By Emeka Nwokocha
Warri based Nongovernmental Organisation (NGO), the Environmental and Rural Mediation Centre (ENVIRUMEDIC), with support from the United States Agency for International Development USAID Effective Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services (E-WASH) Program, Tuesday, 24 November, held E-WASH Annual Summit 2020, themed, “Transiting Wash Services From Safety To Growth.”
The summit, which was held at Wetland hotel, Ughelli, headquarters of Ughelli north local government area of Delta State, availed members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Nongovernmental Organisations (NGOs), Government functionaries from the Delta State Urban Water Corporation (DESUWACO), and other stakeholders, to discuss the way forward to achieving Effective Water, Sanitation and Hygiene service (E-WASH) in the state.
Speaking at the event, the Delta State E-WASH team lead, Mr. Adebayo Adeyemi, commended ENVIRUMEDIC for organizing the summit, describing it as a welcome development. Adebayo said unhindered delivery of water, sanitation and hygiene service in the state is the cardinal objective of USAID E-WASH Program, in the ongoing new water regime in the state. Continuing, Adeyemi said that the bottlenecks in the delivery of effective water and sanitation services in the state is being tackled, noting that the ongoing reform in the public water sector seeks to improve urban water, sanitation and hygiene service, even as he stated that strengthening the operations of the state’s water board in the area of technical viability, legal and institutional frameworks is being undertaken. He said, “the ongoing reform brings on board a professionally managed, commercially oriented, and accountable state Water Board. This will happen by improving the Water Board’s financial viability, and strengthening policy, institutional, and regulatory frameworks for effective WASH service in the state.”
Adeyemi, expressed worry that the public water sector had been left moribund over the years, stressing that infrastructure that worth billions of naira in the sector had been abandoned to rot away while the citizens are in dire need of water and good sanitation. “Look at the Warri-Effurun treatment plant, it has connected almost 3000 customers, a test run had been done, but suddenly, something just went wrong and the plant is abandoned for years after billions of naira has been spent on the project,” he lamented.
He said, “2021 is a critical year for us, the state and non-state actors in the business of making access to sustainable basic water possible in the urban and rural communities. We are fully on ground to walk our talk. We are embarking on result oriented measures to update us with the true state of things on ground. On that note, a regulatory committee had gone round the state; they would bring the report to us so we will be able to know nonfunctional water schemes in the state; that is the essence of our reform. He continued, “a component of the reform mechanism tracks activities in the water sector with regard to water production and distribution. In the same vein, the reports from all the states on budgetary allocation to water will be collated to enable us evaluate and compare the performances of the states in the area of implementation. We shall be looking at how much was budgeted to water sector? How much of the budgeted money was released for projects?
Continuing, Adeyemi, enjoined the CSOs, NGOs and the general public to join hands to changing the ugly narrative in the public water sector. “By end of next year (2021), we should be able to conveniently say that treated water is flowing regularly in not less than 12 communities in delta state. There is hope, the Delta State government is responding positively, and everybody is primed to deliver result. Let us look at 2021 with optimism but most especially, let us change our old ways,” he stated.
Speaking at the event, the Delta State Commissioner of Water Resources Development, Rt. Hon. Martins Okonta, who was ably represented by Engr. Blessing Edewor, Director, Quality Control & Sanitation, Ministry of Water Resources Development, commended ENVIRUMEDIC for organizing the event, saying, “it is a sensitization platform to educate the Delta State Government, the State Water Board and other stakeholders in the USAID-E-WASH program on the compelling need to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services across the communities, towns and villages in the state, with a view to promoting good health of the citizens. He noted that the event would inspire better performance of the Delta State Water Board in provision of sustainable and affordable water to the citizens.
He added, “the event will inspire us to do what we ought to do. We appreciate our partner, USAID (E-WASH) Program, CSOs and NGOs making contributions to ensure unhindered implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene services in Delta State.” Engr. Edewor said that the state government had responded positively to all the conditions recommended by the USAID E-WASH development partner to facilitate and improve water and sanitation in the state. He called on the CSOs, NGOs and the public to be part of the programme.
Presenting a paper at the summit, entitled, “Transiting WASH Services from Safety to Growth,” the CEO, Environmental and Rural Mediation Centre (ENVIRUMEDIC), Chief Monday Itoghor, emphasized importance of the USAID E-WASH Program in ensuring safe urban environment. He noted that about 801,000 children, between 0-5 years, mostly from developing countries die every year from diarrhea, a water borne disease. He added, “millions of people are infected with Neglected Tropical diseases (NTDs), such as Guinea worm, due to unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and poor hygiene practice.
Itoghor, noted that a report by a non-profit Research Institute International (RTI), shows that 71 million of Nigerians do not have access to clean water; 130 million do not have access to basic sanitation due to accelerated urbanization, saying that such development puts the health of Nigerians at great risk and adversely cause a lull in economic opportunities, work efficiency and labour performance.
Continuing, Itoghor, expressed worry that State Water Boards (SWBs), in most states in Nigeria, saddled with responsibility of providing water and sanitation services have been hampered by myriad of challenges such as nonexistent of infrastructure, weak incentives, ageing infrastructure, inadequate or ineffective operations, poor maintenance of equipment, and lack of accountability.
According to Itoghor, the objectives of the summit include: to enable citizens of Delta State, especially those in urban areas have access to safe drinking water and sanitation services; to advocate for a paradigm shift in the State Water Corporation (SWC), from safety zone operations mechanism to growth zone mechanism; and to seek a professionally managed, commercially oriented and improved financial and operational viability of SWCs.
Continuing, Itoghor, advanced the Comfort Zone Theory as a sure way of tackling the overwhelming challenges bedeviling the SWCs in provision of effective water, sanitation and hygiene services to the urban communities in recent times. He said, “a comfort zone is a psychological state in which a person presumes he is safe and in control of his environment and experiences low levels of anxiety and stress, and maintains a steady level of performance.” He added, “in the comfort zone, things are familiar with us; we feel comfortable and would not take any risk; it is a sort of a haven.”
Itoghor, implores the SWCs to move away from institutional rhetoric and rejig its operations to become a profit making enterprise with capacity for attaining self-sufficiency. He said, ”this presentation seeks to ensure that SWCs move from comfort zone (feeling of being safe and in control) to the Fear Zone (lack of self-confidence, finding excuses and being affected by others’ opinion) to the Learning Zone (dealing with challenges and problems, and acquiring new skills) and finally, to the Growth Zone (finding purpose, living dreams and setting new goals).
To get to the Growth Zone, Itoghor, said the following would be needed: strengthening accountability and transparency system; promoting bonds and equity investment in SWCs; operating in more professional way and becoming profit making oriented; team work and enhancing management motivation; going into partnership that will work; be open to new learning and take positive business risk; harness the power of modern ICT; and be prepared to provide answers or solutions for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguous questions.
Also speaking, the Programme Director of Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN), Dr. Andrew Agboro, stressed importance of collaboration to make the public water service work optimally. He urged the CSOs, NGOs and other stakeholders to contribute their quota to support the ongoing reform in the state water board aimed to improving urban water, sanitation and hygiene service across the state, saying that uninterrupted access to water is key to improving the health of the citizens.
Mrs. Mode Stella, the representative of the Chairman of Warri South local government council, Dr. Michael Tidi, emphasized importance of water, sanitation and hygiene services in the society, noting the indispensable role water plays in one’s life. She stressed importance of proper management of wastes in the society to keep diseases at bay, even as she called for the use of environmental management professionals in wastes disposal and management in the state.
Other speakers at the event, Engr. Henry Idama, Chairman, Delta State Water Services Regulatory Committee, and Engr. Akarinwan Edward, Zonal Manager, DESUWACO, Sapele, stressed the need for proper regulation and standardization in water and sanitation management, stating that clean water is life. Continuing, they expressed concern that private operators in the water business and management of sanitation in the state are not properly monitored and regulated, stating that the regulatory committee is being strengthened to achieve great result. They charged the public to always ask questions in order to know what is going on in the public water sector, saying that interventions from the public would put the managers of the public water sector to sit up and do their jobs creditably.
Other dignitaries at the event include, the leader of Ughelli Legislative Arm, Rt. Hon. Felix; Engr. Bemigho Enonuya, DESUWACO Zonal Manager; Mrs. Irene Uduaghan, Assistant Director, Sanitation and Waste Management Dept., Delta State Ministry of Environment; ENGR. Engr. Franklin Awala, Zonal manager, DESUWACO, Bomadi zone; Engr. Orhioru Benjamin, DESUWACO Zonal Manager, Ughelli; Mr. Christopher Maduka, Advocacy and Capacity Building Specialist, USAID- E-WASH, Delta State; Mr. Lucky Enegide, Senior Programme Officer at ENVIRUMEDIC; Mr. Fred Nohwo, Executive Director, Africa Centre for Environmental and Rural Development (ACERD); Mr. Richard Benin of Community Development Advocacy Foundation (CODAF); and others.