Independence: Gov. Ugwuanyi tackles water scarcity in Enugu

By Sunday Orji

As Nigerians celebrate the country’s 60th Independence anniversary, one thing that would be on the minds of residents of Enugu capital city is access to pipe-borne water, which has been a major challenge to Enugu metropolis for many years. The long years of military rule bequeathed decrepit social infrastructure, including broken, rusty, and dried water pipes across the nation, and Enugu was no exception.

Since 1999, successive civilian administrations have, therefore, shown various degrees of commitment and adopted various approaches to breaking the jinx of the perennial problem of water supply in the Coal City. However, despite all the huge investments by the World Bank and the state government in the past, various factors, including topography and policy inconsistencies, have made the quest for adequate water supply, particularly in Enugu metropolis, elusive. Of course, this has negatively impacted the living standards of the people.

For instance, Enugu State implemented the first National Urban Water Sector Reform Project along with Ogun and Kaduna states, between 2004 and 2013, when the project closed. A review of the project implementation results was carried out by World Bank independent group and discovered that, while the project achieved some results in the areas of production and revenue, a lot of gaps existed. At the time this project closed, there was an existing portfolio from French Development Agency (AFD) to support the third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project (3rd NUWSRP). But whereas Kaduna and Ogun states quickly keyed in and were considered for additional financing to sustain the investments recorded under the first National Urban Water Sector Reform Project (1st NUWSRP), Enugu suffered a setback due to the sudden change in government policy direction by the last administration, wherefore it concessioned the Enugu State Water Corporation (ENSWC) to a private firm. Consequently, the state was unable to access the fund at that period.

However, upon the coming of the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration in 2015, it adopted short-term approaches (which will be highlighted towards the end of this article) and a long-term approach, which resulted in the revival of the Urban Water Sector Reform Project due to the strong political will of the governor and the commitment of the administration to reform the water sector. Thus, Enugu State was selected along with other states (Ondo and Plateau), which did not benefit from the 1st NUWSRP to enable the Coal City State sustain and improve upon the investment recorded under the 1st NUWSRP.

In this support by the AFD to the 3rd NUWSRP to the tune of $158 million, $50 million goes to each of Enugu and Plateau states, while $57 million and $1 million will be lent to Ondo and Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR), respectively.

This support will help Enugu State to develop its water supply infrastructure in the capital city of Enugu to supply more people. The other objectives are to improve the financial viability and the performance of the ENSWC and also improve water sector governance. This project will holistically address the challenges in the areas of water production, transmission, distribution, metering, revenue generation and revenue recycle management for sustainability and return on investment.

The hard components consist of investments to rehabilitate, up-grade and expand Enugu City water supply system. In particular, it will see to the rehabilitation of Ajali and Oji River waterworks and installation of a dedicated power line for Ajali; upgrading of the water transmission system by the installation of a second pipeline, 12.8km long, 700mm diameter; replacement of around 240km of asbestos cement pipelines (40km in the primary distribution network and 200km in the secondary network); expansion of the secondary network over about 60km, to supply nearly 5,000 new domestic connections; replacement of all the 16,000 existing connections with new piping as well as installation of a meter on each connection; and the equipment of a central maintenance workshop to provide ENSWC with the resources required for the sustainability of operation of the water system.

Considering the 35,000 new connections, which can be developed on the existing network, the pipe-borne water coverage ratio will now increase from 8 per cent of the population, which this administration met in 2015, to 37 per cent by 2025, if the ENSWC is able to install 5,000 connections per year.

The soft components of the project consist of support to sector reform and capacity building to improve ENSWC’s technical, commercial, financial and managerial performance. These will include technical assistance to ENSWC, focusing mainly on revenue improvement, non-revenue water (NRW) reduction, operation and maintenance improvement, change management to achieve a successful transition to autonomy and performance, and financial management and cost control improvement.

The amended time frame for this project, which is fixed for five years (2018 to 2023), means that the problem of pipe-borne water in Enugu would have been substantially addressed by the time Governor Ugwuanyi signs out in 2023. And It is expected that, if proper management and business models in all the thematic areas are put in place, the improvement trend will continue to grow and ultimately break even, with all performance indicators tending to 100 per cent.

For sustainability, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) awarded contract to Hydroconseil of France and Weir Capacity of Nigeria (Consortium) after complying with National and International Procurement guidelines and procedures to carry out a tariff study and develop a financial model for ENSWC. This contract, in the form of technical assistance, is vide a grant of about €120,000 provided by Africa-European Water Partnership Project (AEWPP) and implemented by SIWI.

However, whereas the project, when completed, will trigger efficiency and improvement in water service delivery in Enugu, and whereas the Ugwuanyi administration has been quietly working and consummating all the arrangements to break the jinx of perennial water problem, it is equally the strategic thinking of the administration and the AFD, which are the key project drivers, that the state government cannot wait for AFD to deliver end-to-end solution to water challenges before intervening further in funding the quick wins.

Consequently, short-term interventions needed to be carried out simultaneously alongside the AFD’s long-term implementation, to alleviate the water supply shortages in the state. To this end, therefore, the Ugwuanyi administration invested a lot to maintain water production facilities at Ajalli Oji in 2019 and also in sustaining operations. This accounts for the improved water supply services in Enugu Metropolis. The government mapped out the sum of N1 billion for the procurement of pumps for Ajalli and Oji. There is equally the 9th Mile crash programme water schemes, matched with the Captive Power Generation System for the programme. All are geared towards optimising water production in the short term and also support of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, finding a permanent solution to the perennial problem of water supply in Enugu metropolis has been long in coming. But, under the Ugwuanyi administration, the long wait is coming to an end, as it can now be assuredly said that, finally, water is coming.

  • Orji writes from Enugu.

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