The Federal Government has since 2016 allocated a whopping N395.23 billion to the Ministry of Water Resources for capital projects for the purpose of ending the challenge of water scarcity in many parts of the country. But in spite of the humungous capital investment, the citizens are still plagued by acute water scarcity.
In 2016, the ministry got N53.3 billion while in 2017, it received an allocation of N54.02 billion. The ministry in 2018, 2019 and 2020 got allocations of N95.11 billion, N92.2 billion and N100.6 billion respectively but nothing concrete is seen to have come out of the allocations which have been on the rise annually. These exclude the massive budgetary allocations to the sector by previous administrations.
The failure of the huge budgetary allocations to translate to availability of water for the citizens is worrisome for many and puts a question mark on the ability of the government to control water resources in the country.
Besides the budgetary allocations to the sector, there are also questions about the billions of naira voted for execution of water projects by federal lawmakers as part of their constituency projects. Tales from many states of the country revealed that the resources often committed to such projects do not produce the needed results as the jobs are usually shoddily done with a good part of the resources ending up in private pockets.
In a telephone chat with The Nation, Dr Austin Nweze of the Lagos Business School regretted that there is nothing to show for the enormous resources the government has been pumping into the water sector. He said: “Even, nobody knows what is going on about the reticulated water. I remember a Brazilian company, Sacamore, in the 90s did some projects in Lagos and some other states, where they laid some pipes, but the pipes are dry. It is an economic waste and I believe that it is a conduit pipe for channeling money by officials to enrich themselves.
“The European Union has invested so heavily in the provision of water in different parts of the country. It is just for us to do the needful and connect to the laid pipes, but they are just wasting. I think it is just part of the bad governance we have in the country, and it has permeated everywhere.
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“As an investigative reporter, it would be good you visit where all the projects are and see for yourself. Even if you are not investing in the physical, how many people have been trained to manage this water? It should not just be a case of spending N395 billion on paper and there is nothing to show for it.
“You will find that there is nothing to show for it; absolutely nothing. It is quite unfortunate, because I don’t see it. Even if you don’t provide for the villages, at least provide for the cosmopolitan areas. “
He added: “As citizens of this country, what can we say that the country has done for us, not to talk of what we can do for the country? Water is life. If you don’t do anything, make sure the people have clean water.
“According to a report by Natural Resource Institute in the US, the next world war that would be fought will be over potable water. Potable water is in high demand all over the world but in short supply. If we don’t prepare for the war… imagine where potable water will be a major export.
“In other countries, they have issues with providing water. But we have rainfall, we have seas. Providing water is not just the issue. What about the equipment that you need to supply this water? How many of the equipment are manufactured in Nigeria? None. And that is where the money is.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on its official website said poor access to improved water and sanitation in Nigeria remains a major contributing factor to high morbidity and mortality rates among children under five.
The UN agency said on its official website: “The use of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary conditions result in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases, including diarrhea, which leads to the death of more than 70,000 children under five annually.
“Seventy-three per cent of the diarrhea and enteric disease burden is associated with poor access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and is disproportionately borne by poorer children.
“Frequent episodes of WASH related ill-health in children contribute to absenteeism in school, and malnutrition. Only 26.5 per cent of the population use improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities. Also, 23.5 per cent of the population defecate in the open.”
Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 by 2030, according to UNICEF, requires extraordinary efforts.
“Based on World Bank estimates, Nigeria will be required to triple its budget or at least allocate 1.7 per cent of the current Gross Domestic Product to WASH. Unfortunately, little or nothing, according to stakeholders, is there to justify what has so far been spent.
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