From Suleiman Lawal, Lafia
In its desire to provide portable drinking water across the 13 local government areas, Nasarawa State Government has said that over N30 million is being spent monthly.
The General Manager of the state Water Board, Engr. Abdullahi Haruna Shafa, dropped the hints in an exclusive interview with our correspondent in Lafia, recently.
“The board is responsible for the provision of portable drinking water to semi urban and urban areas of the state so. We cover virtually the 13 local government areas of the state, except Karin Local Government Area presently,” Engr. Shafa said.
He said their mandate is to supply water everyday but due to some unforeseen circumstances they cannot meet up their target of providing water every day.
Engr. Shafa then outlined some of the difficulties confronting smooth operation of the board to include lack of stable power supply by the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), lamenting that the situation, a times, hinders their efforts to supply water every day.
The General Manager did not hide his joy with the present administration under the watch of Governor Abdullahi Sule for being up and doing to ensure thing returns to normalcy or promote water supply to residents of the state since assumption of office.
“If I may recall the very first approval made by Governor Sule was in the water sector particularly to the board.
“First, our treatment plans are very old and obsolete equipment that needed rehabilitation across the water works because most of the treatment plans and even area offices, where we have water supply to the town were commissioned in the 1980s and the last one commissioned was in 1996. You know it was a very long time, so, the equipments are already aged,” the engineer said.
He said that when Governor Sule came on board, the first thing he did was to release some funds for the rehabilitation of all the water skills, including machineries and the pipelines too.
“After that he (Sule) now moved ahead to approve for the purchase of inputs, such as chemical and diesel because of inadequate power supply in the state.
“It is now courtesy of Governor Sule we are witnessing a lot of improvement on electricity power. Before now, we relied on diesel across the state to power our generators apart from Akwanga Water Works.
“Immediately our governor settled those issues of maintenance as well as issues of inputs and we started working,” he pointed out.
According to him, they may not be working fully, adding: “I mean supplying water daily reason because it is very expensive to run generators 24/7.
“It is more expensive than to procure the chemicals. So, we scheduled supply of water based on resources available at our disposal.”
He assured people of the state that with the commissioning of Akura Power Sub-station, and if everything being equal, supply of water would resume daily once the power voltage is stable.
On the issue of chemicals, he said most of the treatment plans are using conventional treatment, saying: “That is, you extract water from the stream and then treat the water; to achieve that you need chemical to treat that water.”
He added: “That is where the issue of not getting water supply comes from. The chemicals are very expressive considering the time we are in now as things are double-tripled.
“So also that the consignments are mostly imported coupled with high rate of foreign exchange, therefore, it becomes a constraint in our sincere effort to provide uninterrupted water supply, but surely there is going to be a great improvement in water supply.”
Engr. Shafa prayed that power should be steady, adding that the money used for power would be now converted for chemicals.
“Therefore, there will be more chemicals so that we will improve our supply,” he asserted.
He reiterated government commitments to ensure replacement of aviators’ pipes with PVC or local ion pipes with a view to meeting up with the World Health Organization standard.
He lamented how people build structures on water pipelines.
According to him, the act causes blockage and destruction of such facilities, just as he appealed to residents to avoid tampering with their property.
“Most people connected water to our system. They do it illegally. They don’t do the work properly. At the end of the day, you find water leaking. At some points, they do the connection.
“So we have to be maintaining those places on daily basis as long as we supply water and report of leakages from one place to another.
“Water supply in Nigeria generally is more of social service to the people. Is Nasarawa State in exception compared with other states and the money spent and revenue generated in providing water to residents of the state?” he asked.
Engr. Shafa said: “It is not compatible at all. The revenue generation is far below, compared to expenditure in the water supply. So, it is still 100 per cent social service.”
“There are states that are trying to move out of that line, like Kaduna, Lagos and Taraba, but it is a process you cannot get it within short period of time. It will take years to accomplish because what will happen in that case, the treatment plants have to be 100 per cent in good condition,” he stressed.
“You will also look at the economic value of the water again. Looking at the economic value of the water is very difficult to fix in our society here. If you look at sachet water (pure water) is now sold at N20 per a sachet. It is just borehole water that is just packaged,” he noted.
He continued: “In our own case, we have to treat that water; you buy chemicals, pay for electricity bills at a very high cost. For these reasons mentioned, we have to value our own water in such a way that people will not feel the pains in having water in their domains.”
Engr. Shafa explained further that the World Bank and other agencies are intervening by way of support so that government could be relieved of the pressure.
“When they do that, it is anticipated that you recover whatever money you spend.
“But they don’t do it in every community. Their target is where there is much number of consumers, especially, if there are industries in the area,” he mentioned.
On enlightening people to pay water bills, the General Manager blamed elites for compounding more problems to the board for not paying their bills, saying: “Ordinarily, they are the ones who are supposed to enlighten others to pay.”
He added: “Those elites they hardly pay when you go to their houses. In fact, some of them, they don’t even allow you in. Even if you get access to their houses, they will tell you I’m so so person, I’m so so serving public officer or retired officer and I’m a stakeholder in the state, so I should have a privilege of using water freely.”
“These are the same people who would have enlightened communities on the need to pay water in order for government to provide more. They don’t do it,” he affirmed.
According to him, thought there are very few elites who pay theirs, like Nasarawa Local Government, the Emir is so supportive by paying his bills regularly.
“He also advises his people to pay. You see if the Emir is paying, nobody will refuse to pay,” he explained.
He however explained that the story is different in Keffi.
He continued: “Let me tell you this story, there was a retired Permanent Secretary we went for disconnection of one of his houses, which is directly on our water line.
“In fact, in his compound, there are pipes passing through and we have no way of disconnecting him because of the structure there, but, he is not paying, he refused to pay.
“We have to go pleading with him. He owes up to three years. A lot of them are like that.”
He noted that as the state is not industrialized, the only major source of revenue collection of the board is the state university Keffi (NSUK), saying: “They depend on our water so much and the dully pay us.”
“But in the other places, because they don’t have industries, we don’t get revenue,” said he.
Engr. Shafa stated that the board is supplying above 20 – 25 million gallons of water across the state, adding that: “Mada Water Works, which is the highest one, generates 17 millon gallons per day.
“The other ones, because they are of smaller capacities, when combined, you will get about 15 million gallons in a day.”
For the revenue again, he said: “Sometimes this revenue too is seasonal. During the raining season, people pay less, because they assume even if you disconnect their lines, if the rain comes, they will get water from rainfalls.”
He said at the dry season, the board generated about N2 million per month, while government spends average of N30 million monthly.
He commended Governor Abdullahi Sule for prioritising water for the people of the state since he assumed office, saying that apart from semi and urban water supply, the governor is still working around the table to ensure a lot of projects are executed, to include the on-going road network across the state.
“I want to plead with our teeming populace to pay services provided to them by the state water board because by the time they pay, it will ginger government to do more,” he pleaded.