By Victor Adeoti, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Mrs Temitayo Adekunle, a mother of two, is a trader at Olabisi Onabanjo International Market in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.
Due to acute water scarcity in the town, the woman routinely wakes up as early as 5.30 a.m. every day in search of potable water before preparing her kids for school and cooking breakfast for the family.
Adekunle often gets to her stall in the market late because of the hours she daily wastes in looking for water.
“The water problem in Ijebu-Ode is age-long and it needs urgent attention. In spite of the fact that we spend a lot of money in buying water, we still have to wake up early to queue up at the water sales point.
“Although there are water pipes everywhere, they are not functional. I am appealing to the government to come to the rescue of the masses by providing potable water for us,’’ she says.
Adekunle’s plight only tends to reflect the troubles of most Ijebu-Ode residents; as the major challenge facing the town’s residents in the last few years has been the acute shortage of potable water.
Most residents of the ancient town usually complain about the perennial shortage of water, lamenting that they spend a lot of money on buying water from water vendors for their daily needs.
Observers bemoan the scarcity of water in Ijebu-Ode in spite of the town’s status as one of Ogun State’s major centres of commerce, industry and agriculture.
They underscore the importance of potable water to human survival and note that in spite of the considerable government’s investments in water supply to the town, a larger percentage of the residents still do not have access to potable water.
The water shortage in the town, however, means good business to those vending water in the neighbourhood.
For instance, a bucket of water sells for N20, a 25-litre container sells for N50, while a drum goes for as high as N150 depending on the location in the town.
It is now commonplace to sight people driving round the town with kegs and buckets in search of water, while many women and children are often seen with buckets and other containers on their heads looking for water.
However, some observers complain about the perceived indifference of the government and its officials to the precarious water situation in the town.
Alhaji Yekini Lawal, a businessman, particularly bemoans the water situation in the town in spite of the “millions of naira spent on the rehabilitation of `Yemoji Dam’, the major dam in our area, by successive state administrations.
“All things being equal, Ijebu-Ode should be supplying water to the neigbouring towns but the residents are still searching for water to drink,’’ he says.
Mrs Anifat Lawal, a restaurateur in the town, laments that she spends an average of N1,500 daily on procuring water to run her restaurant, adding that the water situation is adversely affecting her business.
She urges the government to find lasting solutions to the perennial water problems in the town, adding that the money she daily spends on water is eating deep into her profits.
“I spend a lot, both at home and in my restaurant, to buy water and the situation is becoming quite worrisome,’’ Lawal says, adding: “I want to appeal to both the state and local governments to find lasting solutions to our water problems.’’
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Seinde Odumosu, a pharmacist, says that if the water problem is not resolved on time, it may lead to the outbreak of water-borne diseases in the town,
“This is because we are not sure that the water we buy from water vendors is hygienic and drinkable. We, however, have no other choice than to continue to patronize them since they are the only viable alternative open to us,’’ he says.
Odumosu urges the government to pay tangible attention to efforts to rehabilitate Yemoji Dam and make it functional, saying that the dam remains the major source of potable water to the people of the town and its environs.
Mr Olatunde Alake, a surveyor, insists that the government can initiate temporary measures to tackle the perennial menace of water scarcity in the town.
He says that the state and local governments could sink boreholes in strategic locations across the town, saying that such measure will give the government the ample time to fix the problems at Yemoji Dam.
Water experts, however, blame the water scarcity in the town on “institutional failure’’ or the failure of past state administrations to develop the dam and distribute water from it to the residents in an orderly manner.
Mr Oluwasegun Joseph, a water expert, describes the persistent water shortage in Ijebu-Ode as “a crisis of governance and management’’, alleging that past state administrations had been playing politics with the development of Yemoji Dam.
Joseph insists that if the government is apparently aware of the plight of Ijebu-Ode residents regarding their access to drinkable water supply, it would have been able to repair the dam and make it functional to alleviate the people’s water problems.
“The acute water shortage in Ijebu-Ode has become a campaign jingle for politicians but they seem to forget their campaign promises soon after their election into offices.
“The contracts for the dam’s rehabilitation had been awarded and re-awarded several times but nothing tangible has been done, as the problem still persists.
“Water resources development and basic water services are usually handled by the government, as water is considered as a basic need and as a human right.
“Investments in water development require large financial resources, which are often beyond the reach of private individuals and poor communities. The government is, therefore, required to provide water for the citizens.
“Water supply and sanitation problems cannot be divorced from other challenges facing the town and the state in general. Political leaders should, therefore, be alive to their responsibilities by ensuring that the citizens have access to safe water and other basic services,’’ Joseph says.
“I want to, therefore, urge the government to have mercy on the residents of Ijebu-Ode by refraining from playing politics with regard to the provision of water and other the essential amenities to the people,’’ he adds.
Mrs Folashade Benson, an environmentalist, particularly implores the government to urgently tackle the acute water shortage in Ijebu-Ode so as to prevent the emergence of diarrhoea, dysentery and other gastrointestinal diseases associated with drinking unhygienic water.
Benson expatiates that a report of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2005 revealed some 3,900 children die every day from complications arising from the ingestion of unclean water or poor hygiene.
He says that research has also indicated that diseases transmitted through water polluted by human excrement are the second highest killers worldwide after respiratory diseases.
“The research revealed that the lack of access to safe water is associated with four billion cases of diarrhoea each year and results in the death of 1.7 billion people globally, most of who are under the age of 5 years.
“The study also described diarrhoea as the second biggest killer of children in Nigeria, causing about 17 per cent of the deaths of children below the age of five. This is largely due to drinking unsafe water and poor hygiene,’’ Benson says.
Reacting to the acute water scarcity in Ijebu-Ode, Rep. Kehinde Odeneye, member of House of Representatives representing Ijebu Central Federal Constituency, pledges to tackle the water problem decisively by sinking boreholes in strategic areas of the town.
He says that the provision of potable water via boreholes will be one of his priority concerns while implementing his constituency projects.
Odeneye bemoans that the lack of potable water in the area for a long time, reiterating his resolve to fulfill his campaign promises by sinking many boreholes across the town to alleviate the residents’ suffering.
The lawmaker recalls that he had conducted a fact-finding tour of his constituency to determine the communities’ needs in term of social amenities, pledging his determination to implement various development projects that will touch the people’s lives.
Sharing similar sentiments, Alhaji Raimi Sarumi, the newly appointed Caretaker Chairman of Ijebu-Ode Local Government Council, gives the assurance that the council will sink more boreholes across the town to address the problem of water scarcity.
He, nonetheless, appeals to the residents to exercise more patience, saying: “You know our administration is new but we intend to sink more boreholes to add to the existing ones in solving the people’s water problems.’’
The assurances notwithstanding, observers urge the state and local governments to invest more in rural water supply schemes across the entire state.
They say that the lack of access to clean water, particularly in the rural areas, continues to remain a major source of concern to many citizens, while discouraging potential local and foreign entrepreneurs from investing in the state.
The observers note that if the citizens’ access to potable water is appreciably enhanced, it will improve their welfare and increase their productivity, while fostering the growth of the communities and the country at large. (NANFeatures)
* This story was first published on July 27, 2011. However, the situation remains the same.