By Peter Duru
THE Ameladu Water Works, Mkar in Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State, is a sad story of how lack of proper conception and execution of a project could ultimately lead to a monumental failure and loss of taxpayers’ money upon completion of the project. The fully completed 9,000 cubic meter waterworks, which was executed by the military government in 1993, can best be described as a white elephant project.
Though laudable at the time it was conceived by the then administration to address the water needs of residents of Gboko and its environs, the project has turned out to be one of the dead legacies that administration bequeathed to the people of the town.
For many residents of Gboko, the project could have been initiated to line the pockets of the initiators as it was not intended to serve the water needs of the people given that it was a completely defective concept and wrongly executed project.
According to findings, since its completion some 28 years ago, the water plant only worked for a few months when a test run was carried out at the site after which it was turned off and has remained moribund till date. And of course, the inactivity at the works left the huge facility at the mercy of criminals who found it very easy to vandalise the machines and electrical fittings at the treatment plant.
But bothered by the huge sums spent on the project with nothing to show for it, Governor Samuel Ortom, last year undertook a holistic assessment of the state of the plant with a view to injecting life into it. After that visit he promised not to allow the plant waste away, assuring that his administration would prevail on the relevant agencies of the Federal Government, including the National Assembly, to get the plant working again.
Meanwhile, for many residents of Gboko, it was better not to have the plant sited in the area than have it fully completed but serving no useful purpose. According to Ambrose Ternenger, who lives in Adeka Gboko, people had waited for the plant to start pumping water to Gboko town and its environs to ensure constant water supply,
“but from all indications we might wait forever.” He added: “I was a teenager when this water plant was built but today I am close to 50 and I am yet to drink from the plant. If it was not intended to give us water why was it sited in our community? That is the question on the lips of many of our people.
“The truth is that most of us feel that the Ameladu Waterworks was only built to enable the government people who were behind it to siphon funds and not to give us water. If not, how can anyone explain the fact that a water treatment plant was built and since its completion several years ago residents of Gboko are yet to feel the impact of the project?
“All we continue to hear is that the project was not properly executed and that we will not enjoy the benefit of having it in our community until some fundamental issues regarding the concept of the project are addressed. If that is the case it then means that those who conceived and executed the project should be called to come and account for what went wrong and if need be a new water plant built for us.”
Iorshe Aondofa told Arewa Voice that until last year he never knew that the plant was a completed project of the Federal Government. He said: “I used to think that work on the plant was not completed by the contractors; and that was why it was not pumping water to residents of Gboko town; it was only recently I discovered that the project was defective and cannot be put to use.
“If that is the case, the Federal Government should direct the supervising Ministry to correct the defects and get the plant working to enable us enjoy potable water supply in Gboko town. Why abandon it after spending huge sums of money to construct the plant in the first place? So they should get it working.”
Speaking on the state of the plant and challenges hindering its full utilisation, the Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Dondo Ahire, said the conception and execution of the project was faulty ab initio.
He said: “That waterworks was a major project that was constructed wrongly and it will need the intervention of the Federal Government to get it running. It will interest you to know that after construction it was run for a few months; even then it was a test run after which it was shut down.
“Right from the conception, everything was wrong with the project. It was designed to draw water all the way from Buruku Local Government Area for treatment at Ameladu in Gboko LGA. Because of the distance the pipeline suffered sabotage in the intake line and the plant. Again the designers of the plant did not take cognisance of the underground water at the site. So, after they excavated the hilly side of the project site and constructed it you had a lot of water coming in and flooding it.
“There was also the issue of the pipeline going into the tank; they were asbestos concrete pipelines. And the level of the reservoir tank was so high that the pressure was too much for the pipes; they kept bursting. The burst was such that it could tumble a car. It was bursting at such pressure that it was heavily flooding the streets because the hydrostatic head was too high.
“The problem is that they built the overhead tank at a hill side. Now if you take the overall height where that tank is located and the ground level in Gboko, the height will be like a tank that is more than twice the normal height. If you see the normal overhead tanks we usually construct, it is like you have something that is two and half times the normal height. So(the weight, we call it hydrostatic head), if you multiply the density of water by the height then you will get the hydrostatic pressure at that level.
“So it was too much for the pipes. The pipes that they installed were also the inferior ones. It was asbestos concrete which breaks and bursts easily unlike the new pipes that are made now. So, Governor Ortom instructed that we seek the intervention of the Federal Government to address the problem. We are working on that already. We are collaborating with the Senate Committee to have it in the budget.
“But in my initial contact with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, they said that after they constructed something and left, they would not come back to help you maintain it even though the construction had issues. The problem is that the planning for that project was wrong.
“The premise on which they did the project was wrong. In fact, we can put it together that the planning and execution were all wrong because the concept of having intake in Buruku and treat in Gboko, a distance of about 14 to 16 kilometres, was part of the planning which was defective. Regrettably since the construction of the waterworks the people of Gboko are yet to enjoy it.”