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Water: The Pain Of Abuja Residents

Talking of water provision in Abuja, residents go through difficult situations to get water for their daily usages. This is because there are many individual houses and estates in Abuja that are not connected to the city’s water supply

Teddy Nwanunobi and Emeka Pascal

Water is a necessity of life, which has no limit. This is because water is the most essential element to life on planet earth.

There is a familiar line from the poem ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’, which reads: Water, water everywhere; not any drop to drink. From the above rhyme, one would understand that the world is full of water.

Unfortunately, scientists have told us that 97 percent of the water in the world is undrinkable. The reason is simple: it is saltwater.

According to the National Geographic, only 3 percent of the world’s water supply is freshwater, and 77 percent of that is frozen. Of the 23 percent that is not frozen, only a half percent is available to supply every plant, animal and person on earth with all the water they need to survive.

The challenges of non availability of water is one serious issue that has always bedevilled Nigeria’s political seat, Abuja. When it was obvious that population pressures, political and ethnic divisions necessitated a move from Lagos, Abuja was selected as the new capital of Nigeria. On February 4, 1976, a decree was signed establishing the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Abuja and setting up of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), which is charged with the task of developing the new capital.

Physically located in the centre of the country, Abuja is bordered on the North by Kaduna State, on the South- East by Nasarawa State, on the South- West by Kogi State and on the West by Niger State.

Abuja has lived up to its billing as a unifying city for Nigerians of different tribes, languages and creeds. It is a city that has accommodated Nigerians of different classes.

Despite spreading its arms wide to welcome all and sundry, Abuja has, however, not been fair to millions of Nigerians living in it in terms of costs of living. Ranging from accommodation through transportation, to electricity and water, the costs of achieving each for an average resident are equal to an arm and a leg.

Talking of water provision in Abuja, residents go through difficult situations to get water for their daily usages. This is because there are many individual houses and estates in Abuja that are not connected to the city’s water supply, mostly due to low water pressure.

This situation has residents to resort to purchasing water from independent water suppliers or vendors (popularly known as mai ruwa) and drilling boreholes. In fact, it was because of the later (proliferation of boreholes) that Abuja was nicknamed ‘The City of Boreholes’.

The costs of sourcing water from mai ruwa vary. This is largely dependent upon the quantity of water that an individual or household needs.

At communities like Nyanya, Karu, Jikwoyi, Kpeyegi, Kurudu, Ajata, Orozo and Karishi, it costs more than N30,000 yearly to source water from mai ruwa. One 20-litre container of water costs N25. Each mai ruwa carries a truckload of 12 of these 20-litre containers to sell to buyers, which amounts to N300.

Mrs. Clara Ikeogu, who lives at Kurudu, disclosed to Inside Abuja that she spends a minimum of N31,500 on water annually.

“My husband and I were living at Karu since 2010, before God blessed us with our own house two years ago. But the water situation has been the same, except for other things, my brother.

“We have always bought the water we use for everything from the Hausa boys (mai ruwa). It costs us N300 to get a truck of 12 jerry cans of water, which we use for three or four days, depending on how much water we use. We practically buy it like that twice every week, which gives you N600 weekly only on water!

“I have two customers I call on phone to bring me water whenever we need to replace. But none of them has as much as given me a container of water for free in a year. It costs us, plus or minus, N31,500 to source the water we use every year,” she said.

It has cost Mr. and Mrs. Ikenna Ikeogu the sum of N158,000 to source water from mai ruwa in five years. But she revealed their plans on how to make life easier for them in the future.

“My brother, I can assure you that it’s a pretty difficult thing for us to do, living for five years on water bought from mai ruwa. But what can we do?

“My husband wants to sink a borehole, but he hasn’t got the money at the moment. So, we have to wait on God, who made it possible for us to have our own house. He’ll do it for us, and soon, I assure you,” she whispered with confidence.

According to Mrs. Kate Okwe, who lives at Jikwoyi with her husband and three teenage children, they use an average of N900 worth of water weekly.

“Ever since we arrived here in Abuja three years ago, we have not gone a week without buying water. We spend roughly N900 on water every week,” she said.

She explained that due to washing of dishes, laundry and other usages of water by the Okwe family, they end up buying one truckload of 12 containers of 20-litre water thrice a week.

Mrs. Okwe, who has lived at Jikwoyi with her family since 2012, revealed that they have spent the sum of N140,400 so far.

“Somehow, I don’t know how I came about it; but somehow, we spend about N47,000 every 52 weeks. You can do the calculations for yourself how much we have spent buying water for three years,” she said.

While it costs the Ikeogus the sum of N93,600 to source water from the local boys in three years, the Okwes spend nearly twice on that in the same period.

For the Ochis, who live at Phase IV in Nyanya, theirs is on the highest point of the ladder within the same period under review. Mr. and Mrs. James Ochi are blessed with three children in the ages of nine, five and two years.

Mrs. Ochi told Inside Abuja that due to unending washings in the house, especially the clothing of her children, they spend no less than N1,200 on water every week.

“There is a lot to do with water in life, especially as a human being. But most importantly is the fact that we have three little kids, who must be kept clean, no matter how much dirt they pick, while playing around at home and at their school.

“How would I put it? Let me be very sincere with you: we almost use four full trucks of water from the mai ruwa every week. Sometimes I wonder how we manage it; but I guess we will survive it, we have gone this far since three years now,” she submitted. From Mrs. Ochi’s submission, they spend about N1,200 to source water weekly, and this amounts to the sum of N62,400 yearly. Simple calculation puts their expenses at N187,200 in three years.

At the Federal Housing Estate in Lugbe, resident, Mr. Ikecchuwku Chris, said that he has been patronising water vendors since he moved to the area about five years ago. According to Chris, he said that he spends over N2,000 each month on water.

“The issue of potable water is even the worst because I have never seen the tap in my compound flowing since I came to Abuja. I spend more than N2,000 to buy water each month,” he said.

Charity Ogah, a resident of AMAC Estate along Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Expressway, said that most people in the estate rely mostly on boreholes for water supply.

“You can dig borehole anywhere in Abuja and get water. That is the reason most of us (are) not feeling the absence of FCT Water Board here. I can tell you that most of the estates in the satellite towns normally put in place measures to get water.

“I think the population explosion is also affecting the provision of portable water in FCT. Many people have come to settle here. So, there is no way the government can provide portable water for everybody, though I am not holding brief for them,” she said.

Residents of Abuja, especially those living at different housing estates do not have access to good sources of water at their homes, despite claims by the FCT Administration (FCTA) that it has spent billions of Naira for water projects in the FCT. Unfortunately, the various costs or charges of electricity, generator and water are usually included in the prices or fees of the rents by most landlords and landladies.

Good water pressure in any area is an indication that the water supply in that area is pretty reliable. But following the failure of the FCTA, landlords and landladies to provide water for the residents most residents resort to borehole-sourced water for all their household’s need of water. Many more, who cannot afford to pay for borehole-sourced water for all their water needs, however, source the remaining water they need wells.

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