In the words of W.H Auden, an American-English poet renowned for his achievements in the field of poetry, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water”. This statement might sound far-fetched to some but when it sinks in, its veracity cannot be called to question as water remains an essential requirement for the survival of all living things; animals and plants alike. According to the late Afrobeat originator, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, only those who have resolved to die, declare water an enemy
Water serves a number of purposes for humans. It is used domestically for cooking, drinking, bathing, washing as well as for Irrigation and Fish-farming. Water is used for industrial purposes, power generation, sports and recreation among other uses. Given that 71% of the Earth is covered by water, one would think the natural resource should be more than enough for the human population. However, this is not the case due to the fact that not all water sources are potentially safe for human consumption or use. Getting potable water for whatever purpose from beneath the ground or surface reservoirs, entails subjecting it to a number of treatment procedures and channeling which can be very capital-intensive. This explains why people living the in Riverine areas of developing countries in Africa often have to contend with water shortages despite the visible surface water running through or bordering their communities.
Niger State has four dams; making it the State with the highest number of surface water reservoir in the country. Although half of the Dams serve the country’s power generation needs, it is still expected that the other half would provide adequate sources of water for treatment and onward distribution but the complex terrain tied to the enormous size of the State as well as inadequate attention given to facilities over the years have hampered efforts by the State’s water utility to provide potable water to every nook and cranny of the State.
In a bid to arrest this situation, the Niger State Government under the present administration has taken huge steps in recent years to address the challenges confronting the Niger State Water Board by replacing a number of obsolete equipment and extending reticulation to towns such as Bida and some communities which were hitherto cut off from supplies in Minna, the State’s capital. According to Mr.Hassan Mohammed Tsado, the General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Niger State Water Board, the present administration has spent about Six Billion Naira on replacing equipment and carrying out repairs on dilapidated facilities, over the past four years.
To the lay man on the street, the figure might sound bogus but it is actually a far cry from the amount spent annually by the tiny Southern African nation of Swaziland with a population less than half of the population of Niger State, in providing potable water for its people. This gives credence to the fact that the provision of potable water is never cheap
It is against this backdrop and the present economic realities that the Niger State government thought it wise to make submissions for intervention to international development partners like the United States Agency for International Development (U.S.A.I.D) which selected Niger among six Nigerian States that would benefit from its Effective Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services (E-WASH) programme
The programme which seeks to help improve urban water service delivery through better governance of water utilities, accountability, policy, institutional and regulatory reforms will no doubt go a long way in actualizing the objective of increasing access to basic drinking water supplies to 500,000 Households in Niger as well as Imo, Sokoto, Taraba, Abia and Delta States. While this is a laudable partnership, it should provide no premise for stakeholders in the water sector, including the serviced customer, to evade their respective responsibilities as all hands have to be on deck to rejuvenate the sector
Government should continue to engage international developmental partners such as the U.S.A.I.D and put measures in place to hasten the Corporatization of the Niger State Water Board by making it more commercially viable and granting it autonomy in determining the professionals who constitute its board
Obsolete laws inhibiting the corporatization of the board must be reviewed along with the challenges posed by epileptic power supply to the operations of the Niger State Water Board, for the utility to operate optimally. The Niger State Water Board should work more closely with the media in carrying the public along with its activities so as to engender trust and understanding.
It is also important for the water utility to be proactive by devoting more resources to monitoring the activities of water vendors and plumbers who are in a position to either complement or undermine its efforts at improving water services in the State.
Serviced customers who are guilty of water-theft should desist from the act and imbibe a culture of paying their bills. This would not only make them responsible citizens but also help the State Water Board break even or recoup some of the huge costs incurred in operating and maintaining its facilities. The Public can also help report sightings of vandalized water pipelines and leakages to the Water Board or other relevant authorities so as to curb non-revenue water losses.
Like security, the availability and safety of potable water should be everybody’s business and not the sole responsibility of Government. When potable water is not readily available, people resort to accessing unwholesome sources which could endanger their health and that of the public through the domino effect of an outbreak
Bearing this in mind, issues surrounding the availability and provision of potable water should be treated with all seriousness; after all, water is life