Nigeria’s federal government has named seven of the 36 states of the federation as beneficiaries of a $700 million loan sourced from the World Bank for water projects. The states are Ekiti, Kaduna, Delta, Imo, Plateau, Katsina, and Bauchi. They are to benefit from the first tier of the loan.
Minister of Water Resources, Sulaiman Adamu, disclosed the benefitting states on Wednesday at the weekly ministerial press briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the State House, Abuja.
However, Adamu bemoaned the controversy surrounding the Water Resources Control Bill currently before the National Assembly. He alleged that politically motivated persons were deliberately misinforming the citizens on the proposed legislation.
Adamu said the seven states would access between $50 and $60 million after meeting certain criteria set up by the World Bank for accessing the facility.
He stated, “Certain criteria were set up by the World Bank and us. The states had to meet these eligible criteria. And the projects are submitted into tier one and tier two. Tier one are for those that will get a substantial amount, maybe $50, $60 million for the urban schemes.
The P-WASH (Plan – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Action Plan is the rural component and it is going to the state specifically. Some are going as grant while some of it is going to some specific projects. And like I said, there are eligible criteria that states ought to have met; it is not all the 36 states. There are conditions attached on which basis this money is going to be disbursed.
“So the whole thing has not been finalised yet, but what we have is an approval in general from the World Bank specifically for this. There will be some realignments here and there and that is something that we are going to be working on between our ministry, Ministry of Finance, and the World Bank.”
Adamu said the federal government was working on 116 on-going and abandoned projects in the ministry, adding that 38 irrigation, 458 water supply schemes, and 37 dams and reservoirs have been completed.
The minister also said the days when the federal government served as Father Christmas in terms of providing water projects in states were over. He stressed that the maximum commitment to states henceforth would be 30 per cent, as it had been discovered that some states were deliberately laidback and unwilling to do their part in the maintenance of projects sited in their states.
He mentioned the case of Bayelsa State, where the N6 billion Otuoke water project meant to serve 13 communities of 120,000 people, was locked up by the state government because it claimed it could not afford to pay N3 million a month to provide diesel and chemicals, and pay supporting staff.
Adamu said, “I know a scheme that we commissioned, N6 billion, handed over to the state government because the Federal Ministry of Water Resources cannot run a water scheme on a daily basis. So after completion, we handed over to the state government.
“A year after we went back, it was not in use. It was for 13 communities of 120,000 people, the state government locked it. We asked why, they said they could not afford to pay N2 or N3 million a month to provide diesel and pay for staff and chemicals. So what can we do?
“That is why we said the federal government is no longer going to be a Father Christmas by just doing these projects and handing over to them. We have to see their own commitment as well.
“The state that locked up water project because they could not afford N3 million is Bayelsa State and the project is Otuoke water supply project.”
Commenting on controversy surrounding the National Water Resources Bill currently before the National Assembly, the minister emphasised that the misinformation on the bill was deliberately being sent out for political reasons, insisting, however, that government has taken a firm decision to regulate the water delivery system, as no data exists to effectively reform the sector.
According to Adamu, “We are still working with the National Assembly on this bill. I think, probably, they were so engrossed with the PIB and the electoral bill, which are, of course, serious national priorities, and they were not able to come to talk about it.
“But already, we have done all the things that needed to be done. The issue that was raised, the technical issue about gazetting, had been addressed. So the bill is still before the National Assembly.
“Obviously, I have said so much about this bill, people have been deliberately misinformed. The bill was deliberately politicised unnecessarily, something that is good for the development of the country. And in any case, 96, 97 per cent of the provisions in that bill are already existing in four different laws: Water Resources Act 2004, Nigeria Hydrological Services Act, River Basin Development Authorities Act, and the National Water Resources Institute Act.
“The first purpose of bringing this bill was to put all these bills under one booklet, instead of having four separate laws, just consolidate them into one statute. That is number one. Number two is that Nigeria, like all other countries in the world, has adopted the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management. And that is why today we are enjoying the Category Two UNESCO centre of Integrated River Basin Management that is based in Kaduna. It is a centre of excellence, funded by UNESCO to promote integrated River Basin Management and we are getting people from all parts of West Africa region to come and learn about River Basin management there.
“So on the basis of that, powers that were hitherto vested in the Minister of Water Resources are being devolved to the communities, to stakeholders within the basins. And what this means is that whereas on the basis of the Water Resources Act that is existing, I as minister cannot determine where any project can be put without any recourse to anybody. Under this new Integrated Water Resources Management concept, we will have to go down and talk to the communities involved.
“We have to have their buy in, we have to agree. So we will have to hold town hall meetings, we have to set up catchment management committees, the Integrated Water System Management Commission that is saddled with that responsibility was set up in 2007.
“This is the organisation that provides licencing, you cannot get a licence to have a power plant without a water licence. That is what is happening now through the Integrated Water Management Commission. So this law also, there is a provision within the bill to strengthen this agency.
“All the people that are mining water have to go there to get a water licence and pay a tariff, it is gazetted by law. But right now, they are operating on the basis of delegated powers of the minister. And what we want is for them to stand alone, that means I can withdraw this delegated powers anytime and apply them myself.”
Adamu further explained, “But if we have what we have provided in the bill, there will be independence, like the National Electricity Regulatory Commission. They will not be answerable to the minister; they will be answerable to the people. And the bill provides that the commission will have members nominated by the president, cleared by the National Assembly, they have to be confirmed by the National Assembly and they will be representatives of all the geopolitical zones of this country.
“So we are democratising the process of water resources development in this country. And some people went to town and say that we want to cheat people.”
The minister also clarified, “This bill, by the way, was drafted in 2006. The Buhari administration came in 2015. So it is something we met, just like our on-going project is exactly what we met. We just wanted to continue where others failed. The bill went to the Federal Executive Council and it was approved in September 2016.”
Deji Elumoye in Abuja