•Residents groan in pains, beg governor to intervene
By Sunday Ani
When former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, once said, “we shall not defeat any of the infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation and basic health care,” he was not directly talking about Nigeria. However, this holds true for the country. At present, residents of Jakande Estate and FESTAC Town Extension, in Mile 2 and their surrounding neighbourhoods in Lagos, are having the problem of safe drinking water, like some other communities in the country.
To be sure, for three months, these estates have not been supplied water by the Lagos State Water Corporation. The people complain that in the last one year, water supply has been epileptic, despite assurances by officials of the water corporation. The people are suffering so much that they are beginning to question whether government still exists in the state and if it does, whether they have been abandoned to their fate.
A visit to the estates in the morning hours or late in the evening revealed that the words of the World Bank Vice President for Environmental Affairs, Ismail Serageldin, that the wars of the 21st Century would be fought over water has already begun. At various points where water is being sold to residents in gallons and buckets, tens of hundreds of people scrambling over the commodity. Investigation revealed that the people, who gathered at various water selling points are those who cannot afford to patronise water retailers, who push trucks around. Such people, it was gathered, would rather get the water direct from the source instead of patronising vendors, popularly called Mai Rua, who have cashed in on the situation to fleece residents.
Checks revealed that before now, water vendors sold one 25-litre gallon of water for N25 or N30 to the people. But since the last three months, when the water corporation shut the estate out, price has increased to between N50 and N60, depending on where the buyer lives. For people who live upstairs, in Jakande Estate, a gallon of 25 litres would cost N60, if you want the vendor to take it to your doorstep and N50 if otherwise. For those who live downstairs, they pay N50 per gallon.
However, at FESTAC Extension, those who live upstairs pay N50 per gallon, while those who live downstairs pay N40 per gallon. Some residents who spoke to Daily Sun on the development gave hard knocks on the government for deliberately putting them through such excruciating pain. They all agreed that the situation was getting out of hand and that it was high time the state governor, Akinwunmi Abode, directly intervened to find a lasting solution to their plight since water is life.
A resident of FESTAC Extension, who simply identified himself as Ozor, decried government’s carefree attitude over the water situation in the estate, insisting that it was the responsibility of government to provide potable water to its citizens at all time. He said: “What I have to say is that government is not helping us as far as water is concerned. It is the responsibility of government to give water to its citizens, just as it is the citizens’ duty to pay their water bills regularly. But, for over three months now, we have not seen a drop of water from the water corporation and the silence from the government shows that the people do not matter. Nobody is talking to the people, at least, to tell them what the problem is. The people are left in the dark as to what is happening, that is the irony of it.”
Stressing that water was life and that without it, man would cease to exist, he said: “A man that does not take his bath for one week will turn to an animal. Water is as essential to life, as air. After air, it is water. So, government should see the provision of water to its citizens as a responsibility that must be carried out at all cost.”
Another resident at Jakande Estate, who gave his name as Matthew, stated that the water corporation had failed the people. “The water corporation is not living up to the people’s expectation. Water is life, but there is no water here. We have been like this for more than three months now. We spend a lot of money buying water every day to sustain life,” he said.
He described as fraud a situation where the water corporation will distribute bills to residents, when no water was supplied, saying that it was time the state governor looked into the matter. He said: “The worst is that they will not give us water but at the end of the month, they will bring bill. We are asking the governor to look into the matter and give us water. We are suffering.”
He also raised the alarm over the danger associated with buying water from the vendors, since residents do not know the source of the water being supplied. He stated: “We buy from the Mallam and it is very dangerous because we don’t know the source of the water they sell to us. It may lead to the spread of water-borne disease and other diseases. We wish government would step into the matter and give us water, please. I spend N500 every day because I buy full truck and before the end of the day, I will be struggling to get water to flush the toilet. What I am saying is that even the N500 worth of water per day is not even enough.
“Now, they told us that the water bill had been increased from N500 to N1000 per month, but we don’t see the justification for that. If there is water, people are willing to pay. People don’t pay regularly because there is no water and at the end of the day, they will still bring bills.”
However, for Prince Uche Ogbonnna, who described the situation as pathetic, the water corporation is punishing the people for their refusal to pay their water bills regularly. “We have a public line, which runs periodically. The water corporation brings bills, but people don’t pay. I don’t know why they do that but they find it easier buying water from the hawkers that sell water. So, it is a general apathy on the part of the people that has brought us to this mess. So, that is the point. I don’t know why people fail to pay. They feel it is a free tea, but I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where there is a free tea. I am saying that where government has tried to put these things in place, we should also try to show some patronage by paying that token; but you know human beings, some will comply and others will not,” he said.
Asked if he was sure that people’s failure to pay for water bill was why they had not had water for over three months, he said: “I think that is the reason and generally because of the power failure in the country. They may not be able to carry out their duties efficiently because they need electricity to power their machine, to be able to supply water to the people. By the time the power is not there, even though you pay, they cannot provide the water because there is no electricity to pump water. But, generally, I think they stopped supplying water to us because some people have refused to pay their bills.”
On how he copes with the situation, he said: “I have a tank where I store water when there is supply from the water corporation, but if they don’t supply, I call the private water suppliers from FESTAC to supply me while I pay. If I don’t have money to fill the tank, I resort to buying in gallons from the people that sell in trucks. I have 1, 500 litres tank and I use N3, 500 to fill it and it takes me up to one month with a family of six persons.
“The last time the water corporation supplied us water was around October 2016. If I am buying in gallons, I spend more than N3, 000 in a month because the 25-litre gallon is N40 per one and they are always 10 in a truck. And those 10 gallons will only last for two or three days; so if you do the arithmetic, you will discover that one will be spending more than N5, 000 per month. So, people in this environment are resorting to building boreholes. People will pull resources together and construct a borehole and that is the alternative that people have taken to now.”
Mrs. Carol Osigwe also spoke on the matter. She said: “The issue of water in this estate is getting worse. In fact, it is worse now because there is no trace of it. In the past, they used to supply water to us for some days and there won’t be supplies for some time. They started by giving us water for some hours, like two hours in a week and they would cease it, but, since late last year, they have not supplied water at all. So, our only hope is on these people that sell with trucks.”
She also quantified her daily expenses on water and lamented that the burden was becoming too heavy for her, just like many other residents. “Every day, we spend N400 or more to buy water. The full truck is N400 or more. For instance, a family of five can only manage one full-load of truck, which takes about 10 and sometimes 11 gallons (25 litres each), because you take your bath twice a day, wash plates, cook, wash clothes and flush the toilet and other things. So, it has not been easy at all and water is a commodity that is supposed to be free. You are not supposed to spend a dime on water because it is one of the natural gifts that God has given us; but here, it is not like that. We are suffering a lot. You can see our environment. It has not really been that easy. And it is an estate; we pay a lot of bills to the government. But just look at the environment. Some people manage to use well water to flush their toilet, but the water closet will suffer because the water will change its colour.”
Ken is another angry resident of Jakande Estate, Mile 2, who felt that the water situation has got to a point where the people need to call government’s attention to it. “Apart from air, water is the next most important thing to man’s existence on earth. The scarcity of water in Amuwo Odofin has gone out of hand. I am concerned about people, who cannot even afford to buy water from the Mallams. Such people resort to well water, which you very well know is an invitation to disease of all kinds. And at the end of the month, they still bring bill. Where are the bills coming from? This is a serious matter and government has to do something about it urgently,” he also submitted.
Chief Patrick Iwegbe’s concern is that nobody seems to be listening to their complaints. “We have not had water for over three months now and nobody is telling us anything as to why the situation is like that. We spend almost N500 on water every day,” he said.
He also raised fears concerning the quality of water they get from hawkers when he said: “Another problem is that the water we are buying from the Mallams is not clean but we don’t have any other alternative. Some of them smell; we are at the mercy of God. It is only God that has been saving us.
“If they bring water to us, we are ready to pay. Nobody says they should supply water free of charge, but the problem is that they are not bringing any bill probably because they have not supplied us with water for over three months now.”
On the way out of the mess, Ozor said: “The solution is for all of us as a people to come to the Almighty God, who has the answer to all things because man cannot give us answer; men have failed and they will continue to fail as long as they refuse to do the will of God. The Bible says that if my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and confess their sins and seek my face, I will hear from heaven and I will heal their land. So, what we need to solve our problem is to embrace God; go back to God. The people that are leading us must repent from their wicked ways; the people that are being led must also repent from their wicked ways and pay government bills as and when due, while government should also give us the facility with the fear of God. They should not see themselves as all-in-all because it is only God that is all-in-all. Let us all repent and God will turn our situation; that is the only way our solution can come.”
For Emmanuel Okafor, since government has failed to provide water to them, they should be able to provide alternative means of getting water, since no man can survive without water. He is of the opinion that people should learn how to pull resources together and construct a borehole.
He also suggested that if the problem with the water corporation had grown into such a big monster that it can no longer be solved, government could as well assist every block in the estate to get a borehole.
“God has given us the brain to think and if we can’t think, too bad. If others are getting solution elsewhere, we can also get it here. So, let us start contributing towards constructing our own boreholes since the government has abandoned us,” he suggested.
When Daily Sun reporter went to the Water Corporation office at Mile 2 to find out why the residents have not been supplied with public water for over three months, the man in charge of that station said: “It is not only residents of Mile 2 Estate and its environs that do not have water; it is all over the state. There is a little problem and we are working hard to resolve it. Just bear with us. In fact, the matter will be resolved over the weekend (last weekend) and you will have water. Just bear with us.”