President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday stated that going by estimates, the country needed about N350 billion yearly to tackle its water and sanitation challenges, saying lack of potable water for rural and sub-urban dwellers could no longer be tolerated.
Speaking at a two-day Presidential Summit on water, Jonathan who agreed with his predecessor, former President Olusegun Obasanjo that all hands must be on deck to provide clean potable water for all Nigerians noted that this was in line with his administration's transformation agenda.
Stressing that it was necessary to implement a more cooperative and radical programme of action to meet the nation's Millennium Development Goals MDGs) target in this sector, the president added that for the country to attain its MDGs, both the federal and state governments must collaborate.
Lamenting that only one in five rural households boasts of clean water at home, with most of them relying on unsafe sources for water, Jonathan warned that he would no longer tolerate a situation where a lot of money is spent to provide water but poor management mars every effort.
He said, "Investments were made to boost various aspects of the sector, from the line budget and special funds dedicated to ecological matters and natural resources development and also through the repair and rehabilitation of water supply infrastructure. In 2011, we spent the total sum of N40.94billion. In 2012, the sum of N43.6billion was spent. This does not include our expenditure in the following projects; Goronyo Dam - N3.4billion; Kashimbila Dam - N38billion; Gurara Dam & irrigation - N36billion; Ife Dam - N3billion.
Earlier, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had said that speedy action on water was long over due, adding that 70 per cent of the human body was made up of water.
According to him, it was an essential aspect of sanitation, agriculture and water transportation, just as it was ironical that there was scarcity of water in the midst of plenty.
He said, "That is why we have to think out of the box to provide water sustainably for human needs. Innovation may mean we need to do what we used to do differently, seeking new ways, more hands have to be on deck to achieve the purpose. We need to realise that business as usual will not get us there.
"Is water a political, economic or social issue? Is when we are clear on what it is then we will move closer to addressing the issue of water. Water is too serious to be left in the hands of politicians, private sector, donor agencies, civil society alone. We have to leave it in the hands of all to ensure adequate and sustainable water supply".
Former Ghanaian President, John Kuffour and chairman of Sanitation and Water for All, said he was worried that majority of the people were still denied access to water due to high cost.
On his part, Senate President, David Mark in his goodwill message, supported the notion that if a state fails to provide water for the citizens, it should be taken to court.
He said, "The responsibility of provision of water is that of state and local government area and so the people should be empowered to sue those that fail to deliver on that. As the nation's population grows so will the demand for water and so is expected this summit will provide lasting solution".
Also speaking, Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu who spoke on behalf of the Governors' Forum said the sector was in dire need of institutional reforms to ensure that implementation will not meet brick wall.
The delivery of portable water to the people, according to him, was crucial and the activities of donor agencies, the private sector and the government on the provision of water needed to be harmonised.
Minister of Water Resources, Stella Ochekpe, said the summit was the President's initiative and demonstrates his commitment in the transformation agenda of the water sector, adding that they were confident and convinced that the water sector will experience a turn around after summit.