27 February 2013

Nigeria: Is Water Sufficiency Achievable?


It is unusual for top government officials in Nigeria to honestly inform the citizens of the correct state of affairs especially in their areas of jurisdiction. The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources Ambassador Godknows Igali last year came out openly to alert the nation that we are lagging behind in the MDGs especially with regards to water sufficiency, stating that his ministry will implement measures to fastrack Nigeria's water sufficiency.

Since 1999, successive governments have spent more resources in staging talk shops than implementing policies and adopting measures to redress and address the fundamental needs of the citizenry including building and maintenance of public infrastructure. The apprehension raised by Igali regarding the attainment or otherwise water target by 2015 is part of the larger goals of the MDGs.

Between February 18 and 19 2013, the federal government gathered international water experts under the presidential water summit to brainstorm on finding innovative approach to funding water provision and sanitation.

Water Aid, a global non-governmental body, however, thinks Nigeria still has a long way to go when it found out that the nation is certainly not on the path of attaining water sufficiency by 2015. Water Aid last year released a report that predicted that at the current rate the MDGs target on sanitation may not be met in Nigeria and several other Sub-Saharan Africa countries until 2175, 160 years later.

According to the report, the proportion of people with access to sanitation in Nigeria is on the decline as the report shows that if government fails to meet the MDGs to halve the proportion of the population without sanitation by 2015, the lives of 100,000 children under the age of five will be at risk annually. Titled: 'Saving Lives', the report noted that "there are more people in the world today without sanitation than there were in 1990..."

As stated above, water and food sufficiency are key national security issues for Nigeria which was why even the drafters of the Constitution enshrined it in the fundamental objective and principle of state policy.

Section 16(1) (a) of the Constitution provides that; "the State SHALL within the context of the ideal and objectives harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self-reliant economy".

International water and sanitation experts under the aegis of the millennium project recently came out with findings on why water sufficiency eludes most African countries and tacitly endorsed Nigeria's dogged determination at least in paper, to attain water sufficiency in the shortest possible time. According to them; "Africa's rapid urbanization has outpaced its capacity to provide sufficient water; the population without such access has nearly doubled since 1990 to over 55 million today". The above figure is a gross misrepresentation because Nigeria with over 160 million people, only a fraction of this huge population have access to clean water.

UNESCO had reported thus; "Water-related diseases are among the most common causes of illness and deaths, affecting mainly the poor in developing countries. They kill more than five million people every year - more than ten times the number killed in wars. The diseases can be divided into four categories: water- borne; water-based; water-related and water-scarce".

Experts say the right to development places the human person at the center of the development process and recognizes that the human being should be the main participant and beneficiary of development. The 1986 United Nations Declaration of the Right to Development states among others that "every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized".

Government of Nigeria is obliged under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights to make clean water and sanitation abundantly available to Nigerians. Prominent persons that graced the occasion of the presidential water summit such as President Goodluck Jonathan, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senate President David Mark and other international figures clearly highlighted the strategic importance of water and canvassed effective public-private partnership in the area of working out innovative funding mechanisms to achieve water sufficiency.

The executive and legislative arms of government must appropriate and transparently spend huge financial resources at both federal and state levels to ensure and guarantee adequate clean water to the citizenry because without potable it will be unrealistic to expect that the citizenry to enjoy unimpeded human right to life and good health.

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