By Ike Uchechukwu
CALABAR—RESIDENTS of Calabar Metropolis and environs in Cross River State have again raised the alarm that the state government commandeered portions of land belonging to Cross River State Water Board Limited, CRSWBL, only to sell it to top officials, cronies and wealthy individuals, who have built houses on water channels.
Experts warn that building structures and living close to a water treatment plant is hazardous to the populace and a time bomb waiting to explode.
NDV gathered that some of the new buyers demolished the staff quarters of CRSWBL to build their own houses.
Citizens, who spoke to NDV, also bemoaned the purported abandonment of CRSWBL by the government, saying it was an abnormality and called on Governor Ben Ayade to repudiate all such transactions and breathe life into the agency.
They recall that the state got funds from World Bank to provide potable water for the people many years ago, a service the Water Board rendered commendably, wondering why government chose to expose the people to danger by allowing people to build on water channels.
According to them, it was shameful that the current administration was sinking boreholes and counting it as a major achievement, while the Water board that once provided the best-treated water in the country to households, as verified by World Health Organisation, WHO, was standing on its last head.
It’s scandalous—Clan Head
Clan Head of Kasuk II Qua clan, Ntoe Ededem Ayito, clearly appalled by the development, asserted that “it is wrong for a government to sell a place that is meant for the development of its own citizens.
“It is a shame to Cross River if people now have the audacity to go and build where we have water channels and the government is fighting that they should not build on water channels; but the same government is building on water channels. What example is the government showing us?
“It is appalling that it is our government that is even selling water channels. Therefore, what will it do when private individuals start to sell water channels as land? What will be government’s reaction?
“This government should refrain from selling water channels and pull down all those structures. The state is growing, people are building, we need water. How can we need water and people have built on the place the water should come from?
“Now, everybody is drilling borehole and not everyone knows that they should take the water to a laboratory to test the water whether it contains iron and everybody would just be drinking water that has not been properly treated and contains iron.”
The clan head noted that “for me, in the last two years, I have not seen a drop of water in my house from the Water Board, but we pay bill. Therefore, I am not very happy that they allowed this kind of thing to happen to an establishment of government. If the drilled borehole water is not well treated and the people drink and start dying, they will start shouting that the population is dying.
“There is nothing wrong in drilling boreholes in the market for people to use to do other things like washing, but it is not consumable. I am not against the state government drilling boreholes, but the best water we have is the water from water board, because it is the one properly treated and it is consumable.
“The other water you see people drinking these days is just because water from the Water board is no longer available. Formerly, people used water from other sources for washing and other things, certainly not for consumption.”
Why govt sold land —Ita, ex-CPS
Contacted, Mr. Christian Ita, former Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to Governor Ayade told NDV that the state government was committed to providing potable water to every household in the state. He added that the determination informed the drilling of boreholes, especially in rural areas to complement the already existing infrastructure on ground in partnership with the World Bank that cost $50 million at the time.
His words: “The drilling of boreholes in hard-to-reach areas is an indication that the state government is interested in making sure that potable water gets to every household.
“Every land in Cross River is in the hand of governor as trust. Government can decide to use the land for something that is also beneficial to the people; we are acting within the law.
“The land was fallow with nothing on it. We wanted water to also get to more people. The Cross River State Water Board is working; it is functional. The houses did not stop anything; the borehole project is under one of our programmes—Quick Win.”
N6m per plot
Last year April, NDV reported the conversion of a vast expanse of land housing CRSWBL to a new residential layout by the government.
Residents and workers complained about the action, alleging it posed obstruction to the operation of the treatment plant located in the sold area and may affect the health of the citizens.
Some government appointees, monarchs and well-to-do persons were among those that bought the land at N6 million per plot from the Ministry of Lands and some built on pump head and 900 mm raw water pipes that carry water directly from the intake with 450 metre/hour velocity.
It is a time bomb—Prof. Dada, NMGS president
President of Nigerian Mining and Geo-sciences Society, NMGS, Professor Silas Dada, had warned that: “it is very ridiculous for any right-thinking person to allow people to build close to a water treatment plant.
“The state government must, as a matter of urgency, stop any form of work going on in that premises because it poses serious health risk to the people of Cross River State.
”It is not right to allow any foreign body, talk more of allowing structures in the place because with time, a lot of things will go wrong. It is wrong, it is hazardous to the populace and a time bomb waiting to explode, and the option of stopping people from living close to the treatment plant is better than the peril the people will face in future.”
A senior CRSWBL official told NDV last year: “You can imagine what will happen if anything goes wrong. Why would a right-thinking person sell such a place and allow people to build on it?
“The large expanse of land in that place was not just for the fun of it, it was so because the planners knew that the city will expand as the years go by and they had intention of expanding the plant when the need arises.
“A foreign body can drop in that plant and the whole city will be gone. Activities of non-staff and the proximity of homes to the plant is a big risk. Despite our protest, government has refused to listen to our advice.”