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N25bn Zaria, Ugbokolo Water Projects Suffer Neglect
By Simon Echewofun Sunday
“I can’t recall the last time we had tap water here in Zazzau (Zaria city). And for the manual boreholes, only two may be working in a group of five. You can also move around the City Gate to the Low Cost areas and see for yourself,” Bello Aliyu said while lamenting the pains residents go through as a result of water scarcity in the ancient city of Zaria, Kaduna State.
A series of Sunday Trust investigation on abandoned projects reveal how past administrations initiated a water expansion project from the main trunk in Zazzau to 23 communities without completion, several years after commencement.
Conducting our reporter round the city and its environs, as well as other neighbouring communities, including Samaru, a town that hosts major tertiary institutions in the state, Bello, who is also a member of the Kofar Doka Youth Association, KDYA, a peer group consisting of youths from age 19 in Zazzau, lamented how these communities have been locked in the shackles of acute water shortage for several years.
“Imagine that some Zazzau residents would go as far as a muddy river we call ‘Gurin Ba Bali’ (place of no rescue) to wash cloths and fetch water,” he said.
Another resident, Babale Zango, who resides in Zango town, about 10 kilometres from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), said the situation was usually worsened during the dry season when available alternatives like groundwater (well) must have dried off.
Said Zango: “This is the period when water vendors (mai ruwa) milk us dry. They could sell just 25 litres of water at N30 to N50. Think about how much we would spend on a daily basis, just to have water for domestic use. The situation is not so in the Hanwa GRA, still in Zaria, where they have taps running for them.”
Zaria, an ancient city located in north-western region of Nigeria, between Kano and Kaduna, accommodates over two million inhabitants and more than 10 major tertiary institutions, including ABU, one of the pioneer universities in Nigeria.
The Zazzau water supply system was constructed in 1939 and expanded in 1975. The current expansion project, which is yet to be completed six years after, however, began in January 2009 with a cost of N24.6billion. It is this inability of successive governments to complete the project that has subjected residents to acute water scarcity.
A report of February 2013, obtained by Sunday Trust, has it that the then Kaduna State Commissioner for Water Resources, Mr Sunday Marshall, claimed that the project was not abandoned, saying it had reached 78 per cent completion. He had said the project was slated for commissioning on December 2013 in line with the initial 36-month completion timeline.
According to the project manager, Mr Yusuf Kobo, on completion, the regional water works would deliver 150million litres daily, thereby providing potable water to at least 2.2million people in 23 communities across eight local government areas of the state, including Zaria, Sabon-Gari, Giwa, Makarfi, Ikara, Kudan, Soba and Kubau.
Sunday Trust gathered that the project has passed through three administrations, beginning with Vice President Namadi Sambo, who was the Kaduna State governor then.
Residents of Kofar Zazzau and Samaru areas, who spoke to our reporter, said the project progressed in 2010 with the laying of many pipes stored at a warehouse opposite the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Palladan. But it was abruptly cut short after Sambo became vice president.
Sambo’s successor, the late Gov. Patrick Yakowa took it up, with Messrs Mothercat Nigeria Ltd as contractors. But it soon got stalled shortly after gunmen reportedly abducted two expatriates some few kilometres from the Zaria new water treatment plant being constructed. However, efforts were restored in May 2012 when the governor died in a plane crash.
Subsequently, Governor Ramalan Yero revived the hope of completing the project in 2013, with a renewed commitment to developing it by stages, including the water treatment plant, transmission mains and service reservoirs, rehabilitation and extension of distribution network, and network extension to the local governments.
Our reporter who visited the water treatment plant some 7kilometers from Zaria city, observed that although work was going on gradually, the intra-city pipeline connections have not been touched.
Speaking to Sunday Trust, the district manager, Kaduna State Water Board (KSWB), Zaria, Engr. Dalhatu Shehu, confirmed that work was going on at the treatment plant. He, however, said their headquarters in Kaduna would give further technical details.
“We have a public relations officer in our office at Obasanjo House who is authorised to speak on official matters. We are not allowed to speak; but I can assure you that work is ongoing at the site. The project department is handling that while we are in charge of distributing the water on commercial basis. We cannot say anything about water production,” Shehu said.
Sunday Trust gathered from officials of KSWB at Olusegun Obasanjo House in Kaduna that Governor Yero was told of the new 2017 completion timeline by the project management team. The previous 36 months set in 2009 when it was conceived elapsed due to varied hurdles, the officials noted.
The desk officer of the Water Supply Expansion Project, Engineer Binta Yakubu said government had completed the Shika Dam at the western end of Ahmadu Bello University in Samaru town. This dam is expected to supply water to surrounding communities, while the Galma dam, some 100kilometers from Zaria, will cater for the needs of communities in the north-eastern section.
She explained that Shika dam and its ancillary services would be the one to gulp N24billion at the end. Although she said the dam was ready for use, other phases of the project are yet to be completed.
“If you finish your treatment unit you would have to transport your water to the town. Phase 2, which we call the transmission lanes and the reservoirs, when completed, will enable water to be conveyed from the treatment plant to the reservoirs,” she noted.
Yakubu said government got $83million loan from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), with on-going processing, procurement of consultants and contracts award.
Meanwhile, the managers said Phase 3, which is installation of the distribution lines, would be processed by the $101million loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Available records from the AfDB website have shown that it is up for procurement too.
However, officials of KSWB are optimistic that from what has been achieved already, the project would be significantly ready in 2015, barring any change.
Like the case of Zaria water project in Kaduna State, the Ugbokolo project is another neglected scheme. But this time, it is not a state government project; it is that of a local council in Benue State.
With at least 176,647 population, Ugbokolo community is one of the oldest towns in Okpokwu, the oldest local government area in the state. The town, which hosts the only government-owned polytechnic in Benue State, is also popularly known as the hub of Garri processing and export. But there is no functional water infrastructure in sight.
Investigation by Sunday Trust revealed that residents, including students of the Benue State Polytechnic, have resorted to helping themselves from the open streams around their environment, as well as buying water from haulage tankers to complement their water need, a necessity they have been deprived of by the local and state governments.
Some Ugbokolo residents who spoke to our reporter through a commercial farmer, Chief James Ogboji, said the absence of water supply facility had stalled various agro processing activities in the town.
“The people of Ugbokolo and Okpokwu are known for processing garri, which is transported to other regions of Nigeria. We are the largest oil palm and fufu (cassava meal) producers in the North, yet we don’t have potable water and other social amenities to help ease our work,” Ogboji said.
A 2011 survey in Ugbokolo community, published in the Canadian Journal of Sustainable Development, puts water consumption at an estimated 113,249 litres per day. The survey showed that rain water in the wet season, cisterns, rivers and streams are the sources of water supply. Tap water was not listed.
Our reporter gathered from an extensive tour of the town and the council’s headquarters in Okpoga town that there was a failed attempt to initiate a township water supply in Ugbokolo; as well as a resuscitation of an existing PCI water supply in Okpoga, which was abandoned for over two decades.
Chairman of the council, Mrs Juliana Obeta could not be reached for comments at the secretariat. It was learnt that, though a grassroots leader, she shuttles between overseas and her office.
A senior official at the council secretariat, who did not want his name mentioned because he was not authorised to speak, said the Ugbokolo water project was initiated in 2000, but was abandoned shortly by the then council chairman, Comrade Abba Moro.
“Apart from that, the Okpoga PCI water system was also abandoned for long; but Moro tried to fix it before he later abandoned it.
“Subsequent administrations have not thought of doing any water project at all, not even a capital project in the council.
“While people in Ugbokolo and the polytechnic have open streams and springs like Ab’ode stream, Ohimini, Mabe river, Okpoga residents have the Ideme river, which was even the source of supply to the general hospital in the council headquarters,” he noted.
In an interview, the former council boss and present Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, explained why he literally abandoned the water projects during his administration.
Moro, who spoke to Sunday Trust at his office in Abuja said, “I come from Okpokwu as you know, and I know that we have problems of water in parts of Okpokwu. We have a PCI water works in Okpoga, the headquarters.
“When I was chairman I attempted to resuscitate that project. We bought a pumping machine and tried to rehabilitate the pipes, only to discover that because of the decay of the pipelines due to long abandonment of the project, we needed to replace all the pipes. We didn’t have the financial capacity to do that; so I literally abandoned it at that point,” Moro said.
On the Ugbokolo water scheme, he said, “We also have a water project in Ugbokolo where the polytechnic is. That was a project that served the school. Recently, attempts were made to expand the circulation to include the main town.”
The minister, who did not mention how much his administration spent on the projects as at 2002 when he abandoned them, said, “Some funds were provided for it in the 2013 budget, and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources officials undertook a survey of the project and some other projects that were intended for the local government.
“I have had reasons to ask my counterpart in the Ministry of Water Resources, Mrs Sarah Ochekpe, to fast- track that project. But some of these technicalities, I am told, require measured times; and therefore, they were not able to complete the final report and the award of that contract,” he noted.
He gave the assurance that neither he nor any illustrious son or daughter of Ugbokolo would abandon development efforts, saying, “I can tell you that the provision of water at the Ugbokolo water work, and possibly, the rehabilitation of the PCI water works in Okpoga are in the works.’’
He continued, “Hopefully, if not within the life of this administration, which will end in May 2015, wherever we find ourselves, knowing what we know, we will continue to ensure that those projects do not die like any other project.”
When contacted, officials in the Ministry of Water Resources confirmed that the Ugbokolo water supply scheme was among the projects on which feasibility studies were initiated last year. They added that on completion of the technical report, processes for contract procurement would commence.
But available figures from the 2013 amended budget for Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority (RBDA) show that the sum of N400million was appropriated for the construction of a water treatment plant at the Benue Polytechnic in Ugbokolo.
Our findings showed that there is no sign of contract works presently at the polytechnic other than the feasibility study the ministry said it carried out.
Additional Reporting: Dickson S. Adama, Kaduna. The project is supported by The Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)