Government seeks to make urban water, sanitation utilities viable entities

Minister of Water Resources, Mr. Suleiman Adamu

Towards addressing Nigeria’s mounting development problems, including enhanced quality of life, the Federal Government has called for the transformation of urban water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) utilities into financial viable entities.

It noted that the pathway to be taken to accomplish utility transformation is rough as it cuts through difficult terrains of institutional reform, organizational strengthening, infrastructural development and injection of innovations and proactive response to climate change.

The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, an engineer, who made the call at the opening of the first International Conference of Nigeria Water Supply Association (NWSA) on the theme: “Transforming Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Utilities into financial viable entities” in Abuja; sought for focused leadership, strong management and support of the citizenry for the mission to be accomplished.

In recognition of this, he said the ministry has been supporting urban water supply and sanitation sector reform and recently approved national WASH action plan, including declaration of emergency for the sector to reinforce efforts.

Adamu disclosed that numerous governance tools and utility operational manuals have been developed.

He said: “The available statistics in Nigeria indicate regression in the urban water services to pipe borne water regressed from to 7 per cent in 2015 due to high rate of urbanization, failing infrastructure, institutional weaknesses and low investment.

“The mission to transform the utilities into financially viable entities will be at the heart of attempts to address Africa’s mounting urban development problems, including enhanced quality of life in our communities and releasing the energy of our people for socio-economic development.”

Adamu stressed that the reforms by the Ministry and approval of the National WASH Action Plan, including declaration of state of emergency for the sector is meant to reinforce the efforts.

“The results of these initiatives have been encouraging but still far from the vision envisaged.

A major accomplishment will be realized, when the water cycle is finally closed and current institutional fragmentation in the sector is closed and fully addressed, through integrated delivery of sustainable sanitation,” he said.

NWSA President, Dr. Eugene Pam said that the conference will address gaps in the sector, such as problems being encountered by State Water Agencies (SWAs) namely- limited financial and operational autonomy, accelerated urbanisation, lack of investments in projects, absence of statutory regulations, monitoring, policies and trained personnel to provide WASH services.

Represented by Dubagari Abisabo, challenges, he noted includes excessive high leakage rates, aging water pipelines and poor quality water as well as high operational costs dues to unreliability of electricity supply and non existent tariffs.

For the Executive Director, African Water Association, Sylvain Usher, an engineer, the theme is apt and reflects on the will of the association to fight against water insecurity, and lies within the framework of reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

“The imposing threats of water scarcity places immense pressure on the capacity of states to ensure water security for economic and human development,” he added.

The Coordinator, Network of Civil Societies Working on Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN) in Northern region, Sani Adamu, re-emphasized the need for synergy between the public and private sector to achieve well-being of people living within communities and reduce water borne diseases.

Meanwhile, the chief executive officers the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC), Muminu Badmus has stressed that all water utilities could be self-sustaining through structured reform programme.  

He listed various challenges facing typical utilities in Nigeria.

They include unreliable, Intermittent and in some cases lack of Water Supply; Inadequate water supply infrastructure to meet ever growing demand; low capacity utilization; Aging Infrastructure (Production, storage and pipeline infrastructure); lack of reliable customer data base and billing system and very High non-revenue water characterised by high rate of leakages. 
  
Other are illegal water connections and inappropriate billing/under billing; poor relationship between customers and utilities; limited revenue collection platforms where most utilities are on cash basis but with limited cash offices and limited access.
 
The highpoint of the event is the election of Abisabo as the president of NWSA and the decoration of the WaterMan Awardees by the minister.

The shortlisted states for the award are Taraba, Delta, Kaduna, Bauchi, Lagos, Enugu and Cross River.

The minister, the grand patron of the organization was also honoured.

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