22 January 2013

Nigeria: Developing Dams for Better Performance

A recent visit to Kaduna state as part of our gesture of paying respect to the late former Governor of the state, Sir Patrick Yakowa, during his burial rites, also afforded me and members of my group the Niger Delta Renaissance Organisation (NDRO) a privileged visit to the Gurara Water Dam project, a project which majority of us consider a wonderful project in light of the magnificence of the project and its importance to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The construction of the dam by the Federal Government under the Ministry of Water Resources and managed by the Gurara Water Management Authority, has by what we saw on ground at the project site, shown the strong commitment of the present administration towards tackling the issue of water shortage in the country while also using it to achieve other ancillary objectives like generating hydro electricity as well as for irrigation purposes.

The Gurara Water Project which began almost a decade ago, is intended to provide raw water for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as well as generate 300 megawatts of electricity as well as for irrigation purposes which will help farmers in the region. The project comprises a large dam and a 75 kilometre tunnel through the Kaduna and Usuma basins of Kaduna State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The dam is built on the Gurara River near Abuja and records have it that it is the largest and the pioneer water transfer project in the country. By storing, regulating and controlling the flow of the river and its affluent, this project will affect the delivery of specific quantities of water to the designated point for the FCT water supply.

With the population of the FCT ever increasing due to the high influx of people from all over the country, this very laudable project which remains unique, will hopefully tackle any problems that may arise from water shortage for the next 50 years and more. The beauty of the dam and its environment, provides a beautiful ambience for holiday seekers, tourists as well as for researchers.

It has always been the attitude of government to neglect such projects that has to do with the well being of the masses like water, road and electricity. But our fear has been allayed by the fact that the present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, has shown strong commitment to tackle the rot that has affected most public infrastructural projects in the country. Our belief is made stronger because of the trust most Nigerians including ourselves, have placed on the hard working team of the present Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe as well as the Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Godknows Igali, whose dynamism and sincerity of purpose have placed the Ministry as one of the ministries that has keyed in comfortably with the transformation agenda of Mr. President.

I must confess that the kind of zeal which the present set up in the Ministry has put in place, is worthy of emulation by other stakeholders in the present administrative setup. The Guarara dam project, just like other dam projects in the country, has the capacity of driving the nation's economy to the Eldorado which we so desire. The dams will benefit the country in so many ways like for recreational purposes, irrigation, flood control, hydro electricity as well as water storage purposes. The maximum utilisation of these benefits will go a long way to help generate income as well as create jobs for the ever growing unemployed people in Nigeria.

I have always been a proponent of the establishment of the National Dam Commission which is believed will help salvage the various dams in the country for better performance. In as much as those who should have passed the law have failed to see reason to do so, I will strongly suggest that those in authourity try and put in concrete policies that will make these dams perform optimally. Strengthening the dam management through creating avenues of revenue generation, will help tackle the problem of lack of management which these dams face. It is disheartening to hear that most dams have not had any Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) for many years talk less of some vital repair jobs. This situation has not done any good for the water resources sector.

The Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku, was recently quoted as saying that the Federal Government is going to explore the potentials of the various dams in the country, especially that of Doma Dam which he said it will use in developing agriculture in the state by developing agriculture and irrigation pumps for massive rice production. The effect of this plan will definitely be of serious advantage to the country in terms of job creation and improved export earnings. Also, experts in the area of water management have advised the Federal Government to increase the water supply coverage from the current 58% to 75% by 2015. The experts noted that 50% of the country's health problems will be addressed if the water sector is well developed.

It is regrettable that despite the enormous water resource endowment we have in the country, Nigeria in comparison with other countries is wallowing in insufficient water supply, dams and irrigation infrastructure due to consistent abandonment by successive administrations who view this sector as more of a humanitarian gesture than as a means of boosting the Nigerian economy.

The issue of the rot affecting our various dams can be best tackled if the right people with the zeal to effect change are put in place. The present combination in the ministry is proving doubters wrong and it is the general belief that placing the best people in the right place will go a long way to change the perception which most people have about the water resources sector. Nigeria deserves the best leadership not minding the sector and it is possible to have the best when there is sincerity of purpose from everybody concerned.

As we made our way back from the Gurara Project site which we understood is being built by Salini Nigeria Limited, everybody was full of praises for the contractors handling the project though they were also of the opinion that more can be done to speed up the project so as to give the people of Abuja the best they can get in terms of pipe borne water while also assisting the towns and villages around the area for the irrigation of their farms as well as boost the power generating capacity of the country.

Hopefully, when Nigerians will begin assessing Mr. President's transformational drive in the days to come, the water resources sector will be one of the areas where he will proudly tell Nigerians that he has truly achieved despite its unsung status today.

- Comrade Messiah is the National Coordinator of the Niger Delta Renaissance Organisation.

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