EVEN WITH RIVER BENUE PORTABLE WATER A FAR FETCHED DREAM

Posted: August 26, 2011 in BENUE

WATER SUPPLY IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE INDUSTRY IN THE WORLD- MRS.  P.E. ADOGA

Makurdi, the Benue State capital sits strategically over the river Benue, unfortunately like a boatman who goes to bed without a bath, Benue withits gigantic river still lacks portable water. Benue State water board, the establishment tasked with the responsibility of providing water to the Benue people, has over the years been sparsely present in the lives of the indigenes owing to the partial availability of portable water. In a bid to uncover the mystery behind this problem, ATI TERKULA  caught up with Mrs. P.E. Adoga, Executive Secretary of Benue State water board, who gives us a peek into the challenges faced by the board in execution of this all-important mandate. Excerpts:

STAFF STRENGTH

Water Board is one of the three largest boards in the state. It has at present 238 staff on her staff list working in four major offices called Area offices located in Katsina-Ala, Gboko, Otukpo and Makurdi, under which there are twenty seven water schemes scattered under them throughout the state. Overseeing each Area office is an Area Officer and the schemes in turn have sub-station managers, who see into the day to day running of the offices. These schemes are meant to supply water to their host communities, they comprise of public water taps and dams which supply water to schools, churches and other public places. These schemes are free of charge as the board does not charge tariffs for water provided through these scemes.

REVENUE AND FUNDING

The board has been empowered by law to generate revenue and sustain her operations. Unfortunately, the populace is very uneducated about tariffs, the major means of revenue generation for the board. Water generation which is actually a major business world over, is seen as a social service and thus not necessarily to be paid for especially that politicians use water provision as a propaganda tool. Even when they are billed they claim it is too much to pay for water, the board at the moment charges a flat rate of N2000.00 monthly per house stead, a tariff considered very fair and actually one of the least in the nation.

In a bid to complement what comes from the Ministry of water Resources, the Board has opened discussions with Local Government Chairmen in the state to partner in the water schemes by providing logistics such as diesel, lubricants and batteries for the generators that that power theses plants and the board provides manpower but unfortunately they have not been forthcoming.

“…since the board does not charge tariffs on the schemes, we have discussed with Local Government chairmen to help us with diesel, lubricant and battery. Unfortunately there has been poor response from the chairmen. On our part we put all machinery in place all that is needed to provide us battery and diesel”. She lamented.

CHALLENGES

According to Mrs. Adoga, though the government is trying its best to provide portable water to the populace, a lot needs to be done as the board is faced with many challenges.

The pipe network in the state is one major problem faced by the board. The pipes laid since the establishment of the board decades ago, are the same pipes in use today. Consequently, most of the pipes have worn and are broken. More so, the pipe network that is present was laid when the population of the state was minimal thus there is need for laying a new pipe network as the population of the state has quadrupled since the initial laying of these pipes. Though the Executive Secretary said that the government has put in place machinery to lay new pipes in and around Makurdi town little work is seen to be done yet.

Also there is the problem of cost of production which is prevalent in all development sectors of the Nigerian economy. Due to the erratic nature of power supply in the state the cost of running the plants triple as they virtually run on generators, a situation which has caused the board to ration water. This has caused the board to go into partnership with communities through the Local Government chairmen who are yet to extend their support.

With 238 staff, four Area Offices and Twenty Seven schemes, the board is obviously understaffed. This is another problem faced by the establishment.

“for a very long time there has not been any recruitment in this place as you can see if the greater water works is completed more staff will be needed even at the moment, the board is in need of more manpower to run this place”. She said.

The water treatment and supply facility used in supply water around the state is grossly inadequate to supply the state as the major towns have expanded and the population of the state has also nearly quadrupled and thus it can no longer cater for it.  Unfortunately for over six years there has been a singsong of some sort over the establishment of greater Makurdi water which the populace is yet to feel its impact. Also clearing on the issue, Mrs. Adoga  explained that the greater water works which has been designed to cater for the growing population for an expected three decade population progression will soon be delivered to the board after completion. The project which she claims is 85% complete with 12 of her staff seconded to the plant for training and supervision of the work before handover.

It will be apt to add that recently, Okokolo, a community in Agatu Local Government Area has been reported to be plagued with cholera claiming a life and four others critically ill in the hospital. This also calls to mind the 2007 cholera epidemic that ravaged the state claiming lives  and ridding her of valuable manpower.

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