An international agency, WaterAid Nigeria, has revealed that around 63 million Nigerians (nearly 40 per cent of the total estimated population of 160 million persons) lack access to potable water.
The Country Representative for the agency, Mr. Michael Ojo, who stated this in Abuja at a road walk to mark the recent 2014 United Nation’s World Water Day, added that ten per cent of 783 million people who lack access to potable water globally are in Nigeria.
Ojo called on governments to match their words with action by committing more money into water services in the country. The theme for this year’s 2014 UN world water day was: ‘Water and Energy’.
He said, “Across the world, we still have 783 million people who don’t have access to water. And for us in Nigeria it is even more important because nearly 10 per cent of that number, 63 million, are in Nigeria, who don’t have access to water. For us, it is a call to action, to our government and to those who have responsibilities to ensure that we have access to water; to do what is required to make that happen.
“What we want to see is action. What is the budget for water services and sanitation? How has our government taken action to back up the words that they have said? So we really need to see our government put in more money to water and sanitation”, Ojo said.
According to him, government must make sure the money for water delivery gets to those in the rural areas who do not have access to safe potable water.
“We want to see that money go to the people who need it the most; the most vulnerable in our society; to ensure that the investment that is made go to those who need the services the most. We are working in collaboration with millions of others who don’t have access to water world-wide,” he added.
Earlier in her address, the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe, said the Federal Government was working hard to meet the target on water and sanitation. Ochekpe also urged investors in the power sector to see the potential in the nation’s water sector as worth investing in.
The minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mr. Baba Faruk, said the federal government was investing in the construction of dams to generate electricity.
She said: “The Federal Government has invested so much in water resources and this is part of the activities to showcase the role of water in our national development. Because water is life, without water nothing moves so it’s just to bring it to the attention of Nigerians. Water is important in relation to energy, health, agriculture, tourism, flood control, erosion control and so many other things that you use water for to ensure development in our country.
“The federal government is investing heavily in the construction of dams. The dams in Nigeria have the capacity to generate 3, 800 Megawatts of electricity. We are working with the ministry of power and other private investors to generate and harness these electricity potential and distribute it to Nigerians,” the minister added.
She stated that opportunities abound in the water sector to help in the realisation of both returns on investments and national power needs, stressing that such local and international investors in the water and energy sector can key into the small hydro-power projects scattered across the country.
Ochekpe however decried the state of many of the nation’s small dams, which she said were abandoned by other tiers of government.
She informed that as part of integrated river basin development in Nigeria, the Ministry and some River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs), while constructing dams in the 1980s and recently for water supply and irrigation, incorporated small hydropower plants to generate electricity to serve the project activities and the host rural communities.
These small hydropower plants, she stressed, remained uncompleted and are situated in Oyan dam, Ikere Gorge dam, Dadinkowa dam.
Highlighting the capacity of the nation’s water to provide water for industrial, domestic and hydro-power supply, the Minister emphasised that “the National Water Resources Master Plan (NWRMP) 2014, estimated the water potential of Nigeria to be 374 billion cubic meters.
“In Nigeria, statistics have shown that only 40 per cent of the population have access to safe drinking water while access to sanitation is put at 41 per cent. Improving water and energy efficiency is imperative as are coordinated, coherent and concerted policies”, she added.