Corruption in the water sector makes access to potable water and sanitation a moving target in Nigeria, Continued

by Depo Adenle

 Below is my response to issues raised in Mr. Hanidu’s comments used on Monday, October 3, 2011:

What I reported happened around 2001. I was at the Gombe office of one of the external donors. What happened was due to poor coordination between Federal and State Governments/external donors. The external donor was assisting the state in rural water supply and sanitation. The representative of the external donor was baffled about what happened and that was why he shared the information with me. If there had been proper coordination, what the FGN contractor did would have been avoided.

However, I want to give you an example of the fraud that goes on in FGN projects. The picture I am offering here was taken around June 2011 at Bembe village between Gbongan and Orile Owu, Osun State. I saw a sight that was profound, albeit very strange:  a woman was drawing water from a hand-dug well just outside the fence of a Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) borehole!  I asked the woman why she was not drawing water from the taps provided next to the fence of the borehole but she responded that it had never worked.

What baffled me was that a huge overhead tank was provided along with the generator house which can be seen in the picture below. This water scheme must have been commissioned with a lot of fanfare and a silent rural community was deceived and then left without water. The villagers told me that the project was commissioned during Obasanjo era.

FGN Rural Borehole at Bembe village near Orile Owu, Osun State, Nigeria. Picture Credit: Depo Adenle, 6/2011.

I heard that in some states on state water projects, civil servants collect N15,000.00 to look the other way instead of insisting on proper pumping tests for rural water supply boreholes. I do not know whether something similar had happened in the case of Bembe village.

As it is in case of journalists, I cannot give the name of the State that stockpiled chlorine but that illustration is just to show the level of waste that has its root in corrupt practices.

As for the ever- increasing population, it is not what will make the MDG goals shifting targets. The challenges posed by corruption are huge. Planning for projected growth in population is certainly a must for developing countries. Is it not true that we usually wait until any situation reaches crisis level before we act? When you set a goal you must plan to meet such goals.

It is no use making laws that will not be enforced. There are plenty of statutes in our Penal Code to deal with thieving politicians but these are never applied. No politician in Nigeria has ever been recalled. Until Nigeria has its own Spring of Awakening:  rallies of discontent as in the Middle East, we are not going anywhere with respect to fighting corruption.

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5 responses to “Corruption in the water sector makes access to potable water and sanitation a moving target in Nigeria, Continued

  1. Efforts at addressing inadequate or lack of access to potable water actually seems not to be yielding sustainable improvement. My recent visit to my home town in Ile-Ife, Osun State was a clear testimony. I visited about 5 FGN Ogun – Osun River Basin Solar Powered Boreholes sites only to discover that just 1 was functioning. Am particularly disturbed about this development not only that am from the Ile-Ife but these facilities were constructed less than 6 months and right from the time the gigantic projects was claimed to have been completed some of them have not produce water. Corruption is very central to this ugly phenomenon. My people are suffering and dying from water related diseases. These projects are certified by some people and commissioned with funfair. It is time we address this problem. The government officials that certified these projects must be sanctioned and those that commissioned abortive boreholes need to be brought to book. MDGs CGS Boreholes equally suffered the same faith. Many of them are or have stopped serving our people. This is even worst in Ekiti. On the way from Osun to Ekiti to Abuja one will be amazed with the number of water projects claimed to be MDGs boreholes but are just tapped from the existing water connection and not a single drop is coming from the stand pipes.

  2. Dimeji Akinhanmi

    Dear Dr Depo,
    It is encouraging that you are coming boldly against a cankerworm in the water industry in Nigeria. Can we imagine what a government wants to achieve with advance purchase of chemicals (alum, HTH, etc) for 3-4years ahead of usage? Chemicals that losses potency by the day and with specific shelf life. I am not talking of 3-4years supply contract with quarterly supply and corresponding progressive payments but huge lump sum payment for such commitment. Thereafter the govt says he has committed so much on the water supply sector and all other requests should go to ‘sleep’. How will the overall maintenance be achieved without collapse?.
    Over 10yrs in Nigeria the World bank and other external funding agencies have campaigned for water sector reform in operations and development plans presentation. Why has it been difficult to inculcate some of the best practices available into our systems? It is because corruption gaps are most likely to be significantly reduced. This will directly reduce the sector being a target for corrupt practices.
    I hope that a number of us professionals or in authority (as government officials) to certify some of these projects will be able to stand up to our oath of professional ethics or code of conduct in the circumstances.
    Best wishes,
    Engr. Dimeji Akinhanmi

  3. The topic under discussion has been silently operating and, siphoning money meant for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene projects out of States, thereby limiting progress on the MDGs despite several programmes and billions channelled towards it, unfortunately. Come to thing about it, loook at the operating procedures of the MDAs, visi a vis the coordinating offices.

    The level of corruption in the sector leaves so much to desires as the perfection of injustices and siphoning peoples money through dubious contracts and when these contracts are implemented, they are substandard, breaks down within the sortest period of time, mostly within the 6months retention period without being achievements

    Right from procurement, to assessment of tenders and contracts awards, some stakehholders are in the habit of getting accross all the companies with a promise to help them win the cotract, having in mind that at least, some of the contacted coys will eventually be successful, hence, an avenue to hold them to ransom and demand for gratifications of various dimensions, such as half of the coontracts items, geopgysical survey, installation, platform construction to outright drilling of the safe water sources at cost contained in the BOQ.

    Now, how do the formal MDAs staff supervise a work that they have either collected gratifications on or did? Hence, some of the handed over facilities are liabilities since inception and are not manageable by WASHCOMs/WCAs due to faulty provisions, again contributing to high rate of dysfunctionality of safe water source in beneficiary communities.

    I have rumminated over this times without number and concluded that the reform in the WASH secotor is bedevilled with many corrupt tendencies and officials, who are interested in puncturing any good programmes/projects for personal gain. Some of them consolidated their positions with a fragment of the money realised from the dastard, selfish and inhuman activities.

    How I wish each of the States in Nigeria and the FGN could assess the functionality astatus of the costs and benefits of all the water schemes, especially in rural communities and do a total sample survey on all the private sector partners that have been awarded one or two contracts for their experiences and ways forward.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>Definitely we cant continue like this>>>>>>>

  4. Adeola Florence

    The problem is not in the programme, but in the system. In a situation where programme meant to be handle by professionals are left in the hands of non-professionals, all in the name of politics, you can’t expect proper coordination. Another issue is the shift from the Supply Driven Approach to Demand Driven Approach. Where communities member are seen as major stakeholders and play major roles at every stages of the planning for the programme, such occurrence can be minimize if not totally eradicated.

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