Prioritizing Access to Clean Water in Nigeria

By Terver Dominic

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Water is life. This age-long saying emphasizes the importance of water to living things.   As the largest natural resource on earth, water is central to the life of all living things. Without water animals and plants will not survive in any part of the world.

The developed countries invest heavily in water management and also build institutions with capacity to manage water resources for optimum utilization.

However, the situation is quite different in most developing countries. Priority is not given to water resource management for effective use. Access to potable water is very low.

In Nigeria, the total renewable water resources per capita is estimated at over two thousand cubic meters per year.   Yet, access to clean water is reported to be low, with only 69 per cent of Nigerians having access to basic water supply.  Compared to other countries, access to renewable water resources in Nigeria is still low. This points to the enormity of work and investment required to achieve nationwide coverage of renewable water supply services.

In response to these demands, the Nigerian government mandated the Federal Ministry of Water Resources with the task of overseeing water resources development and management in the country. However, over the years, there have been complaints that poor funding has been a clog in the wheel of the ministry.  This has been the major factor militating against the execution of the ministry’s water resources master plan approved for implementation recently.

The budgetary allocation for water resources to the ministry in 2023 is about 200 billion Naira.  Out of this figure, just over 12 billion naira is allocated for the water resources master plan for the year which is inadequate by UN standard to achieve water delivery system.

Poor funding of water resources results in citizens not having access to quality water for consumption. Much of the available water is also polluted, leading to poor sanitation. Lack of reliable and safe drinking water leads to water borne diseases, deaths, healthcare costs, and loss of productivity and time management.

With increased funding, the Ministry of Water Resources in Nigeria will be strengthened to manage the country’s water resources adequately, provide access to water supply to citizens and ensure proper sanitation.

Improved funding will also enable the ministry to protect the country’s environment from pollution, prevent waste of water and preserve the water environment and ecology to safeguard and improve the hydrological cycle in general.  It will also guarantee adequate water supply, in quality and quantity for domestic, industrial and agricultural purposes.

The good news however is that some foreign bodies such as UNICEF are willing to collaborate with Nigeria’s Ministry for Water Resources and Sanitation to achieve the desired roadmap in water resources management.

In a recent visit to the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Professor Joseph Utsev, in Abuja, the UNICEF’s Deputy Director, Dr. Rownak Khan assured his host of UNICEF’s willingness to partner with Nigeria in the campaign to end open defecation and improve access to water supply and sanitation.

It is important that the Nigerian government uses this of opportunity to collaborate with international organizations to achieve the ministry’s mandate in water resources management and accelerate citizens’ access to water supply services.

It is also imperative that the government considers increasing budgetary allocation to the Water Resources sector to help improve the water delivery system and increase the access to water by ordinary Nigerians.

The relevant stakeholders in the water supply chain should be able to adopt new ways of utilizing the existing waters like Rivers Benue and Niger and its tributaries to dam the big rivers and provide the needed water for drinking, agriculture and electricity generation for the use of the people as obtained in many Africa nations.