Opinion

Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni: Millennium Development Goals, Water And A Dying Nation

This year marks the end of the current international development agenda reached in year 2000, centred on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs encapsulate eight globally agreed goals in the areas of poverty alleviation, education, gender equality and empowerment of women, child and maternal health, environmental sustainability, reducing HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases, and building a global partnership for development.

For Nigeria, it has been 15 years of motion without movement. Based on perceivable scenarios, Nigeria would not achieve any of the goals. In 2013, when the team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited the Office of Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (OSSAP-MDGs) to find out the country’s performance track towards achieving the MDGs, Dr. Precious Gbeneol, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals, disclosed that the three tiers of government spends about N3 trillion annually as against the total sum of N4.3 trillion required to achieve the MDGs targets before the 2015 deadline. In a way, the SSA was preparing Nigerians mind that the lacuna of funding would be the albatross to achieving the MDGs.

From the goal one of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger to goal eight of developing global partnership for development, Nigeria, despite her natural resources, human capital and ecological advantages remains in dire need. On the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index report of 2013, Nigeria was categorised as one of the African countries not recording remarkable improvement. According to the report, Nigeria was ranked amongst countries with low development index at 153 out of 186 countries that were ranked.

Life expectancy in Nigeria is placed at 52 years old while other health indicators reveal that only 1.9 per cent of the nation’s budget is expended on health. The report asserts that 68.0 per cent of Nigerians are living below $1.25 daily while adult illiteracy rate for adult (both sexes) is 61.3 per cent. Based on UNICEF data, every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age. This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world. It is observed that preventable or treatable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70 per cent of the estimated one million under-five deaths in Nigeria. To crown it, the MO Ibrahim Index for African Governance, 2013 rated Nigeria 41st out of 52 African countries. What this meant is that government impact minimally in the life of the citizens. As at today, one Dollar change N208 at Bureau De Change and with Nigeria’s monolithic crude oil at its lowest, corruption remaining endemic, there arises pressure in meeting basic social needs. Even water a supposedly common commodity acclaimed by late Afrobeat Legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti as having “no enemy”, in our ensuing failed state cannot be made available to all. The foregoing presents the case of a nation losing its soul.

While a Millennium Development Goals Report in 2012, reported that 783 million people, or 11 per cent of the global population, remain without access to an improved source of drinking water. A good number of the figure not covered lives in Africa and Nigeria. The 2012 report shows that 89 per cent of the world’s population was using improved drinking water sources, up from 76 per cent in 1990 and assumed that if the trends continue, 92 per cent of the global population will be covered by 2015. But the African predicament might obstruct the target, many in sub-Sahara Africa do not have access to clean water, the Nigeria case is even more terrifying. According to Water and Sanitation Media Network,” 35 million Nigerians still defecate in the open; about 90 million are without access to safe drinking water, and 130,000 under-five Nigerian children die annually from preventable water borne diseases.”

Between 2011 and now, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) office model costing says $2.5 billion (about N375 billion) is needed to meet the nation’s water and sanitation targets, the Federal government noted that an extra N200 billion is further required to provide additional development in Dams with hydropower components amongst others within same period. When the idea was presented in 2011, the federal government planned to fund the water roadmap via direct public and private sector financing, in which, budgetary appropriation as well as cost sharing arrangements with states, local councils and communities would be the public proposed fund-raising approach, while private funding will be accessed via multilateral credit, loans and internally generated revenue. That was the last heard of the water road map.

One of the most important milestones of world’s effort in making water available to all was the recognition in July 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly of the human right to water and sanitation. The Assembly recognised the right of every human being to have access to sufficient water for personal and domestic uses (between 50 and 100 litres of water per person, per day), which must be safe, acceptable and affordable (water costs should not exceed 3 per cent of household income), and physically accessible (the water source has to be within 1,000 metres of the home and collection time should not exceed 30 minutes). Going by the foregoing, it is criminal on the part of government not to make water available to all.

Despite this milestone, it is unfortunate to note that over 40 per cent of all the people in Sub-Saharan Africa are without improved drinking water and are not in any way poised to meet the MDGs’ drinking water target this year. On February 12, 2015, I came across an article, “Vote For WASH”, written by Greg Odogwu in The Punch Newspaper, where he noted that there are communities even in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where human beings drink from the same river as animals. “They wash, bathe, and drink from the same lake where animals drink. And, side by side, they use the same “sanitary facility” with cattle. Their children fall sick of unknown illnesses and die. Yet, after every four years, politicians troop to these communities in their best campaign convoy with pomp and pageantry, making promises that will not be kept, until the next election when electioneering commences again.” WASH is the generic acronym for Water Sanitation and Hygiene.

Early this year, Water Aid Nigeria and #Vote4WASH team commenced a social media campaign to #SaveKwalita community in Gwagwalada, Abuja. It is stated that in this community, there are about 600 children without water, sanitation, health centre and school. For those who do not know, Abuja is the Federal Capital of Nigeria, the biggest economy/giant of Africa.

It is not like the Nigerian state has been standing akimbo. In a report written by Ameto Akpe for Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in 2012, she wrote that, “in January 2011, the federal government launched the water road-map, a blueprint that describes the government’s objectives in developing the nation’s water resources between 2011 and 2025. The plan includes the promise that 75 percent of Nigerians will have access to potable water by 2015, and 90 percent by 2020. With the launch of the plan, Jonathan’s administration announced the availability of special intervention funds for several projects.”

The proposed interventions were to be “drilling one motorized borehole in each of the 109 Senatorial Districts, rehabilitating 1,000 dysfunctional hand pump boreholes in 18 states, supplying and installing 10 special water treatment plants, and completing all abandoned urban/semi-urban water supply projects.” Nearly 3 years on, one cannot categorically point at these projects as finished or abandoned. President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 declared, “no Nigerian child in the next few years shall trek long distances to carry water.” As at the end of 2014, women and children in Langtang area of, Plateau State, still travel long distance to get water. The Guardian Newspaper front page of February 17, had a picture of school age children with buckets looking for water in Gombe metropolis. Same scenario goes for many urban and rural communities within the country, the government of the day has failed in bring something as essential as water to us without sweat.

In a Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) of WHO/UNICEF for water and sanitation in 2012, it was estimated that based on progress in the past, it would take 28 years for Nigeria to meet the target of making water available to 75 per cent of her citizens. The JMP reports show that between 1990 and 2010, there was only 11 percentage point increase in access to improved water supply in Nigeria. Currently, 58 percent of the country’s 160 million people have access to potable water. The report noted that for the Nigerian government to deliver on its promise of 75 percent coverage by 2015, access must increase by 17 percentage points within the next three years.

But rather that improve, than country is in a fix. Last year, Water Aid Nigeria, an international non-governmental organization estimated that 112 million Nigerians lack access to basic sanitation and clear water. However, as against obvious reality, President Goodluck Jonathan during 2015 New Year broadcast asserted that access to potable water had improved from 57 per cent to 70 per cent, this presupposed government had been resilient in meeting its target, but budgetary allocations to water and sanitation sector have been fluctuating. In 2010, the federal government budgeted N112 billion for water and sanitation but by 2011, budgetary allocations had dropped to N62 billion. For 2012, the budget for water was only N39 billion, while in 2013, the budget for Water Resources grew to N84.2billion.

In a pocket handle book produced by the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Research, Documentation and Strategy, headed by Oronto Douglas, as at 2012, the achievement of the current administration in the Water Sector was listed as completing seven water projects, providing about 4.3 million Nigerians access to portable water; completion of Nine Dams in Akwa Ibom, Katsina, Enugu and Ondo states which increased the volume of Nigeria’s water reserve by 422mcm. The same booklet pointed out that 4,000 jobs were created and as at 2012, 65.29% of the population had access to safe water, compared to 60% in 2011. And 375, 000 farmers now had access to irrigated land in 2012, up from 236,000 in 2011.

In 2014, when the same booklet would be reproduced ostensibly for 2015 elections, the only achievement recorded in the water sector was 422m cubic metres of water added to country’s reservoir, the same one documented in 2012. For discerning minds, this is a clear case of deceit and blatant disregard for citizens who take time to check government files.

As the world prepares to transit to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), successor to the Millennium Development Goals, it is indeed a national embarrassment that Nigeria would be dragging the burden of the last 15 years into the new world development plan. Is it possible for Nigeria to halt implementation of SDGs post 2015 and concentrate on achieving the MDGs? Logically, how can Nigeria process to sustainable development when it cannot guarantee water for all? I grew up in an environment where students that fail repeat classes, collective promotion without disaggregation would be the bane of our attaining the goals as projected. The proponents of WASH are of the opinion that their campaign is not about vague promises of electricity, employment, etc but a very basic environmental and fundamental human rights of access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. That is not too much to ask a responsible and responsive government.

The nadir of Nigeria’s lack of access to save water is the crude alternative of commercialised sachet water “pure water” Nigerians have found consolation in. Even though almost every sachet comes with purported NAFDAC number, many know how weak the inspection processes are and most “pure water” are the end product of impure environments. As a matter of urgency, NAFDAC needs to review its monitoring policy and make public, verifiable data on the number of companies it has approved to produce sachet water and their company addresses. Rwanda has been identified as one of the few African nations to have met the one of Millennium Development Goals target of halving the proportion of its people without access to sanitation. Key to Rwanda’s success have been empowering communities, strong political will and accountability of service providers and governments, which have been held up as examples for other Sub-Saharan African nations as they confront their own challenges in water and sanitation.

One known feature of the Water resources sector in Nigeria is the litany of abandoned projects embroiled in corruption. It is opined that lack of accountability, transparency and clear management structure, are all albatross of making water available to all. Both the Executive and Legislatures (through their constituency projects), construct borehole that breaks down few days after commissioning. There is hardly any maintenance structure to sustain these water projects. And for centrally controlled water works department, lack of efficiency has created economic deficits. There exist weak rate collection structures; thus, the water sector cannot be equitably relied upon to generate revenue. It is estimated that at least 90 percent of the country lacks a clear framework for the metering, billing or collection of water payments. Water bill payment defaults are estimated to have accrued to an astonishing debt of N1 billion. This sector alone, given the necessary political will, would have created ample employment opportunities and help the country in bridging the gap of unemployment.

At the 24th African Union Summit, which closed on 31 January, 2015, African Union’s official launched the Kigali Action Plan of 50-million euro agreement to bring drinking water, basic toilets and hygiene promotion to 10 million Africans in 10 countries: Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Lesotho and Mauritania, all on the list of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), in the next 15 years. Even though Nigeria is not amongst the countries, an home-made plan needs to be developed to essentially reduce the number of people without access to water in Africa’s biggest economy.

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Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni wrote from Centre for Democracy and Development(CDD), Abuja.
Twitter handle: SM_S0407

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