About 700,000 residents of Gombe, the capital of Gombe State, are about to face one of the most difficult times as their only and major source of clean water has stopped flowing.
This is happening despite the government’s claim that it has spent about N6.3 billion in providing water to the people of the state in the last two years.
The amount is enough to drill at least 200 standard boreholes (at N250, 000 per unit) in each of the 114 wards in the state, or 11 boreholes in each of its 2218 polling units.
In the 2015 fiscal, the Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo government budgeted N3.7 billion for water. This year, the government is spending N2.6 billion for the same purpose.
But despite such huge spending, Gombe state capital, is facing acute shortage of water due to lack of funds to service the city’s main source of water.
The multibillion Gombe State water works that pumps distilled water from Dadin-Kowa dam to the state capital, has been reported to have broken down due to lack of funds for its maintenance.
Should the situation persists, the city, which has a lower aquifer, may have to resort to unreliable sources for its daily water needs. Residents worry that such situation might trigger epidemic in the city.
In the past, nearby towns like Biu in Borno State, which shares similar geological characteristics with Gombe, faced epidemic like cholera after residents sourced drinking water from shallow boreholes and hand pumps.
This has heightened concern amongst the residents who lament the fear of returning to days of buying water from local push cart water-vendors.
A resident, Sani Haruna, in Jekadafari quarters, told PREMIUM TIMES that they often had to resort to the patronage of water vendors for domestic water use.
“Government have to prioritise its commitment; there are so many water projects that have been abandoned by the government, and these of course contributed to the suffering of the masses today”, said Mr. Haruna.
Another resident, Hauwa Idi of Bolari area in Gombe, said, “I have been spending N140 on water purchase daily, beside my payment of water rate to the state Water Corporation”.
“We plead with the government to make the supply of potable water regular and also they should try to fix pipe leakages so as to minimize wastages,” she said.
The General Manager of the Gombe State Water Board, Isa Muhammad, confirmed that the water works needed servicing, a situation which he blamed on lack of maintenance by the poorly funded water management board.
He further blamed the situation on poor response of the people to payments of their water utility levies.
“All through last year, only a paltry sum of six million naira (N6, 000,000) was realised from the payment of water rates, because the people are used to the habit of not paying for the consumption of water,” said Mr. Muhammad.
According to him, the glaring economic recession has made it mandatory for the Water Board to really sit up and look inward.
He also alluded to the water board servicing illegal consumers who secretly tap water from the reticulated pipes.
He said the board would soon engage a high-powered task force that would begin a massive revenue drive especially from defaulters of water rates.
The general manager said a task force set up to commence work soon, would engage in massive registration of illegal consumers as well as ensure that defaulters of water rates are made to pay for the water they consume.
The manager said the Gombe water project was initially designed some 10 years ago to provide water for about 300, 000 residents of the state capital and its environs, but has now been overstretched to provide water for about 700,000 residents.
He blamed the exponential increase in the city’s population on the influx of Boko Haram displaced persons into the city and its environs.
Gombe State had in its 2016 fiscal years budgeted N2.6 billion for the provision of water to its citizenry. While in 2015, the state spent N3.7 billion in the water sector.