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Provision of safe Drinking Water to Nigerian Citizens. Who’s responsibility?

By Chris Onyishi.  
 Published July 15th, 2011

There is this Igbo adage which says that “miri bu ndu azu”, which literally translates to “water is the life of fish”. The Wikipedia notes that “… body water is 75 percent of the water content of the body. A significant fraction of the human body is water”. What this means is that water is not just good for the fish but to all humans and other living things.

Clean water is used by every household in a variety of situations on daily basis. Water is needed, in addition to drinking, for bathing and washing of all sorts of things. From the clothes we put on our bodies to the cooking utensils, etc. Clean water is also used in preparation of some drinks. So, water is not just needed to maintain the biological fluid equilibrium of the human body, but to keep our surrounding clean to reduce incidences of water transmitted and related diseases

I stumbled over Nigerian Labor Congress site:  where Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Service Employees (AUPCTRE) noted “that water is life” in a paper titled “Right To Portable Water Supply To All Nigerians By Government”.

This paper noted that “access to safe drinking water in the country is far less than 30% on the aggregate” and that “denial of portable water is a major source of water borne diseases, in particular among the rural and urban poor, and reductions in life expectancy”.

It further urged its 9th Congress-in-session to look into how huge foreign loans and grants to government is used in a bid to save Nigerians unnecessary deaths due to contaminated water.

The Businessday newspaper in Nigeria, in its March 22nd edition, noted that “the overriding importance of good water is the reason the United Nations (UN) general assembly designated March 22nd every year as the World day for water.” It further noted that over 1.8 million deaths, the world over, is directly or indirectly caused by water related diseases. Incredible this is. This seems even more devastating when you look at the statistics provided by Businessday where it is revealed - according to the Ministry of water resources - that about 317 Nigerian kids under the age of 5 years die yearly due to lack of access to portable water. What is more dangerous than?

Elsewhere there is avalanche of presentations on the need for portable water. So it would seem that everybody is aware that there is need for Nigerian Government to make haste and increase access to good water to her citizenry. It is evident from all discussion on portable water availability that there is unison amongst discussants that water is necessary for life on earth. This is just reinforcement to natural instinct. Whereas some other elements of life are elitist in nature - such as motor cars, travelling by air, wearing expensive ornaments and jewelry, etc - water requirement is just like breathing in and out of air.

But whereas wealthy individuals can afford their own private water requirements, the greater majority of Nigerians are at the mercy governments for their day to day water needs. It may be argued that government cannot afford all water requirements of all Nigerians, at the moment, due to several years of decay occasioned by corruption, same government can make use of some private operators to boost portable water supply to communities and societies in Nigeria.

If our government is responsible and responsive as it claimed during the death of 10 youth corps members in the mayhem following the April 2011 Presidential elections in Nigeria, government would know that 317 of those who would have been youth corps members died under the age of 5 years due to lack of portable water. And government could have stopped and can still do a lot to stopping such early deaths by providing portable water to her citizens.

The MD/CEO of Sylko Water – a major satchet/bottled water production company in Lagos Nigeria - Chief (Engr.) M. Akonobi noted in my discussion with him that his company spends not less than six hundred thousand naira (N600,000.00) monthly on electricity provision. This is in addition, according to him, to other major components, machineries and packaging materials. And more embarrassing is the activities of the agents of government who come with all manners of taxations. And I know this is what obtains in the entire table water production companies across the breath of Nigeria.

This is where one finds it difficult to understand the kind of governments we have in Nigeria. A government that cannot provide portable water, that cannot provide electricity, that cannot provide good road and yet goes about harassing private companies who are supposed to be seen as compatriots in the building of a nation.

If government cannot provide these amenities due to corruption, can’t government wave taxes for these Companies? This would have become a subtle incentive to encourage them to fill the gap governments have failed to provide for the citizenry. It is embarrassing and inhumane that in a country where kids die for lack of portable water, a senator goes home with over seven hundred and seventy two million naira (N772,000,000.00) for a term in addition to some other undocumented monies.

It will be interesting to see if President Jonathan’s much touted about fresh air and transformation in Nigeria will start with increased access to fresh and portable water to a very reasonable number of Nigerians from across all social strata.

Chris Onyishi.
Lagos, Nigeria.

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