By Abubakar Usman
Water, everywhere but none to drink.
Niger state is one of the many states in Nigeria that best fits the above description. The state is blessed with an enormous amount of water resource that it is arguably the state where it is most present. The nickname “power state” was given to the state largely because it houses most of the hydroelectric power plants Nigeria has been deriving its power supply from and this was made possible with the presence of all three dams of the Niger dams project. From the Shiroro dam on the Kaduna River to the Kainji Lake and the one Located at Jebba, Kwara State but with a large part of its reservoir located in Niger state, the state has enough water not only to generate electricity but also to sustain irrigation and fishing as an industry in the state.
The presence of all these water bodies notwithstanding, access to portable drinking water has continued to elude the people. Since the creation of the state and the corresponding influx and increase in population, the number of people that have lost access to portable drinking water has continued to rise so much that wells and boreholes have taken over as the major source of water supply for the people. The source notwithstanding, most residents who are unable to sink boreholes or dig wells still have to depend on water vendors who buy and then sell to the end users. There are reports that a 20 litter Jeri-can of water now sells for as high as N70 in most places, while sachet of pure water which has become the easiet alternatives for the people is now being sold at the rate of N10 instead of N5. As distasteful as this may be, this is even so for those living in the urban areas. In the rural areas, where the larger part of the state’s population resides, residents depend on rivers and streams as their source of water supply. Water obtained from these sources are consumed in their raw state without any form of treatment. The resultant effect of this are ill-health suffered by people and a drain on their resources which are expended on drugs and medicine in pursuit of good health.
The problem of water supply in Niger state has become perennial because successive governments have abdicated their responsibilities to the citizens by not investing enough resources to the provision of safe and good quality water, and where resources are provided, they are never utilised for the purposes intended. For example, over N3billion was said to have been pumped to the water sector between 2007 and 2015, yet the taps could not run until the administration at that time left office. The much needed overhaul of the state water board, reticulation of old pipes and the overhaul of the entire mechanical system of water collection, processing and supply remained largely on paper. The coming of the Governor Abubakar Sani Bello however renewed the hope of the people especially when he declared emergency on water with a promise to undertake turn round maintenance of all the equipment at the water works so as to increase production capacity from the present 20% to at least 80% in addition to ensuring the reticulation of water in all parts of the state. Three years down the line, water is still not running on the taps, save for some few towns where minimal repair works were required and had been done. However, going by what one has seen in various parts of the state, the dry taps would soon be a thing of the past, but how exactly?
Last week, I joined a few other enthusiasts on a tour of some projects in the state. The tour took us to Minna, Suleja, Bida, Kontagora and a few other locations inspecting projects the Abu Lolo administration has embarked upon his coming to power in 2015. I however picked particularly interest on projects in the water sector especially knowing how much water has been a problem in the state. Below, I attempt to present a vivid picture of what we met on ground during the tour and why I believe that the water problem in the state would soon be a thing of the past.
Kaduna Road Booster Station
Our first point of call was at the ever busy Abuja-Kaduna road where the the booster station connected to the Suleja water works which supplies water to the people of Dikko, Sabon Wuse, Babban Tunga, Gajiri and environs is located. According to available information, there was only one functional water pump installed at the station since 1995 and this pump has been unable to meet the demand of the people in the target areas. But with the coming of the Abu Lolo administration, 3 new sets of 250KW 400VAC pump soft-starter and additional 3 Termistor pumping machine (PTC) MMV-2.5vdc were purchased and installed. The installation of the three new water pumps has greatly enhanced water supply to the areas under coverage.
Buntu Water Pumping Station
Also within the Suleja axis is the Buntu water pumping station where the Abu Lolo administration has also added value in his drive to provide water for the people. Here, the governor provided and installed three water pumping machines which pumps water from the Suleja water treatment plant.
Suleija Water Treatment Plant
The Suleja water treatment plant is the main facility in the processing and supply of water to the entire residents of Suleja and its environs. Here, water is sourced from the Suleja dam and then treated at the plant before it is pumped through the Buntu pumping station and the other booster stations to the environs.
The Governor Sani Bello’s administration carried out a complete overhaul of the treatment plant with the provision of new facilities which has made water treatment less problematic.
Dawaki Pump Station
The Dawaki pump station is one of the pumping stations built around the Suleja water treatment plant with the aim of making water easily accessible to the people around the Suleja axis. The Governor Abubakar Sani Bello administration also procured three water pumping machines for the station, but only one of it has been installed as at date because the process of installing the machines will disrupt the water supply. The old pumping machine at the booster station was 350 cubic metres per/hr, but was replaced with a 700 cubic metres per/hr pumping machine which allows supply of up to 10million litres of water per day.
Bida Water Work
The Bida water works was constructed in 1976 to cater for the then population, but for over two decades, no major work was carried out on the plant to meet the growing demand for water in the emirate. The present government upon assuming office in 2015 took up the challenge to address the problems and equipment procured by the government is still being installed as at the time of the visit. According to the Plant Manager, Engr. Babamini, 90% of the work has been done and the remaining 10% will be concluded immediately after the Christmas holiday and water will begin to flow to Bida town and environs.
In addition to the ongoing work at the Bida Water Work is the work simultaneously ongoing at the booster station located within the emirate which will further enhance the distribution of portable water to the residents of the emirate.
Below are some the equipment procured by the state government which are already been installed.
Mariga Water Work
The visit also extended to the Mariga water work which was constructed in 1991. According to the Area Manager of the water station, Mallam Abdull Garba, water supply before the administration of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello had been erratic due to the partial operation of the water work resulting from the collapse of four, out of the five submersible machines at the station. The erratic power supply in the station also contributed greatly to the operation of the water work. However, with the coming of the Abubakar Sani Bello administration, the problem of portable water supply in Mariga town, is now a thing of the past. The government procured and installed four submersible pumps to replace the bad ones and a 50 KVA stand-by generator to replace the old rickety 30KVA.
Kontagora Water Works
Just like the Mariga Water Works, the Kontagora water works was constricted in 1991 with the aim of providing water for the people of Kontagora and environs, but the station deteriorated so much that water supply from it had been stopped for a while. The Abu Lolo administration however commenced a complete overhaul of the station with the purchase and installation of 4 new vertical pumps from Germany. The station is only awaiting the supply of 1000KVA standby generator to make the station fully functional, owing to the station’s protracted battle with an old, dysfunctional transformer.
From the above, it is evident that the government of Abubakar Sani Bello has shown committed towards the provision of water for the people of Niger state. What would just need to be done is for finishing touches to be put where they are necessary and if this is done and the current tempo sustained, the taps in Niger state will begin to run again.