Community Centralized Water System; The Importance of Community Governance
Each community/town in Nigeria should have one central water system to serve not just as a source of water supply but as a source of revenue for the community. For the sake of sustainability, such a water system should be built and managed by the community, not necessarily by the govt. How can this be possible? I will explain later.
In my community of Delta State, we have over eight overhead water tanks of different sizes, supplying the community with water. Out of the eight water tanks, FG built five (through NDDC, Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), and another FG owned agency).
Yet, only less than 4% of the community have access to this water. And only two out of the eight water project are functional! They usually stop working after four to six months after commissioning.
In summary, the people of that community does not have access to clean water, despite the fact that govt records show that they have over eight water tanks, three of which are powered by solar. This is the same pattern of govt presence across Nigeria. Why is it so? Why the useless and failed projects everywhere?
First, because we have three tiers of govt that are disconnected from each other, there is no synergy among them. Second, because each of these tiers are interested in awarding contracts and not solving development problems, they end up awarding contracts everywhere without solving problems with the projects. Third, because awarding contracts is the major way they (politicians and civil servants) make their money, they do not really care if the contract solves the problem it is suppose to solve. As long as they get their kick backs, to hell with the objective of the project. This is why they will prefer to award five different water projects for a small community within a six years period when in fact one well planned water project can solve the problem.
What point have I been trying to make?
First, the Nigerian govt is criminal and corrupt and cannot therefore be trusted in handling certain development projects for communities/towns. There are certain basic needs that should be best managed by the communities/towns, these includes water, basic education and security. For this reason, communities must be recognized as part of government and must be given fiscal autonomy to handle these issues for themselves. The govt can only assist them with irregular fundings and regular regulations.
Back to the issue of central water system. Yes, no community/town should have more than one water system. A central water system is easy to maintain. Because everybody uses this water, there becomes a collective sense of ownership. If it goes bad for two hours, the whole community will get involved. The maintenance guys will have themselves to blame. Also, a centralized water system could become a source of revenue for the community. A community with 2,000 houses each paying N500 per month could generate N1million monthly from their centralized water system. With this revenue, maintenance and sustainability is guaranteed. I hear there is a community in Enugu State where this system has been in practice for over fifty years! I will visit there next month.
Building such central water systems could be expensive. How can communities embark on such a project without govt support? First, the govt must recognize communities/towns as a tier of govt to be funded internally. They must be given back their land and the resources in their land, they must be allowed to participate and benefit from every revenue generating means within their domain. And finally, they must be allowed to draw up their own annual budgets. And most importantly, funding of these communities must be internal and not external.
Communities/towns should be allowed to at least manage basic education, security and water supply. The bigger govt should only regulate and grant them grants (when necessary).
Our present federal government is inefficient and greedy. Why should the FG be involved in drilling borehole in communities if it is not greedy? Why are communities so poor that they cannot award their own contracts? It is because the govt has stolen their wealth and is now trying to appease them by giving them unsustainable projects in return.
Nigeria is not progressing under this criminal unitary ‘feeding bottle’ federalism that we currently practice. We need to unbundle the federal government. We need to restructure Nigeria. Communities are suffering and the FG and states are responsible for the suffering.
Communities need to be involved in the business of governance and this can only be done under a bottom-up system.