Water supplies management activities in Nigeria are menaced by poor funding and poor educational training
Boniface C E Egboka
Nigeria, even in parts of the north, has bounteous surface water and groundwater resources as abundant rainout occurs annually during the rainy season particularly in the southern areas. Despite this abundance of water resources above and below the ground surface; even in the Sahara desert there are oases, Nigerians still lack adequate potable water supplies in rural and urban communities Water is life and there is no life without water as water resources also involve all livelihoods in various ramifications.
It may be the veritable route out of poverty and longevity for individuals and various communities. Providing and managing water and its attendant resources are highly-essential if Nigeria is to achieve the much touted sustainable development goals. Water is such a central and unavoidable human consideration in all aspects of life that it must be an integral part of all socioeconomic activities, planning, investments and management; one must not take water existence and sustainability for granted as most Nigerians do today.
Water resources planning, provision and management are of very crucial importance, not only for development purposes but also a matter of social good and national security. The presently-existing poor and inadequate service delivery in the water sector in Nigeria has exacerbated major incidences of severe general poverty and wide scale impairment of public health through the invasion of bad water-caused diseases.
Some initiatives/efforts by the Federal, State and Local governments, communities, groups and individuals to provide potable and sustainable water supplies are not encouraging enough and have not yielded the desired results. In both urban and rural communities, many people struggle to find water for domestic and industrial uses from questionable sources. People fetch drinking water from unhealthy water sources or with decayed water tankers from streams, lakes, rivers, shallow wells etc. Some of these water sources may be heavily-polluted or or are badly–contaminated.
Three years to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), governments at all levels as well as public water and sanitation agencies in Nigeria still lack the human and financial resources to provide adequate water and sanitation infrastructure and services for the people.
Water supplies and services in both urban and rural areas still remain abjectly-poor. Residents have highlylimited access to a variety of water sources but mainly to poorly-situated and not-working public water standpipes and traditional but generally-unprotected shallow wells, poorly-sited, drilled and unmaintained boreholes and polluted streams, lakes and rivers.
Existing water supply systems in the high density population settlements of urban and peri-urban centres are, in most cases, inadequate for the level of demand; and the systems are poorly-maintained and -managed. Most water installations are concentrated in low-density urban areas, away from the crowded and low-cost peri-urban areas where the majority of the population and the rural poor live.
Retail water vending by water tankers and peasant mai ruas with unhygienic containers is a regular practice. Water supply to low-income areas does not meet a number of important criteria linked to social, public health, commercial, technical and operational objectives. Thus, the social objective cannot be translated into accessibility and affordability as water supply services are irregular and unreliable. These poor quality waters, ingested daily by people are forebears of water-borne diseases that have ravaged many communities in Nigeria.
Water supplies management activities in Nigeria are menaced by poor funding and poor educational training, weak institutional framework, weak data base, fragmented responsibility and weak strategic plan of action and poor management. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources has a great deal of work that is naturally-cut out for it. The situation has adversely-compounded the challenges of exploration, exploitation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of water resources sourcing and delivery of projects.
The efforts of the civil society organizations and funding agencies to provide and improve water supplies in most parts of the country are usually confronted by these complex myriads of negative water challenges. There have been recorded hig capital investments by governments and funding agencies in the water sector without equivalent service delivery to the populace whereby people continue to be starved of credible potable water supplies; such huge amounts of national and international funds for provision, improvement and management of water supplies to water hungry people in various communities seemed to have been flushed down into an imaginary fraudulent dry sinkhole.
Water supply is on the concurrent legislative list. A 2004 National Water Resources Policy sets out numerous principles to guide management of the country’s water resources, including: (1) water is considered to be a national asset and resource common to all, the use of which shall be subject to national control; (2) the nation’s water resources shall be managed to achieve optimum, long-term, environmentally-sustainable social and economic benefit for society; (3) the law should provide for Water-Use Rights rather than Water-Ownership Rights; (4) planning and management of Nigeria’s water resources shall take place within a framework that facilitates awareness and participation among all users at all levels; (5) water resources shall be assessed, developed, apportioned and managed in such a manner as to enable all users to have equitable access; (6) operational management of water resources and services shall be decentralized to the lowest practicable level in accordance with the established eight hydrological areas as the basic units of water resources management in Nigeria; and (7) fees shall be charged for commercial extraction of water.
Unfortunately these policy-principles have not been supported by Federal legislation. The Water Resources Act of 1993 gives the governments the right to use and control all the country’s surface water and groundwater resources for the purpose of developing the country’s water resources and coordinating their distribution, use and protection.
The Federal government has authority over water shared by more than one State; otherwise, each State has authority to regulate the water resources within its boundaries. The Federal government also has control of the country’s major dams/man-made reservoirs. This Act of 1993 permits people access to water for domestic uses from public-access sources.
Those with statutory or customary rights to land can take water from any underground water source or water course for domestic use, watering livestock or personal irrigation systems. State-level water legislation and local Water Boards also govern water use. The 1979 River Basins Development Authorities Act establishes and regulates 12 River Basin Authorities. These River Basin Authorities are under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources.
The individual States have authorities over the water resources within their boundaries; and most have issued legislation to create State Water Boards to manage, supervise and control the use of the State’s water resources. State Water Boards report to the Governors of the State. In urban and peri-urban areas, water charges are based either on the volume of water consumed or on a flat rate; and the rates are usually-subsidized.
In most rural areas, water is accessed by the population at personal costs with hard labour. Water scarcity is common in many towns and cities and those who can afford the expense often buy water of doubtful source from private water vendors. Under Customary Law, a grant of land generally confers rights to all products of the land, including water resources. People can take water for domestic use from springs, lakes, rivers, wells, and boreholes.
There are usually no restrictions on rights to use large bodies of water. Use of small bodies of water often requires permission of the community, clan or household occupying the land with the water resource. Anyone improving a spring, digging a hand-dug well, drilling a borehole or other water source earns rights to that water source.
Water-related disputes tend to be resolved by traditional disputeresolution processes and procedures such as through the use of customary/traditional leaders, tribunals, mediation, arbitration and adjudication. Non-use of trained Hydrologists in harnessing of surface water resources or appropriate use of Hydrogeologists in drilling boreholes for groundwater exploitation, lack of Water Law specialists and specialized legal inputs into water-related contracts and pervasive noncompliance with contract terms have increased the potential for water disputes and failures.
Nigeria’s three tiers of government share the responsibility for managing water resources and for providing water; this results in confusion and inefficiency. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources is the national head and coordinating body for the nation’s water sector. The Ministry develops and implements national irrigation policy, implements the Water Resources Master Plan, formulates legislation, and undertakes studies and research in water resources.
The Ministry is assisted by 12 River Basin Development Authorities and the National Water Resources Institute, Kaduna. The River Basin Development Authorities are responsible for the development of surface water and groundwater resources for multipurpose, multiobjective and integrated water resources use, constructing and maintaining water-resources infrastructure and supplying users with stored water.
The National Water Resources Institute in partnership with some Universities such as Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, creates and implements training programmes on water resources and advises governments on water-resource needs and priorities. The State Water Agencies are responsible for establishment, operation, quality control and maintenance of urban and semiurban and sometimes rural water supply schemes.
The Local Government Authorities, of which there are 774 in Nigeria, are responsible for the establishment, operation and maintenance of rural water supply schemes and sanitation facilities in their areas although only a few have the resources and skills to address the sector. Only few have rural water supply divisions able to construct small water systems such as open wells and small impoundments of surface water.
Sanitation access has gradually-grown in importance despite persistently low access rates, particularly, in urban areas. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with an estimated population of over 170 million, growing annually at a rate of about 2%. Nigeria is also the largest country in West Africa; she faces severe poverty, particularly, in the remote rural areas. Nigeria’s rainfall varies significantly across the country .
The northern Savannah receives the least rainfall of about 500 mm per year; the Middle Belt receives about 1000 mm per year and it rains almost year round at average of 2000mm per year in the humid Rainforest Belt of the southern region and the long strip of the extensive coastline. (To be concluded tomorrow)
•Prof Boniface C E Egboka, former VC of UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org