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More than half of Nigerians still use contaminated water – report

As the world commemorates World Water Day, sustainable and equitable access to safe drinking water remains a challenge in Nigeria, with over 86 per cent…

As the world commemorates World Water Day, sustainable and equitable access to safe drinking water remains a challenge in Nigeria, with over 86 per cent of Nigerians lacking access to safely managed drinking water sources.

The problem is compounded by poor drinking water quality and a lack of equity in access. 

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This is according the latest report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Even though the theme for the 2022 celebration is: “Groundwater-making the invisible visible,’ emphasis still remains on access to clean and safe water.

Although about 70 per cent of Nigerians are reported to have access to basic water services, more than half of these water sources are contaminated.

According to the report, although 73 per cent of the country’s population has access to a water source, only nine litres of water on average are available to a Nigerian daily.

The UN agency said, globally, more than 1.42 billion people – including 450 million children – are living in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability. This means that 1 in 5 children worldwide does not have enough water to meet their everyday needs.

The figures in Nigeria are particularly worrying, with 26.5 million Nigerian children experiencing high or extremely high water vulnerability – or 29 per cent of Nigerian children. Nearly one-third of Nigerian children do not have enough water to meet their daily needs, the UNICEF reports show.

According to UNICEF data, Nigeria is one of the 37 ‘hotspot’ countries where children face terrible circumstances, in terms of absolute numbers, the proportions of children affected, and where global resources, support and urgent action must be mobilized.

Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria said, “The world’s water crisis is not coming – it is here, and children are its biggest victims. At the current rate, the country will miss the SDG targets on people’s access to water, unless there is a strong commitment and appropriate action taken by all stakeholders.”

He stressed that the impact of water scarcity can be felt by all, but no one suffers more than the most vulnerable children.

According to WaterAid, an NGO is working in Nigeria since 1995, to expand access to water, sanitation and hygiene, three in 10 people in Nigeria don’t have clean water close to home while three in five people in Nigeria don’t have a toilet of their own, and four in five people in Nigeria lack handwashing facilities at home.

Engr. Suleiman Adamu, the Minister of Water Resources, told Daily Trust during an exclusive interview that it is the responsibility of the state governments to provide portable water to the households in their respective states.

He said the federal government only provides the body of water in dams, from where he said the state governments can draw, treat water and reticulate same to the households.

The minister said the federal government has over 400 dams filled with water from where the states can tap.

To mark this year’s water day, Daily Trust looks at the water situation in some states in Nigeria. 

Residents rely on boreholes, streams, wells to access water in states  

Reports from Bayelsa State indicate that residents of the state still get their drinkable water from boreholes and streams due to the unavailability of public sources of potable water.

Daily Trust findings showed that clean and good drinking water is the major problem for the residents in every community of the state. In Yenagoa, the state capital, where people depend on the borehole, the high deposit of iron and oil on the ground makes the water from the borehole undrinkable. While in the villages, where people used to depend on streams as the source of water, all have been polluted by oil exploration activities. 

A resident, Godspower Tare, told Daily Trust that the oil exploration activities have damaged all the sources of water the people of the state used to rely on in the olden days and the state government didn’t want to invest in the water board that will provide water to the residents.

He said: “Just check boreholes that we are fetching water from. The colour of the water is brown and it’s filled with rust, despite that a bucket is sold for N30 while those vendors that move around with water sell theirs for N50.

“So, we drink sachet and table water’ that is for those that can afford them, but those that cannot afford it, leave their fate to God. Bayelsa people are really suffering in the area of potable water.”

Last year, the Bayelsa State House of Assembly introduced a controversial bill referred to as the “Water Sector Bill” but it suffered a setback on the floor of the house after members kicked against it, describing it as anti-people.

The state legislators were against the bill because, according to them, it is a misnomer for the house to discuss regulating water when the government has failed to provide potable drinking water for its citizenry.

A senior official in the state’s Ministry of Water Resources confided in Daily Trust that the state government had concluded plans to ensure that the state water company starts dispensing water to residents.

In Kano State, with an estimated population of over 15 million people, findings by Daily Trust revealed that people in the state resorted to boreholes and other sources of water for their daily water supply due to unreliable supply in the state metropolis and other parts of the state.

In places like Gandu, Dakata, Yan Kana, Hotoro, Tarauni, Brigade, Ladanai, Sauna, among other areas, the residents have lost hope in having a steady water supply in their areas. 

According to Gambo Ibrahim, a resident of Tinshama area in Nassarawa LGA, for years the people’s main source of water supply were wells and boreholes,

“Our initial sources of water in this area were our wells, but due to the availability of boreholes constructed by individuals for personal and commercial usage, we are now living at the mercy of these boreholes owners as our taps have since ceased to run, said Gambo.

Same scenario in Ekiti, Jos

In Ado-Ekiti, the capital city of Ekiti State, residents in new areas such as Eminrin, poly road, Ajebamdele, Fiyinfolu, Abayemedi and others are battling with potable water supply for domestic use. Some have resorted to digging wells and boreholes to be able to get water. 

Though, the state government has commenced rehabilitation of its major dams and laying of pipes to solve major problems associated with potable water supply in the state.

Out of the four major dams in Ekiti, three have received a major boost for water to be made available for the consumers in the state.

The Director General, Office of Transformation and Strategy, Ekiti State, Prof. Bolaji Aluko, said the state has had a major breakthrough in its efforts to provide potable water to the people with four major dams, but said the greatest challenge is electricity.

Prof. Aluko, while explaining the indiscriminate digging of boreholes by private individuals without regulations, said the state had set up a body to checkmate borehole drilling, adding that the agency would be launched later this month.

Also speaking, Mr. Michael Ale, the National President, Borehole Drillers Association of Nigeria, said if the government provides water, people would not be drilling boreholes indiscriminately, adding that it is was the failure of the government that led to the indiscriminate act.

He said such practice can lead to earthquakes and other dangerous mishaps, adding that it is not the business of individuals to dig boreholes for domestic use.

Mr. Ale pointed out that every individual desires good drinking water and therefore urged government at all levels to wake up to their responsibility and provide water for the citizens.

In Jos, the Plateau state capital, and other parts of the state, there is acute water problem which the people have been battling over the years.

Our reporter said due to the rocky nature of Jos, many communities suffer water problems because it costs a lot to either drill boreholes or dig wells. Some, however, endeavour to do it in order to access water.

The commonest means of accessing water, therefore, is digging wells, drilling boreholes, buying from water vendors in jerry cans, or from water tankers that refill from the water board’s outlets.

Among the worst-hit places in Jos are Jenta Adamu and Jenta Mangoro where access to water has remained a herculean task over the years, and the people have to depend on an unhealthy gully for water to use. 

Although some reasons have been given for their ordeal, the fact remains that the issue of water problem in Jenta Adamu and Jenta Mangoro is pathetic. 

A commercial driver who resides in the area, Friday Abah, said they are used to the situation already.

By Hussein Yahaya, Dalhatu Liman (Abuja), Bassey Willie (Yenagoa), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano), Raphael Ogbonnaiye (Ado-Ekiti), Jeremiah Oke (Ibadan) & Dickson S. Adama (Jos)