What Happened to Public Central Water Supply System in Nigeria?
In my community of Delta State, we have over eight overhead water tank projects of different sizes, designed to supply the community with water. Out of the eight water tanks, FG built six (through NDDC, Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), and another FG owned agency).
Despite the fact that such a community has over eight water projects worth over a hundred million Naira, only less than 3% of the community population have access to this water! And as at today, only one out of the eight water projects is functional! They usually stop working between four to six months after they were commissioned. I am sure between now and 2019, NDDC will build more water projects for that same community and at the end the community will still have no access to clean water. It is the same pattern across the whole of Nigeria.
In summary, the people of that community does not have access to clean water, despite the fact that govt record shows that they have over eight water projects sited in the community, three of which are powered by solar energy. Govt records also shows that over a hundred million has been spent to give that community water whereas in reality the project exist but has met no objective.
The big question is; why should a community have eight different ‘useless’ water projects instead of one CENTRAL water system? Why is the govt more interested in awarding numerous water projects in the same community instead of awarding a single central water system that would not only supply water to every house in the community but would also generate revenue for the community?
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/town. For the sake of sustainability, such a central water system should be built and managed by the community, not necessarily by the govt. How can this be possible? I will explain later.
First, the three tiers of govt are disconnected from each other, so therefore there is no sincere collaboration between them. Second, because each of these tiers are interested in awarding contracts (not necessarily for the purpose of 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 illegal 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, healthcare, 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 grants and 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 in fixing it. The maintenance guys will have themselves to blame when the community runs out of water. 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 of the project becomes guaranteed. I hear there is a community in Enugu State where this system has been in practice for over thirty years! I will visit this community this week end to see for myself.
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 constitutional autonomy to generate and spend revenues, 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.
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 unitary structure is inefficient and has made our federal government 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 projects?
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 of government.