Water is the most critical resource in any nation. It is the principal measure of the health of a country and how its people live. In Tunisia, as in a number of North African countries, the saying to 'share someone's water' means much more than offering someone a cup of water. It means showing an edifying and inspiring love, communicating and building trustworthy relationships.
In Nigeria too, it is said that he who brings water brings life. As far back as 1995, the Bank Group had invested over USD 600 million in potable water projects in Nigeria, bringing clean water to millions of households. Water has been AfDB's first and foremost infrastructural concern in Nigeria and to date, the Bank Group's cumulative commitment in the sector is over USD 1.billion.
For Engineer Reni-Callie Okoro at the Bank's Abuja Office, water is the stuff of life and without water everything dies. "If there is any sector which the AfDB can confidently show-case its operations in Nigeria, it is certainly in the water sub-sector," Engineer Okoro recently affirmed.
"First, AfDB water projects have been the highest pro-poor projects in Nigeria, even when the Bank had not yet perfected its poverty reduction operational strategies. Secondly, no other donor has done as much in the sector as the Bank. Thirdly, the AfDB is the first institution that has multi-state and nation-wide water projects and programmes in Nigeria.
The AfDB has also financed innovative water control kiosks system in several States of Nigeria, which today a number of organizations are seeking to replicate," engineer Okoro proudly stated . "You cannot quantify the value of keeping a man alive for one or two additional years because you have given him good potable water. Water right is a fundamental human right,' he underscored.
The Ibadan Water Supply 1 project, approved in 12 December, 1986 was the first AfDB supported project in Nigeria. That project showed the way by providing the necessary equipment for the rehabilitation of Asejire and Osegere water treatment plants in Ibadan city. Ibadan Water Supply 2 project followed by doubling potable water supply in Ibadan from about 122,500 m3 then to some 204,500 m3 per day.
Since then, the Bank has funded several other water operations in almost all the States of Nigeria. These include Oyo, Niger, Plateau, Anambra, Bauchi, Yobe, Kaduna and Taraba States. The Bank initially started with urban water projects, but now includes both urban and rural water projects in its portfolio.
Above all, the AfDB projects have helped to create favorable conditions for water supply corporations in Nigeria to attain financial autonomy. The Edo and Delta States Water Supply Project financed under the defunct Bendel State, went a long way to increase water supply in Benin City, as well as the twin cities of Warri-Effurun.
The Niger State Water project has provided an increased water supply to satisfy domestic, commercial and industrial water demands in the fast growing satellite town of Suleja, near the Abuja Federal Capital Territory. Through this project, the AfDB rehabilitated water and sanitation facilities in the townships of Minna and Bida.
The first AfDB multi-state water supply project of USD 190 million, approved in October 1993, enhanced the potable water supply in many areas in Akwa Ibom State. That project permitted the establishment of two national and four regional water quality reference laboratories for monitoring water standards.
Gombe Water Supply is another important AfDB water project which has helped to improve the socio-economic and health conditions of the inhabitants of Gombe Township and twelve other villages by providing a sustainable potable water supply to meet increasing domestic, industrial and commercial demands.
Dealing with policy inconsistencies
Despite interventions by the AfDB and other multilateral agencies only about 58% of the population in the country has access to potable water supplies and only 31% has access to hygienic sanitation facilities. Water supply and sanitation is one sector in which the public sector has been unable to cope with the increasing demand. The AfDB is assisting the country to deal with policy inconsistencies and inadequate regulatory frameworks so as to enable the private sector to step in and contribute in filling the gap.
More recently, the Bank approved a number of water projects for Nigeria. These include the Rural Water and Sanitation Program in Yobe and Osun States, the Jalingo Water and Sanitation Improvement Project in Taraba State. Others are the Ibadan Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project in Oyo State and the Zaria Water Supply Expansion and Sanitation Project in Kaduna State.
With these projects the Bank will be striving to increase access to safe clean drinking water to 64% of the population by 2014 and to 70% by 2016, from the about 58% as at now. That will necessitate the installation of over 100,000 new urban water connections and 10, 000 new improved rural water sources including boreholes, modern wells with hand pumps by 2014 as well as 24,000 of these improved installations, by 2016.
Support at the Federal Government level to facilitate urban water sector reform across the country, as well as the Port Harcourt Water Supply and Sanitation Project in River State and Development of Water projects in the Abuja satellite towns, are among the Bank Group's proposed package to promote and develop water and sanitation facilities in Nigeria.
At the same time, the Bank has programmed the rehabilitation of some ten large to medium dams to ensure a considerable expansion of the associated irrigation schemes. With these projects, prevalent water borne diseases in Nigeria will be minimized.
As the Bank pursues a common transformation agenda in Nigeria, there is certainly no alternative to water for the two parties. Through the efforts of the Bank, the budgetary allocations to the water sector have seen a systematic increase.
With improvement in project follow-up, reduction of time intervals between approval and loan effectiveness, as well as timely implementation efforts that take into consideration beneficiaries' needs, the Bank will do much more to ensure the rights of Nigerians to drinking water and healthier sanitation.