Despite its strategic location as the nation's capital, residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are daily confronted with the problem of water supply in both the satellite towns and the city centre. CHIKA OKEKE writes that the development has given rise to the residents patronising water vendors for their daily water needs.
Mr. Justin Ehimegbai resides in Gwarinpa estate Abuja but works at the Central Area which is a few kilometers away from his place of residence. This 34 years old man was initially skeptical about the assurances given to him by the estate agent regarding the availability of water within the estate when he moved in sometimes back.
To convince him, his edifice is neat, with the presence of faucet and overhead tank located close to the entrance of the building. It was an indication that all was well as far as water was concerned.
Drama however unfolded when the borehole broke down and since the building was not connected to the FCT water board, the only alternative was to patronize the local water vendors known as Mairuwa for his daily water needs.
It was really not easy for him to meet up with his daily water needs more so as he shared the apartment with his two younger brothers, he said, " As soon as the borehole broke down, I started buying a truck of water every three days at the cost of N600 as well as sachet water for drinking.
"We informed the landlord about the broken borehole which he promised to repair but nothing was done to that effect. It has really affected me because I needed to settle other bills like that of the PHCN, AEPB as well as attend to other needs with the meager resources at my disposal".
He pleaded with the authorities of the FCTA to hasten development processes towards ensuring that the estate has access to water since it is located within the city.
Mr Ehimegbai' s situation is synonymous with those of over 2 million residents in the FCT who solely depend on these truck pushers for their daily water needs. With the present heat that had taken over almost every part of the country, there is high demand for water, a development which provides a ready market for water vendors to make brisk business by supplying water from any source.
Water, Goldmine In Mabushi
Residents of Mabushi, a squatter settlement in the territory were not left out in the scarcity saga. To them, Mairuwa has turned themselves to thin gods even as water seems to be the highest goldmine in the area.
Mrs Yetunde Akinwumi and Mr Raphael Udok said, "Water was the least thing that we expected to be a scarce commodity here because of its proximity to the headquarter of the Ministry of Works but surprisingly, the reverse is the case. In this settlement, a truck of water goes as high as N300 and in some cases N400. Without water, every household chore will be left undone and we will neither eat nor drink.
"We do not have access to FCT water board and our only source of water is through these truck pushers who at times, do not even sell clean water. A truck of water only lasts for only two or three days depending on the size of a family. If we are to spend such amount on water alone, what about food, children's school fees, house rent among others?"
And what is their expectation from the FCT administration. They added, "Since we are part and parcel of this administration, they should, at least, make water accessible to all households so that we can enjoy the dividends obtainable to people living in high brow areas.
FCT Reluctant In Addressing Water Challenges - FHA Residents
Despite being a federal government estate, there are no signs that under ground pipes from the FCT water board is within the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Lugbe. The only sources of water supply for the residents is either through Mairuwa who, most times, buy contaminated water or through boreholes, for residents in houses with such facilities. Mallam Isah Mohammed, a resident noted that the FCTA is reluctant in addressing water challenges in the FCT especially in the estate saying that the residents spend one third of their salaries on water alone.
"FCTA cannot convince us that they are keen on addressing the water challenges in the FCT, if not, why should a civil servant who earns a paltry salary spend between N200 to N300 on a truck of water every two days which is approximately more than one third of his or her annual earnings, so how much will food, transportation and other necessities cost?
According to him, "Most times, the water supplied by these water vendors is contaminated because one can easily see tiny particles running inside it but since there are no alternative, we just buy and resort to boiling. I have approached the water board to know if they can supply water for me at a minimum cost but the response they gave me was shocking. "We don't supply water to residents in the satellite towns except for residents in the city".
"My question is this, does it mean that residents of satellite towns do not live in the FCT? Why the segregation, afterall, we work in the same office and buy things from the same market.
"What more can I say because we have complained several times concerning the water challenges in this estate but the situation is still the same till now".
Mrs Josephine Henry, a housewife blamed the FCT administration for neglecting the basic needs of the residents irrespective of its strategic location at the nation's capital. she says, "I live along the Old Redeemed Way and since the roads are untarred, a truck of water goes as high as N300 while in some parts in the estate, it is N200. Apart from the water problem, the FHA management should as a matter of urgency repair all the access roads because they have collected money for roads maintenance and dumped the work half way.
Garki, Wuse Residents Seeks PPP On Water Supply
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, a resident of Garki; Mr Fidelis Uche accepted that water board dispenses water to many households saying that the area experiences water scarcity only when the channels are locked up from the source or blocked.
"They are trying by making sure that residents of Garki get access to daily water supply but on days when they fail to open up the general water faucet, many households will experience water shortage and the last resort will be to patronize water vendors who sells as high as N600 to N1000 per truck.
Uche however solicited the support of stakeholders saying that the administration should consider engaging in Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to ensuring that the FCT rids off water problems in the nearest future.
Another resident of Wuse, Madam Vera Peter- Akpan was optimistic that the PPP will go a long way in addressing the water challenges. She said, "For FCTA to go into PPP in terms of water supply, is a good idea because I have discovered that the government business are most times mismanaged due to their selfish reasons but any private individual that invests in anything would want to see result for the money he or she invested.
Kubwa Residents Groan Over Water Scarcity
Kubwa, another satellite town is daunted with the challenging water scarcity in FCT. While some streets in Kubwa were fortunate to get direct water supply from FCT water board, others solely depend on mairuwa for their daily water needs.
Idris Abubakar lives at Bzango extension, Kubwa with his wife and four children. He had access to FCT water supply and most times patronized Mairuwa but what was his experience when road construction commenced in the locality.
"Though sometimes, I patronize mairuwa but water supply was quite often in Bzamgo extension until a construction company started working on the road. For the past three months, the residents had to contend with water scarcity, a situation that has almost consumed a greater percentage of my salary. I buy a truck of water that is 10 kegs for N1000 and most times, it goes as high as N1400.
He continued, "If I keep buying a truck for every 2 days due to the size of my family, you can imagine how much money I will spend on water alone. What about my children school fees, house rent and other miscellaneous?
Did he actually visit water board to notify them about his challenges, "Three people were selected to visit water board and possibly find out why the water scarcity persisted? At the water board, we did not get any definite response as to when the water will be restored and why the problem.
Another resident, Madam Rosemary Isaac blamed the FCT administration for their inability to address water shortage in the city despite revenue generated from the state saying that tax payers money were not properly utilized to serve their interest.
"I am worried because I know that residents pay tax which is supposed to be channeled to developmental projects in the state but the services we are getting in return is not in conformity with the sacrifices we have made so far. For a civil servant who earns just N50, 000 monthly to spend as much as N12, 000 on water alone is appalling.
"If the administration can no longer address this water challenges, its better they enter into partnership with a private company that will ensure effective and efficient water supply for both residents in the satellite towns and FCC.
On the reason behind the acute water shortage, she said, "I learnt that the ongoing road construction was responsible for the water shortage due to damages in the underground pipe by the construction company. The biggest problem is that until the road construction ends, there would be no water supply from FCT.
And Asokoro Too..
Funny enough, Asokoro which is situated very close to the Presidential Villa and houses some foreign diplomats are also at the mercy of water vendors. This really sends danger signals that water scarcity will bite harder especially this dry season if pragmatic steps were not taken to address the challenges.
"Can you imagine that water business in this area is profitable? Unlike in the past when people do not really make good money from water, the situation is different today", Mr Philip Udok, a consultant told Leadership Sunday.
According to him, "1 jerrycan of water sells between N100 to N140 depending on your bargaining strength while a truck that is 10 jerrycans sells between N1000 to N1400 just for water alone.
He wondered whether the government was uninformed about the water problems in FCT saying that water is an essential commodity that should be available to every household at all times.
Udok however suggested that the ministry of water resources should seek other alternatives to water supply for the residents stressing that it was shameful for the nation's capital to be confronted with water problems.
"Why should there be water scarcity in the first place when the country has what it takes to ensure all round development in every state, local government and communities", Miss Anderlene John, a student of Imo state university and a resident of Asokoro added.
Water Vendors Make Brisk Business
When our reporter spoke with two water vendors, who identified themselves as Mohammed and Musa, they smiled and accepted that the business was flourishing especially this dry season.
"The business is good because we make good money every day and when the planting season begins, we travel home (Katsina and Maiduguri) and invest the money in our farms.
Asked whether they want water scarcity to be resolved, they said, "Kai, that means that we will not make good money again. I am hoping that one day, when I make good money from this business, I will buy motorcycle and change to Okada business like my brothers did in the past.
FCT Water Board Adamant
When the reporter visited the FCT water board to ascertain their readiness to provide steady water supply to the residents, the Head Public Relation officer, Mrs Janet Peni said that the Executive Secretary was new in office and needed more time to be fully conversant with the workings of the board.
Even when the reporter sent text message to remind her of the earlier visit, she neither called nor replied the message.