12 March 2013

Nigeria: Government of Summits


SUMMITS, whether in politics or topography, are the peak. When our governments organise summits to tackle issues we expect that they would produce results that will effect changes in the lives of Nigerians.

The latest summit on water was a typical example of how opportunities are stalled because organisers of these events believe that summits, on their own, are solutions. We are lost in summits. We have held them for everything - education, security, health, Niger Delta, and counting. In some cases, with lots of ideas and planning, things could be achieved.

Still on the water summit, it was one, in the series of gatherings that the President has been holding in the past one year. The one for sports last October is in no way related to the success of the Eagles at the 2013 Nations Cup, or other developments in sports.

The experts gather, make all the pronouncements about the importance of water with marked expertise in the management and challenges of water. They spoke of the inadequacies of funding, lamenting that N39 billion in our annual budget could not scratch the issue.

President Jonathan put the matter beyond redemption with the disclosure that Nigeria needed N350 billion to attend to water. No mention was made of the 11 river basin development authorities that are supposed to help with provision of water. Equally ignored were the hundreds of dams all over the country that are lying in different states of abandonment and decay. Did the summit take action about these government agencies that are consuming the N39 billion annual budget without any productivity?

Who does not know the importance of water? Why do we have to waste so much time talking about water and other issues without doing things about them?

Such a summit should have announced an action plan for water, with timelines and sources of the financing. Rather the biggest news from the event was the altercation between Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and Senate President David Bonaventure Alechenu Mark.

Aliyu suggested a legislation that empowers people to sue government for failing to provide water, Mark told him that water was a responsibility of States and local governments.

The confrontation highlighted again the contradictions that blight our federation. If it is true, why does Mark annually preside over the approval of billions of Naira for federal agencies on water? Why was the President, and not governors organising the water submit?

Water is too important to be lost in these controversies, but it is clear that governments that are running away from challenges cannot utilise summits to solve problems unless they understand that at the peak, the only search is for solutions.

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