7 February 2013

Nigeria: FG Embarks On Comprehensive Water Reform

The Federal Government has announced fresh plans to carry out a comprehensive reform in the water sector.

The Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe, disclosed this in Abuja during a capacity building workshop on how to reform the water sector in Nigeria. The forum, which had participants drawn from 12 states of the federation, was targeted at building the expertise of government officials that would implement the reforms

The envisaged reforms, she noted, would help the federal government improve the policy environment, make institutional changes, introduce more efficient and professional management of utilities, and improve the utilities' financial structure including tariff structures.

She said: "The current low performance of the sector calls for concerted efforts that will bring about necessary change for improved performance in a radical way. There is apparent need for water utility reform drivers in the sector that have to be the top decision makers for the efforts to be actualised and sustained.

"This underscores the decision to involve the state water policy-makers and political heads in our capacity building effort so as to generate the momentum for necessary change in the sector."

Ochekpe said the conviction that the sector required innovative approach had made President Goodluck Jonathan to approve a summit on "innovative funding of the water sector"

"The envisaged reforms will focus on improving the policy environment, making institutional changes, introducing more efficient and professional management of the utilities, improving the utilities financial structure including tariff reform as well as establishing robust sector governance that will make the utilities more accountable," she added.

Also speaking at the event, the World Bank Country Director, Ms Francoise Maria-Nelly, said the bank would support any initiative of government that would help reposition the water sector.

She decried the country's low access to potable water, which stood at about 58 per cent, adding that the figure was one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa.

She said, "The access to water in Nigeria is about 58 per cent and this is the lowest in Africa. We have identified the challenges in the water sector and some of them include funding, low accountability and capacity and these are what we shall discuss at this workshop.

"We need to start addressing this problem through a holistic approach because at the World Bank, we have focused more on the areas of infrastructure but we now want to pay more attention on institutional framework and that is why we are supporting this reform."

Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, in the ministry of water resources, Mr. Godknows Igali, said the reform would assist in the effective management of water resources.

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