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Why Nigeria requires $5bn water sector investments to meet SDG targets

The population of Nigeria is on the spiral with an estimation of about 198 million people and a land area of 923.768 kilometres, and also annual precipitation of 1,150 mm (4000mm in the South to 350 mm in the North, Nigeria has a water resources potential of 370 Billion Cubic metres made up of 287 BCM/year generated internally and 88 BCM from trans boundary sources.

Indeed, Nigeria is not a water poor country but it is a fact that subsequent administrations have made it a point to inequitably distribute investments in the sector and other challenges in the water sector which could therefore be regarded as potentially water stressed.

Presently, the total demand for water supply, agriculture, livestock, and aquaculture livestock is estimated at about 80 BCM/year but it is expected to surpass 160BCM/year by 2030 if the current effort at revitalising the sector is sustained.

Challenges in the water resources sector

It is interesting and at the same time no longer news that Nigeria was unable to attain the MDG targets for access to water supply and sanitation mainly due to poor investments, low capacity and other challenges in the water resources sector. As at 2015, the National Access to potable water and adequate sanitation was 69 and 29 per cents respectively with national access to pipe borne water supply only 7%.

Again , it is estimated that about $5.0 Billion annual investments will be required to meet the SDG targets in with the current level of investments at less than half a billion Dollars

This sectorial challenges and successes were brought to the fore when the Nigerian Academy of Engineering which provides a platform for harnessing technological resources and making inputs to national developmental process at the highest level of Governance made an invite to one of their members and current Minister of Water Resources Engineer Suleiman Adamu to throw more light on ‘Current Developments in Nigeria’s Water Sector’. Even as Adamu painted a brighter future, the revelations and challenges occasioned by neglect and U – turn from the original mandate of the agencies in the water sector was mind boggling.

The Minister who assumed office in 2015 threw light on the status of the sector and current developments in the last two and half years as he itemised the teething problems that has now challenged the Ministry to revitalise this very important sector that can spur the much touted agricultural revolution.

Strikingly, there were 11 very important challenges he raised to include; Inadequate Policy Issues, Poor funding/low budgetary provisions, Absence of effective legal framework, Institutional and human capacity weaknesses and lack of political will/delays in budgetary appropriation by the legislature. Others are arbitrary budgetary allocations by the legislature, poor investment by state Governments, Lack of enabling environment for private sector participation, poor revenue generation and inadequate cost recovery for services, inadequate power supply, and lack of ownership of water facilities by beneficiary communities and poor operations and maintenance culture.

It could be of interest to note from Adamu’s expose that as at 2015, the “only potent policy document  for the water sector is the National Water resources master plan developed with a grant assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The document reviewed and made recommendations   on how to best harness the water resources of Nigeria with respect to institutional development, water supply, food security.

Unfortunately, the very important aspect of developing the water resources has not been aligned with the plan while most of the projects embarked therein were not properly planned or not adequately funded which lead to several projects littering the country but abandoned.

Documents from the Ministry reveal that within the same period there were 116 large projects including irrigation 37, Dams 38, Water supply 41 , many of which were abandoned or in comatose state due to the fact that they require review of cost or lacked consistent funding for completion. From the document review, most of the projects had attained 40 – 60 per cent level of completion with outstanding liabilities totalling N88, 848,112,579.77 and requiring additional contractual commitment to completion to the tune of N264, 990,081,982.53.

One robust policy the Fellow of Nigerian Society of Engineers believes can further stimulate positive developments in the sector is a document that will guide the activities of the sector “The National Water Resources Bill and National Water Resources Policy were in limbo, there was no irrigation and drainage policy. The National water supply and sanitation Policy adopted in 2000 needed critical review. Strikingly the National Water Resources Bill had been under preparation since 2006 but has not seen the light of the day”

In what he described as institutional lapses and inadequacies, Adamu faulted that the “deployment of human resources, technical capacity, planning, design and contract administrations of projects, areas of data generation and management. Important departments such as planning, research and statistics, River Basin Development operations and inspectorates were headed by non-technical personnel and could not therefore adequately deal with challenges at hand”

Daily water demand

Although out-dated, the National Water Supply and sanitation Policy puts the daily water demand for urban dwellers at 120 litre/capita/day, semi urban (small towns) at 60litres and Rural dwellers at 30 litres a day, it may be of interest to note the national coverage as at 2015 was 69 per cent comprising of urban: 80 per cent (small towns): 68 % and Rural: 60%. By implication 31% or 52.7 million Nigerians did not have access to water supply, with high concentration in the rural areas. Therefore, since the country was also not able to meet the MDGs target on access to water supply, it has therefore become necessary that concerted efforts must be put in place to alleviate the problem and improve the trend towards achieving 100% access to water supply by 2030 if viewed in line with the newly adopted United Nations Sustainable Development  Goals and the estimation that the population could grow to 257 million by that time.

Another worrisome issue is that fact that pipe-borne water supply in the urban areas has continued on the downward trend especially in the urban areas from 30% national coverage in 1990 to about 7% in 2015. The Water Resources Minister Adamu therefor explains that after the unpleasant revelation it became necessary that an aggressive effort to address the situation is embarked by ensuring that all tiers of government partners to ensure radical changes and improvement in the sector.

It is also understood that sanitation has declined from 30% in 2010 to 28% in 2015. Adamu explains that “open defecation has been on the increase and there was not a single LGA in Nigeria that is free due to lack of adequate political support and poor coordination of efforts between all stakeholders in the different tiers of government”.

But it is also interesting to note that challenges of sanitation are not only limited to rural areas , it is equally a huge problem in urban settings , especially  in public places and urban slums.

On irrigation, Nigeria has the potential of about 3.14 million Hectares of land suitable for irrigation out of which about 440,853Ha has been planned. Out of this, only 128,097Ha of the planned area has been developed and about 50,000Ha of the developed area lost to failed infrastructure and poor operations and maintenance. According to Adamu, “the current annual water demand for irrigation in wet and dry seasons including FADAMA lands is about 1.926BCM. This translates to about 0.7% of our internally generated potential. The total water demand for the planned irrigated area of more than 4000, 000Ha”

The Minister also confirmed that “There are over 250 large and medium dams across the country with a storage capacity o of about 30BCM/year. The storage capacity of these dams put together is more than the future demand estimated to the year 2030. Water demand analysis has shown that there is enough storage capacity in each of the 8 Hydrological Areas even without taking into consideration the large hydropower dams. Almost all the dams in the country are not utilised optimally to serve the purpose of their existence.  Adamu after carefully going round the authorities came to the conclusion that” their management and operation is poor and they lack basic instrumentation gadgets. In addition poor watershed management, growing siltation of rivers and climate change are becoming a serious challenge to the storage capacities and operational efficiency of these dams and reservoirs”

sNigeria currently boasts of 12 River Basin Development Authorities at different locations. Modelled after the United States Tenesee valley Basin Development concept following the drought of the 1970s The Authorities have the primary function of serving as operators, managers and developers of water resources infrastructures within their catchments to prosperity as integrated rural development drivers in the areas of food production and employment generation.  But the performance of the RBDAs over the years cannot be describe as desirable not due to technical failings but largely on account of policy and institutional inadequacies. Adamu also observed that the “unfortunate decision of the then Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation  (TCPC) to strip them of their” non-water” assets in the late80s and making them solely managers of irrigation infrastructures”  further deteriorated the state of the authorities.  For the River Basin Authorities to survive and regain their lost glory and perform optimally to deliver the mandate of their establishment, Adamu says “they require complete restructuring to operate as technical and professional agencies with clear objectives. Therefore there were compelling needs for institutional, organisational and policy reforms that would propel the authorities to serve as effective vehicles for integrated rural development as originally   envisioned”

In a bid to tackle the myriad of problems slowing the pace of development in the sector, Adamu explained that adopted “immediate and Long Term Strategies for the Water sector (2016 – 2030) easily referred to as the Water Sector Road map.  The current developments being witnessed in the Ministry are being guided by the document featuring eight very important points to achieve: Conclusion of the draft national Water resources Policy, National Irrigation and drainage policy and Water resources Bill; organisation and manpower review of the Ministry towards repositioning   for enhanced service delivery; Prioritising and executing  the ministry’s project and programmes; developing and implementing a national irrigation development programme; Identification of dams with hydro power potentials for development ; developing and implementing a national water supply and sanitation programme to attain SDGs; developing a Blue Print  and action  plan to strengthen the River basin development authorities and creating partnerships as alternative sources of funding  projects.  Besides, the ministry has embarked on organisational reforms with a view to strengthening it. There exists now a professionalised Department of River Basin Operations and Inspectorate.

In addition to the 12 Basin Development authorities the Ministry is also administering for other agencies, Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency, National Water Resources Institute, Nigerian Integrated Water Resources Commission and Gurara Water management Agency established principally to manage the beneficial uses derived from construction of the dam, water supply, irrigation and Hydropower. Government in pursuant of the approved Road map considered Gurara Management “non-sustainable and against tradition whereby similar facilities are handed over to RBDAs for operations and management, therefore considered counterproductive, recently wound up and the responsibility of managing some of the facilities transferred to Upper Niger River Basin Development Authority.

While working towards the success of the  of the Roadmap Adamu confirmed securing the approval of the National Water Resources Bill, National Water resources Policy and National Irrigation and Drainage Policy by the Federal Executive Council since September 2016. The National Water resources Bill is now before the national Assembly and when passed into law will establish water sector governance. The Bill, though not new, rather an amalgamation of Water Resources Laws that has been in existence since 2004 and being re-enacted with what the necessary modifications to actualise current global trends and best practices in Integrated Water Resources management.

Although many did not understand all about the Bill Adamu explains that “the federal Government intends to ensure through the provisions of the law that the water resources of the Nation are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all person in accordance with its constitutional mandate”

According to the Minister, government having “properly diagnosed the challenges of improved access to water supply and sanitation in the country began to proffer solutions in collaboration with the state Governments who are directly responsible for the provision of potable water.  Some of the solutions include initiating a programme tagged “partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH)” as a collaborative instrument to mobilise resources and harness the efforts of government at all levels, Development Partners, Private Sector, NGOs, Philanthropists and communities towards achieving zero % open defecation and 100% access to water Supply and sanitation by 2030 in accordance with Sustainable development goals.

By Stanley Nkwazema

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