KUNLE FALAYI writes
With an annual spending of N2.9tn on bottled and sachet water by Nigerians, as reported last week, experts have said if no urgent solution is found to solve the current water crisis, the spending may hit N35tn over the next 10 years.
A sociologist, Dr. Jibril Adeniji, who first hinted at this projection, said this will be inevitable considering the population growth rate of Nigeria.
He said, “If Nigerians currently spend N2.9tn annually on bottled and sachet water, even if the country’s current population remains stagnant over the next ten years, which is impossible, Nigerians would still spend N29tn.
“My calculation is that with three per cent increase in population every year for 10 years, at least N6trn will be added to the current spending on water to make N35tn.
“Our huge spending on bottled and sachet water is self-evident. It sounds absurd but this is sadly the reality .As I speak with you, I have taken two bottles of water today. This should be a wake-up call for the government.
Nigeria’s population growth rate, according to the National Population Commission stands at 3.2 per cent.
According to projections by the United Nations Population Division, Nigeria’s current population of 178 million will increase to 206 million by the year 2020 and by 2026, 10 years from now, the projection is that the country will have 230 million people.
Adeniji said Nigeria’s burgeoning population itself is a grave problem that would put further pressure on whatever effort is made by government in the water sector.
Demographer and lecturer of Sociology at the University of Lagos, Dr. Lekan Oyefara, corroborated this.
According to him, there is no more important time in Nigeria’s history than now to put in place an effective population control policy.
“Nigeria’s huge population will always put great pressure on water infrastructure, which is already in crisis. It will be the same in other sectors,” he said.
According to Oyefara, no matter how much is spent on water infrastructure by the government, without population control, it will deteriorate.
He said, “I have conducted research on this subject and realised that in Lagos alone, less than 30 per cent of residents have access to public water.
“This is the situation in every area of infrastructure in Nigeria. Too many Nigerians are competing for too little infrastructure. And we all know what this will result into. If we fail to control our population, nature will control it for us through diseases.”
Experts proffer solutions
Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria, Dr. Michael Ojo, said Nigeria’s water sector requires an annual investment of N400bn (about $1.3bn) to be able to meet the sustainable Development Goal of water for all by the year 2030.
His assertion is a reaction to the fact that only 0.7 per cent of the 2016 budget is dedicated to water.
Ojo said, “There is chronic lack of investment in the provision of water services in Nigeria, money that needs to go into the sector to expand it is not going in. For instance, in this year’s budget government earmarked N44bn for the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.
“It represents a paltry sum of what is required to increase access to water, sanitation and hygiene services in the country. Most stakeholders in the sector are of the opinion that to move the sector forward, there is need to increase recurrent expenditure.”
Managing Director of Forthright Manufacturing Company, makers of Etana Premium Table Water, Mr. Goke Faromoju, was of the same opinion. He said more fund, that would be monitored and not embezzled, should be expended on the development of water infrastructure in the country.
According to him, as long as Nigerians do not have access to safe water, the country cannot be said to be developed.
Chairman of ATWAP in Lagos, Rev. Ebere Ibeawuchi, said the solution to the problem of illegal water producers in the country is for the government to partner with unions such as ATWAP.
He said, “We will look out for the underground operators ourselves because if we wait for NAFDAC, the illegal operators will destroy the industry and people will continue to die.
“The government agencies do not have the manpower or the structure to cover the entire Lagos State alone for instance.
“They don’t even know where these quacks are. This is why ATWAP is trying to embark on self-regulation in partnership with these regulatory agencies.
“We have the structure on the ground and are represented in all the local government areas in the state unlike these regulatory agencies. We also know every inch of the state and every producer of water in the state.
“Our aim is to ensure that we produce good water that conforms with the World Health Organisation’s standard but the illegal ones don’t want this to be possible.”
To develop the water infrastructure in the country, Chairman of Oak Group Limited, makers of Lasena Artesian Water, Dr. Musa Elakama, advised government to be more proactive in its approach.
According to him, there is need for the government to partner with water producing firms.
“If the government builds the infrastructure, we will definitely play our part. In the neighbourhood where we operate, we are already giving people water almost free of charge.
“I think the Federal Government can also adopt this strategy by going into partnership with firms like ours to address the water challenge in most parts of the country. Consuming bad water is highly injurious to the health, we must do all we can as a society to overcome this problem.”
A medical practitioner, Dr. Emeka Onuonibe, who said he has a water analysis device that he uses to ascertain the PH level of water, said there is need for regulatory agencies to conduct continuous checks on even the certified water producers.
He said, “I have tested a number of the popular brands in Lagos and even in eastern Nigeria. I noticed that the PH level of many of them are far below 8. Some of them are so bad that I consider them pure poison.
“The solution is for the regulatory agency to declare war on these products and conduct routine and regular checks on the water products on sale on Nigerians streets.”