Water Supply, State Wide Baseline, Bomadi Water Scheme, Regional Water Supply Schemes, The Warri Effurun Water Scheme, Ogwashi-Uku Dam, General Water Quality Test and Sewage Plant in Asaba and Warri. He also spoke of the relationship with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.
The focus of the Delta State Water and Sanitation Bill, according to the commissioner is to establish a platform that will integrate all water stakeholders in the state and to enable everyone know the limits and responsibilities of all stakeholders. The bill which is currently with the State House of Assembly when passed into law will provide a strategic framework for the general interventions in the water, sanitation and hygiene services delivery and stimulate private investments as well as make the state‘s relationships and partnerships with donor nations and agencies more robust.
To manage the water resources in the state, Tilije explained the presence of the state wide baseline: “The Delta State Water Baseline was established by the Ministry of Water Resources Development at about 706 water schemes, out of which about 288 being 39 per cent functional. We can assert today that we now have 900 water schemes in the state out of which 630 being 70 per cent functional. We are working very hard to improve on the functionality of more schemes across the state. Our biggest challenge has been power because the state cannot truly fund the supply of diesel to power all generators driving water schemes on a sustaining daily basis”.
He lamented the case of Bomadi which has not seen potable water for more than twenty years, adding that the cost of constructing a borehole in Bomadi by individual is beyond the reach of the average Nigerian. However, according to him, there is silver lining as the state government has got a new water design for Bomadi at the cost of one hundred and ten million, five hundred and seven six thousand , Two hundred and eighty seven naira, fifty kobo. The contract according to him has since been awarded and almost 90 per cent completed. On the regional water supply, the commissioner disclosed that after a strategic meetings, “we have come to believe that the ministry’s new strategy for improved service delivery in the provision of potable water to Deltans, particularly in the urban centres is the development of regional water schemes in line with global best standards. Government has accordingly approved and awarded the upgrade of Asaba and Ughelli water schemes to regional schemes at N233,781,350.00 and N144,296,212.50 respectively”.
On the unending construction of Ogwashi-Uku dam, the commissioner said: “The construction of this dam being built by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources commenced in 2006 but has since been neglected. Understanding the benefits of this dam for water supply and irrigation purposes, we have been piling pressures on the Federal Ministry of Water Resources not only to complete the dam as per the approved NOQ, a copy of which we have obtained but also to hand over the operations and management of the Dam to the state. The road to the Dam is now being constructed and turbines installed. We are hopeful that our follow ups will result in the completion and handover to us soon. Of a very strong note is that our in-house study shows that this Dam with adequate treatment plant has capacity to supply potable water to Ogwashi-Uku main town to Ubulu-Uku, Onicha- Ugbo axis to Ibusa and the Asaba state capital territory by gravity and with minimal buster efforts”
Barrister (Mrs) Mary Iyasere, the Commerce and Industry Commissioner described her ministry as one of the agencies charged with the responsibility of formulation and implementation of policies and programmes relating to commerce, industry, cooperative and small and medium enterprises. It is also charged with the mandate of advising government on activities that would lead to rapid industrial and commercial growth of the state. She listed some of the achievements of her ministry as privatization and commercialization of state owned enterprises, industrial data gathering and publication of industrial/business directory of the state, data gathering and solid minerals development, industrial estates, industrial development centres, construction of markets, trade promotion/fairs/exhibition, small and medium scale enterprises departments and completed four fish feed mills projects.
She said that the state government has some industrial estates as a core programme and that it has a total of four industrial estates at Asaba, Warri, Ebedei and Ikwuewu-Amukpe. In the case of the Asaba industrial estate, she said that “one sq km of land has been acquired, demarcated and all plots of the lands have been allocated and the state government is in the process of providing social infrastructures such as tarred access roads, provision of water, security, gate house, electricity as well as construction of drainages in the industrial estate`.
She said that two state owned enterprises have been closed down. They are Bendel Glass Industry, Ughelli and Uzere Cassava processing Factory, Uzere. She disclosed that Bendel Steel Structures Limited was operating below installed capacity. On a happier note, she confirmed the aggressive policy of the government in the construction of markets. Her words : “The present administration because of its desire to open up especially the rural areas of the state, through commercial activities, approved the development of five markets at Orerokpe, Owa-Alero, Bomadi, Igbodo and Isiokolo. The Delta State government in furtherance of her desire to open the state, especially at the local government areas through commercial activities has recently awarded contracts to five companies to construct modern markets at Ozoro, Burutu, Oghara, Kwale and Abraka Owanta”.
To attract investments to the state, the commissioner disclosed that the governor graciously approved the participation of the Ministry in the 2015 Lagos International Trade fair and the 2016 Abuja International Trade Fair. According to the commissioner, both outings were rewarding as some investors indicated their interest in partnering with the state government in the area of development of solid minerals. She also maintained such economic outings were an ample opportunity for the ministry to showcase the state vast non-oil minerals potentials.
On the achievements of small and medium scale enterprises department, the commissioner argued thus :‘The main achievements of the Ministry in the area of small and medium enterprises include: the four fish feed mills located at Ekpan, Uvwie LGA, Ubeji, Warri South LGA, Owanta Alisosimi, Ika North East LGA and Camp 74, Asaba, Oshimili South LGA.
These projects were conceived under the PPP arrangement made up of out-growers group/cooperatives, private sector investors and government. The funding for the projects was also drawn from these stakeholders in the ratio of 45:35:20 for out-growers/cooperative, investors and government respectively. However, the projects have been funded mainly by the state government”.
On the fortunes of cooperative societies in the state, she said that the cooperative movement constituted the various cooperative organizations in the state with a strong capital base of over N47 billion. From the testimonies of these two commissioners, it is crystal clear that potable water in the state shall be taken for granted in the nearest future and springs put in the economic feet of the people so that they can fend for themselves and fire the economic growth of the state with desirable dividends in their standard of living.