From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The Federal Government has disclosed that seven states, comprising Bauchi, Delta, Ekiti, Imo, Katsina, Kaduna and Plateau are to benefit from the first tier of the World Bank $700 million for specific water projects in the country.

According to the Minister of Water Resources, Sulaiman Adamu, the states will access between $50 or $60 million having met the criteria set up by the World Bank to do so.

Adamu who is the 17th guest of the weekly ministerial press briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team, said: “Some certain criteria were set up by the World Bank and us. And the states had to meet this 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.

“For 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 eligible criteria that states ought to have met, it is not all the 36 states. There are conditions attached on which basis that 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’ll be some realignments here and there and that’s something that we’re going to be working on between our ministry, Ministry of Finance and the World Bank.”

The minister said the federal government is working on 116 ongoing and abandoned projects in the ministry. He added, however, that 38 irrigation, 458 water supply schemes and 37 dams and resorvirs have been completed.

Adamu also said the federal government has declared that the days it was Father Christmas in terms of providing water projects in states are over.

It announced that the maximum commitment to states henceforth will be 30 percent as it’s been discovered that some states are deliberately laidback and unwilling to do their parts in maintaining projects sited in their states.

He mentioned the case of Bayelsa State where N6 billion Otuoke water project meant to save 13 communities of 120,000 people, was locked up by the state government because it claimed it cannot afford to the N2 or N3 million a month to provide diesel, pay for staff and chemicals.

Adamu said: “Well, normally when we are planning projects, what we call project justification. The document of the project tells you how many people will enjoy the water facility, in most of the memos that we present to counsel we also provide that information. You know, how many people, how many hectares and if you multiply the hectares, it can can tell you how many families are going to benefit, and so on and so forth. But all these things are addressed right at planning stage.

“And I’ve mentioned in our submission, we’ve shown the number of the populations reach in terms of water supply and so on. But generally, you know, whatever irrigation project you do, it has direct impact on families and farmers. If it’s a water supplies scheme, the same thing. Dams, okay dicey, because is not enough to just build the dam. The dam has a purpose. So normally the dams that the federal government has built, some of them have gone further to do the irrigation schemes, some of them have gone further to do the water supply schemes. But most often, and this is where the actual problem is, the federal government has been building these dams, as bulk water for the states to now constructed the water supply facility or the irrigation facility to supply their people. And this is where the states have been failing. Many states have failed to do that. And still expect that after spending billions of Naira to do the dams that the federal government should go ahead and provide the water schemes. And to some extent, we’ve even done that. “I know of two places where the federal government built the dam and the treatment plant and the states didn’t use them. And 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 can’t afford to N2 or N3 million a month to provide diesel and pay for staff and chemicals. So what can we do?

“And 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 the project is Otueke water supply project.”

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On controversies surrounding the National Water Resources Bill currently before the National Assembly, he regretted that 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’re 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 percent 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’re 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 can’t determine where any project can be put without any recourse to anybody. Under this new Integrated Water Resources Management concept, we’ll have to go down and talk to the communities involved.

“We have to have their buy in, we have to agree so we’ll 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. Right? That’s 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.

“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 representative 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 exact thing of what this bill is trying to do is what is being fed into the minds of people. And I don’t understand why. We’ve talked, we’ve talked and we’ll keep talking. Well, we’re committed to this.

“This bill, by the way, was drafted in 2006. The Buhari administration came in 2015. So it’s something we met, just like our ongoing project, is exactly what we met. We just wanted to continue where others failed to. And the bill went to the Federal Executive Council and it was approved in September 2016”.