By Arinze CHIJIOKE
FOUR months after an ICIR-funded investigation revealed how a N300 million water project failed to meet the water needs of communities in Enugu State, WaterAid has returned to one of the communities to ensure that community members get water.
In November, 2020, three organisations – WaterAid Nigeria, the South Saharan Development Organisation (SSDO), and the Coca-Cola Foundation – together with the Enugu State government, celebrated the completion of a N300 million water project across five local governments in the state.
The project, according to the Country Director of WaterAid Evelyn Mere, lasted for 19-month and was expected to bring sustainable clean water and sanitation to over 10,000 residents in and around Nsukka, Ezeagu, Uzo-Uwani, Isiuzo and Enugu South local government areas in Enugu State.
While five new boreholes equipped with hand pumps were constructed in Ugwuaji, one motorised water scheme was built in Umuabor in Nsukka LGA. Two other boreholes with hand pumps were rehabilitated in Uzo-Uwani LGA, and a solar-powered motorised borehole was also rehabilitated in Ezeagu LGA. Nine boreholes with hand pumps were rehabilitated in Isi-Uzo, bringing the total number of projects to 18.
The Coca-Cola Foundation funded the projects through its Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), launched in 2009 to respond to the water crises communities across Africa face while WaterAid Nigeria implemented it.
When investigative reporter Arinze Chijioke visited the five local governments in April however, it was discovered that most of them had stopped working, barely three months after they were inaugurated. As a result, community members, who had hoped that their days of going to the streams to fetch water had come to an end, had to go back again to their dirty streams.
In Ugwuaji, with a total of five newly constructed boreholes, it was discovered that only one of the boreholes fully served its purpose of providing the people with portable water. Two of the boreholes were discharging dirty water while one of them was malodorous. One had completely stopped working.
After the first part of the two-part series investigation was published by New Telegraph, WaterAid threatened to sue the newspaper because, according to them, it “contained a number of factual inaccuracies and neglected to include a response from WaterAid.”
The organisation said that four out the five boreholes installed in Ugwuaji were fully functional, verified by WaterAid inspections and that one of the pumps was awaiting repair after a recent damage caused by children playing unsupervised.
This was completely against what this reporter met on ground during a visit to the project locations where community members said it suddenly stopped working, few months after the projects were inaugurated. The location for this project, like other projects in the community, has been under lock and key.
When the second part of the investigation was published by the same newspaper and WaterAid saw that the reporter had spoken to the Enugu State programme lead of WaterAid, Terkimbi Tom, WaterAid wrote again to say that some of the boreholes had dried up due to seasonal drought while some had either broken or been vandalised.
The organisation noted in the letter, dated May 2, that the water crisis in Enugu was acute and complex and that in many parts of the state, it undertook geological surveys which showed that drilling for a reliable water source was extremely challenging.
WaterAid promised to go back to some of the communities to repair the boreholes that had stopped working and also advocate for additional measures to be taken, such as the installation of groundwater recharge systems to improve access to clean water, year-round.
When ICIR visited Ugwuaji, it was discovered that the five boreholes were now working as they should. Community members were seen fetching water at the various points.
The signposts that were installed at the inauguration of the projects had also been changed into new ones.
A community member, who was seen fetching water from one of the boreholes, said it started working after some people from the organisation came and opened the borehole and did some repairs to it three months ago.