By Ali Abare
As the world marks the World Water Day on March 22 of each year, as set aside by the United Nations, this piece takes a look at the water situation in Nasarawa State and what the administration of His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule is doing to bring back hope to the people through the restoration of much needed water supply.
Water every where but no water to drink. This common parlance aptly captures the situation of water across many states of the country, particularly Nasarawa State, where for almost a decade, several parts of the state, have groaned under the scarcity of portable drinking water.
In fact, in places like Keffi, Nasarawa, Toto, Akwanga, Awe, Doma, Keana and many other towns, taps have gone dry for a prolonged period, some for more than twelve years, with people forced to take recourse to self-help, mostly depending on water vendors, with its attendant consequences. First, there is the issue of safety, as such water vendors cannot be said to operate on any known standard of hygiene. And then the people contend mostly with economic exploitation in the hands of water vendors, who are determined to profit from the hardship of the common person.
That was the plight of the people of the state regarding water supply, not until the dawn of the Engineer Abdullahi Sule administration in May 2019. Having gone round the state during the campaign period, to seek the mandate of the people, Engineer Sule came face to face with the harsh reality regarding the fate of the people, who are confronted with prolonged water scarcity. That encounter with the people, who wasted no time to complain to him about their predicament regarding water supply, informed the decision of the present administration to devout time and resources aimed at bringing succour to the people.
Already, these zeal and determination mustered to address the pressing water shortage, have begun to bear fruits, with jubilations across several towns and communities, that are once again, beginning to witness water flowing through the taps. The journey has not been easy but the result is reassuring as water consumers across the state begin to express appreciation and gratitude for the government’s effort to restore water supply.
Eight months ago, the Governor inaugurated a 7-man task force on water supply, shortly after hearing from the management of the state water board during the inaugural ministerial briefing, with the committee charged with appraising the water situation in the state and recommend ways to address it.
The Governor stressed that the steps were also necessitated by the shortage of water supply in the state especially in rural areas.
“Water supply was one of the things I promised to deliver during my campaign and I will do everything possible to fulfil the promise,’’ he said.
Engineer Sule gave the terms of reference of the committee to include identifying all government water schemes and their status and to determine the repair works required as well as the financial implication.
He then directed the members of the committee to deliver within two months given their wealth of experience.
“During my campaign and in my inaugural speech, I promised to make water available to the people of Nasarawa State. Our people face untold hardship in search of water daily and we want an uninterrupted water supply for them,’’ he said.
Speaking on behalf of the committee members, Associate Professor Abdulkarim Kana, Chairman of the committee, who was a former Commissioner of Water Resources as well as present Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, described water as fundamental to human survival.
Other members of the committee are Idris Mohammed, Sani Salihu, Simon Ibi, Yakubu Adam, Umar Ago, who is the then General Manager of the State Water Board and Ezekiel Audu.
For Professor Alanana Otaki, state Commissioner for Agriculture and Water Resources, on assumption of office, disclosed that Engineer Sule gave the ministry matching orders to restore water supply across the state.
Throwing more light on the steps taken by the government towards restoring water supply in the state and the progress so far made, Acting General Manager of the Nasarawa State Water Board, Engineer Abdullahi Shafa, disclosed that the unfettered interest demonstrated by the Governor and the working relationship the board enjoys with the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, particularly the Commissioner, has brought success story across the state.
Engineer Shafa recounted how Engineer Sule started the journey that will turn around the fortune of water supply across the state.
“When he came to power, one of the things he first asked for, from the former GM, was to bring up a report on the water supply situation in the state. Unfortunately that wasn’t done until the former GM left.
“However, because of not doing that, the Governor now himself decided to set up a committee on water supply across the state. It was headed by the present Commissioner for Justice.
“The committee sat severally and presented a report to His Excellency. The Governor also forwarded that report to the Deputy Governor for further study and deliberation.
“The outcome of it was what we are having today. Because some suggestions were made, the Deputy Governor interacted with water board management again after that report. He interacted with the management of the board and set up a little agenda with him. And incidentally, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources came onboard, they now have a Commissioner.
“The Governor now directed that we should now liaise with the Commissioner. And that was the beginning of the success story because once we started liaising with the Commissioner, the Governor released some amount of money for work to be started. And since we started, early January this year, we have not turned back,” the Acting GM explained.
According to Engineer Shafa, having realised that there was so much problems in water supply across the state, with the ministry and water board undertaking an entire tour of the water schemes across the state again, from where they made some studies, an agenda for implementation was set.
“We started with the critical area, which is between Akwanga to Keffi. That was the most critical because you see a lot of people suffering, even when you are passing on the highway. It does not tell a good story about the state. We started from that axis and God so kind, we are able to restore water supply between Akwanga and Keffi within a short period. Now Keffi has the history of not getting water into their tanks for over ten years,” he stated.
So far, the board, working in conjunction with its parent ministry, has also restored water supply to Nasarawa Eggon, Wamba, Doma, Keana, Nasarawa, Toto and just recently in Awe.
Speaking on the board’s experience in Awe, Engineer Shafa has this to say: “In Awe they had an old scheme there, were water was supplied to the town from Kekura but the transmission lines were vandalized, the boreholes too got bad at Kekura.
“So four number of boreholes were sunk within the vicinity of Awe town. You know Awe has the issue of salt water, it wasn’t easy getting these locations. And you certainly know that the water will not be enough. We managed to get four boreholes there and it was successful.
“Water was now pumped into the tank and we felt the people in the town, because the boreholes were located at the federal low cost at Awe and we needed to get the water to the town, at least closer to them. We piped a little to the town and we connected that supply to the pipeline in the town. Thank God, the Emir’s palace is getting water now, we have some public taps that people can fetch water from in Awe. Awe has not seen that for a very long period of time.”
As optimistic as the situation of water supply across the state may appear, it’s still not yet Uhuru as explained by the board’s acting GM.
First, the vision Engineer Sule has for the board to be self-subsisting, with the water board generating enough revenue to run its affairs, may not be feasible because water supply is not only expensive but that it’s more of a social service rather than commercial.
According to the acting GM, Nasarawa State charges only N400 as water rate monthly, the lowest in the country.
In Lafia, the state capital, only about 30 percent of the city is accessing portable drinking water. Even at that, recent road constructions in the city has wrought more destruction on water mains, resulting in the board’s inability to cater for the water needs of residents.
“It’s always our wish that we give water every day, if it’s possible. But like I said, it’s very expensive to run water, the chemicals cost very high, the power, you know there is no power from the national grid, so we are using generator. Diesel is expensive. Maintenance of the generators and things like that. The resources we have in the state may not give us the opportunity to supply water every day,” Engineer Shafa further explained.
With this year’s World Water Day focusing attention on the importance of water, with the theme, “Water and Climate”, exploring how water and climate are inextricably linked, it’s only apt to commend the Engineer Sule administration for its landmark achievements in water supply, even as citizens of state expect more robust policies to further boost constant water supply across the state.
Abare is a Special Assistant on Media to His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, Executive Governor of Nasarawa State.