In Kwara North, access to potable water still challenging despite billion naira spent
On November 14, 2019, Suleiman Adamu, the minister for water resources, commissioned the upgrading of Malete waterworks.
The residents of Malete, Apodu, Yeregi, Alapo and Safari communities of Moro Local Government in Kwara State, were hopeful that the perennial scarcity of potable water in the area would become history.
The communities, which had been without water supply for more than 20 years, travel to distant towns to fetch water.
Amanda Ayinla, a septuagenarian and resident of Safari village, said he was filled with hope during the commissioning of the dam. However, a year later, he is still drinking from a well dug beside his house which has been serving the village for years.
Close to his house is a fetching point constructed by Turning Point Engineering Limited, one of the contractors that handled the waterworks project, but Mr Ayinla said the tap only worked on the day the dam was commissioned before it stopped, leaving the residents stuck with getting water from compromised sources.
“We saw water gushing out of the tap on the day it was commissioned, but since that day, we have not fetched a drop from it. It even occupies the land we should have used for something else,” Mr Ayinla said.
“But God so good, we have a borehole and a well that serves the community. Though the well often dries up, the borehole is the main source of our water supply. There is a lot of pressure that fights often break out among students who also use the borehole.”
The handpump borehole, he said, was constructed 15 years ago during the administration of the late Muhammad Lawal, a former governor of the state.
Ahmad Hanafi, a 300-level student of Environmental Health Science of Kwara State University, who lives in one of the private hostels housing students in Safari village, said though his hostel has a water storage tank, the incessant power cut in the area means villagers rely almost solely on water from the well.
One Tuesday morning in January, Mr Hanafi carried a yellow jerry can under his left arm and headed to the borehole, expecting that he would only meet a handful of people so he could prepare for an 8 o’clock lecture he had that day.
But he was wrong. He did not only meet a swarm of people, but he also missed the lecture.
He told PREMIUM TIMES that seeing contractors laying pipes across the villages in late December 2019, he was excited he would not have to join long queues whenever he wants to fetch water.
“It was not my first time missing lectures or tests because there were crowds at the borehole, that particular lecture I missed pained me. I got out early so I could get water and prepare for my lecture. Even if I told them I’ve a lecture to catch, they would also say they also had something important to do as well. I just had to stay.”
Malete waterworks which comprises an earth dam, treatment plant, transmission line, storage tank and distribution network was constructed in 1980 by the state government to provide clean water to a population of about 5000 people in Malete and other adjoining communities.
The 0.5 million cubic metre dam was, however, eroded and became insufficient with the establishment of Kwara State University close to the dam in 2009 with a projected population increase of 12,000 people in the area.
In this regard, the federal government through the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority, a federal agency under the Ministry of Water Resources, in 2013, awarded the construction and upgrading of the waterworks to Turning Point Engineering Limited to bridge the gap between residents of the communities and access to clean water.
In 2018, the agency re-awarded the project for the construction of Malete Township Water Reticulation to Lush Tech Engineering Company at a contract sum of N22 million out of a total appropriation of N30 million.
That same year, N80 million was also budgeted for the completion of a water reticulation system and additional storage tanks at Kwara State university, Malete campus. Of the N80 million appropriated, Turning Point Engineering Limited was paid N67.7 million as contract sum, of which N23.3 million was released.
Also, N20 million was appropriated for the extension of the reticulation works within Malete town in 2019. The contract was again awarded to Turning Point Engineering Limited at N14 million of which N13 million was released.
Meanwhile, in the same fiscal year, N53.5 million was paid to Turning Point Engineering Limited as outstanding liabilities on the 2013 contract for the construction and upgrading of Malete waterworks which cost N1.02 billion.
Funds down the drain?
Despite the public funds committed to the project, residents of the communities are yet to derive the value for the money as they still scramble for water to meet their daily needs, even in the midst of a pandemic.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported that despite being ‘completed’ the project was yet to serve the community. On one of the days this reporter visited the project in late September, all necessary works had been completed.
A transformer believed to be the source of power, and a 110KVA Pekins power generator installed as a power back were found at the site.
But the community leader of Malete community, Abdulrahman Babatunde, said the community was better off before the intervention of the government.
He said residents now rely on a motorised borehole donated to the community by “top-up” students of the Kwara State University in 2018.
He painted a picture of how residents of the community toil hard to get water which.
“Regarding the dam, it is an understatement to say the government failed us,” he said. ”Before, the dam was serving eight communities. But ever since they came that they want to reconstruct it because of KWASU and removed all the pipes, we have not seen a single drop of water in Malete whenever they pumped water in Apodu where the dam is situated.
”Our main source of water supply is the borehole you saw while coming to my place. And when the students come back fully now, you will witness how the villagers and the students fight before they could get water. The government only cheated us.”
The only profound memory Abdulrazak Solihu, another resident of Malete, holds dear to his heart about the project was the day taps ran in the community. Although it was brownish, he held the belief the water would be safe for use after some days. But then, the taps ran dry.
“When they commissioned the project, the tap ran that day, albeit it was not clear. We thought by the time it would run for days, it would be safe for drinking. That was the last time we saw water running from the tap.”
‘This is the second version of Sahara Desert’
Like Safari and Malete community, Yeregi also lacks access to potable water supply despite billions of naira spent on the waterworks.
Travelling long distances to fetch water at the dam in Apodu has been a routine for Suhaibat Ibrahim, a resident of Yeregi community.
When the contractor started laying pipes in the community, Ms Ibrahim told PREMIUM TIMES, residents were excited but their joy fizzled out quickly after they waited endlessly for the supply of water.
“We get water from the tap, occasionally. Maybe once in two months. We saw them laying pipes around, thinking that we’ll have water at our convenience without going down to Apodu to fetch water. But till today, we still go there to fetch water,” Ms Ibrahim said.
This is also the plight of residents of Alapo community.
Residents who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said they either travel long distances to Apodu River or dig the surface for water to spring out at a nearby swampy area in the community.
“It is hell getting water for our daily needs, especially during dry season. There is a place we fetch water over there, but the borehole got spoilt. Throughout last session, we had to dig the ground so water could spring out,” said Ifeoluwa Ayobami, a 300-level student of Aeronautics Engineering, Kwara State University, who resides in the village.
However, the situation at Apodu village where the dam is located is different from the plights of other communities captured in the budget.
In Apodu, the reconstruction of the dam is putting smiles on the faces of residents of the village as they now have access to clean water.
This reporter saw two storage tanks and a fetching point of six taps when he visited the community.
A resident of the community, Ayuba Adio, recalled how residents of the community had to dig the land surface before they could get water for their needs until the construction of the project.
“We are getting water from the tap,” he said. “We had a prolonged water scarcity which was so severe that we had to go to the stream to fetch water. It was when they completed it that we started fetching water from the tap.”
However, the poor electricity situation affects the access to potable water in Apodu . This is despite the provision of a 110 KVA power generating set as back up.
“It is only when there is electricity that water is pumped, without it we won’t be able to fetch water because before the next round of pumping. But anytime there is no light, we would have to go back to the stream to fetch water.”
Adam Apodu, another resident of the community, shares a similar position with Ayuba. He said poor electricity supply contributes to the inadequate access to clean water in the community.
While commenting on the project in his report following a visit to the site, the Auditor General of the Federation lamented the poor execution of the Malete project.
He said: “construction and grading of Malete Water Works, Ilorin awarded to a company in October 2013 for N1 billion.”
”A complete payment was made for the project but when the AGF visited the site, he noted that the project on the ground was not commensurate with the funds deployed.
“While full payment had been made to the contractor, there were some portions of the project poorly executed. For instance, the embankment constructed at the edge of the spillway is already being threatened by erosion,” the AGF said.
Agency shifts blame
When reached for detail about the project, the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA) said it had handed over the ‘completed’ project to the state government, adding that ”it no longer has responsibility over the operation of the dam.”
The agency, therefore, directed the reporter to the state water corporation for additional information about the operation of the project.
“The authority does not have jurisdiction over the operation of the completed Malete Water Works, that is the determination of the communities that get running water or not. It has been handed over to the Kwara State government since 29th November, 2019.
“The Authority has fulfilled its obligations by completing all projects as contained in the budget. However, the daily operation of the completed projects is not part of its duties. The value for money has been derived and to fully serve the communities is in the hands of the Kwara State government”
Several visits to Kwara Water Corporation to get responses to a letter submitted on October 20, requesting the corporation to explain why the Malete projects were stalled did not yield fruits.
On November 9, when this reporter, again, visited the corporation, one of the officials at the corporation said he does not know when he would respond to the letter sent to his office.
When reached for comments, Turning Point Engineering Limited said the project has been handed over to the state water corporation. It said the project was running ”when it was still with the firm”.
The company added that due to poor power supply in the axis, ”the firm was powering the project with diesel at its own expense.” It urged the reporter to reach out to the state water corporation.
“It has been handed over to the state water corporation. It is not true that it was not working when we’re there. What did we now commission? We were running the project with our own expenses to power the generator, we had to get diesel because the light was unstable.
”The Kwara State water corporation would tell you why the project is not working. I’m sure somebody must be ready to buy fuel to power the generator. I don’t know if the light has improved there because it was very poor. If nobody is buying the diesel, how would they run the project? I am not saying that is the problem, the corporation should be in the best position to respond to that,” said a representative of the company who refused to give his name.