By Wole Mosadomi
IT’s an irony very difficult to understand. Niger State is blessed with four major dams which help to generate power for Nigeria and nearby countries, but it does not boast of a steady supply of potable water for residents of the ‘Power State’ of Nigeria. Water is still a scarce commodity in the state despite the presence of many rivers which criss-cross the state.
The rivers account for the presence of dams in Kainji, Shiroro, Jebba and Zungeru. So, it remains ironic that the state has been battling water scarcity for many decades.
The immediate past administration of Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu declared two consecutive years as “Year of Water” with the annual budget of the state carrying the lion share for the two years.
The present administration of Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello has also invested huge amount of money in the project. For instance, N2.38 billion was earmarked for provision of water in the 2016 budget. Similarly, in 2017, the state allocated N108 billion for the water sector out of which water and sanitation gulped N1.160 billion.
Again, N1.170 billion was budgeted for water supply in 2020. While presenting the budget to the House of Assembly for the 2020 budget, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello said all steps would be taken to improve water supply to all parts of the state.
No success yet despite the huge amount: To mark this year’s World Water Day in Minna, the state Commissioner of Water Resources and Dam development, Ahaji Yusuf Suleiman confirmed that only 42 per cent of people have access to potable water in Minna, adding that the development was worrisome to government and that steps have been taken to remedy the situation.
Suleiman said: “Lack of water supply to many homes in Minna metropolis is worrisome despite the efforts and resources being put in place by the Niger State government to ensure availability of water for people across the state. My Ministry has, however, taken some giant strides in improving water supply from 17 per cent of the populace to 42 and the capacity utilisation of the state water Board has increased to 50 per cent.”
He, however, attributed some of the problems being encountered by government to the carelessness of the people in taking care of government property, especially the pipes that link water to different homes, noting that “service pipes are usually meant for the people to manage but we often find ourself repairing most of the service pipes that get burst. Our main challenge is inadequate reporting. The society is so careless in caring about water supplies but at the same time yearns and laments about lack of water supply,” he remarked.
In an exclusive interview with our correspondent, the commissioner said the administration has done far better on water supply to the people across the state than the previous administrations. “When we came in, we were simply around 20-23 per cent supply but as I am talking to you, we are 40-45 per cent of water distribution from the distribution lines we have. We are aware that many areas are not established in the distribution lines but our interest is to make sure that we cover those areas that have distribution but are not getting water. When we do that then we will be stretching to reticulation that is supplying new distribution lines for the areas not having.”
When asked how long it will take to fully address the problem, the commissioner said: “If you follow my analysis so far, I said some areas for 15-20 years had no water supply, but we have given them water now, but we are not saying we have done everything; but of course, we are striving and we will continue to strive.
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“It is not all bad news about water in the state as Kontagora has water though with some challenges in the system. Bida is a huge challenge but as I am talking to you, we are going back to Bida to do some reticulations and fix the main tank in Bida. Power is going to be a problem but if we fill the tank; we will use diesel to really serve the people, though it is going to be very costly for us because the power situation is a very huge one. We need to fix a dedicated line from Mana to the main town which is over 15 kilometres.
“However, the good news is that the state government is interfacing with Niger Delta Power Holding Company and they have promised during their first surveillance of the areas that it is going to cost us about N4-5 billion including Minna.”
We are working towards fixing these areas and Bida is in dare need of water and so I think we will start with Minna and Bida and we are hoping to go ahead soon because they have aready come here and supervised the whole work and did all they had to do.
“We have been able to resurrect water supply in Agaie. We did a test run but Power is another challenge to us now. AEDC through Niger Power holding company promise to fix it up for us and we are on that too.
“We have challenges in Kuta mainly on power but Kuta will also benefit from the Niger Delta Power Holding Company so what I am literarily saying now is that hopefully in few months time, we will address most of these issues one after the other,” he declared.
For the consumers, the only language they understand is not the theory of water supply but its practicability which is seeing water flowing through their pipes almost 24 hours daily especially with the gift of rivers running through the state.
A housewife, Hajiya Binta Ahmed, wondered why Niger State, which has enormous water potentials should be suffering from lack of water and asked the state to wake up from its slumber and do something about it. “We women are at the receiving end as we go extra miles in search of water from any source for our domestic use as we can no longer afford paying water Vendors due to the high cost of their service,” she explained.
A truck of 10 Jerri cans of water now cost between N500-N300 depending on the area of demand and the sources of the water are still questionable. As at the time of going to press, most wells in most homes including streams and rivers have gone dry thereby causing acute water scarcity not only in Minna, the state capital but across the 25 local government areas of the state. Out of desperation, many now fetch water from any available source for their consumption.
Presently, many residents of the state now see water as gold despite the flow of numerous rivers across the state but not much to drink. Just two weeks ago, producers of Satchet increased prices of their products from N100 to N120 and attributed the rise to the scarcity of water, increase in materials and epileptic power supply thereby affecting the purchasing power of the consumers considerably.
As the rain is yet to come, most people without access to boreholes in their residences will still continue to make do with available water that come their ways not minding their sources and this will invariably increase water-borne diseases in the state.