“That greenish water over there is our only source of water in this village,” Idris Adamu Danjaka said.
A man of about 60 years, he was referring to the water in a dam the Nigerian government built in Danjaka, a village in Kunchi Local Government Area of Kano State. The dam was built as a constituency project of a federal lawmaker but was not completed.
“The only other place we can get water from is a broken rock, which most people cannot access because it is dangerous to climb the rock,” Mr Adamu told Premium Times’ reporters tracking the projects.
Another resident of the village who identified himself as Bala said, “The water is not clean but we drink it, cook with it and do other domestic things with it. This community lacks almost everything. No water, no hospital?”
A major development challenge in Nigeria is that social infrastructure such as potable water supply, electricity, health care facilities, good road networks and others have not kept pace with population growth. And because the country’s population is growing at a rate unmatched in most other parts of the world, its infrastructure deficit is widening.
According to data from the United States-based Population Reference Bureau, Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world with a projected population of over 195 million people and 206 million people by 2020. By 2050, Nigeria will only be behind India and China, as its population would have outstripped that of the United States, currently the third most populous country with 326 million.
Access to potable water is a major problem, as over half of the population in Africa’s largest economy still drink from rivers, streams and ponds. Although the problem is more pronounced in rural communities, city dwellers are also not spared of it.
Many in urban Nigeria who cannot install their own boreholes rely on water vendors, who largely operate without public agencies ensuring the safety of the water they dispense for domestic use.
The United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF) and other health agencies have repeatedly warned that poor water supply is the cause of cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery and other water-borne diseases, which are the major causes of deaths in under-five aged children.
In a bid to ensure access to safe water across the world, the United Nations in 2015 launched a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, including 17 goals the world aims to meet by 2030. Goal 6 is: “Ensure Access to Water and Sanitation for all”.
OVER N110 MILLION CONSTITUENCY PROJECTS
In pursuit of SDG Goal 6, the House of Representatives in 2016 allocated funds for the construction of solar-powered boreholes in some communities. These were captured in the 2016/17 federal budgets as constituency projects of members.
Lawmakers inserted the constituency projects in the federal budgets to ensure that all constituencies across Nigeria feel government presence through tangible projects. The projects have been controversial since their conception and are characterised by corruption, especially as the lawmakers determine the projects and work with the relevant government agencies to execute them, including by nominating the contractors.
Over N110 million was approved under these projects for the construction of boreholes or earth dams in some communities in Kano and Kaduna states. It is not clear how much was released, although constituency funding for the National Assembly are mostly released in full.
Beneficiary communities in Kaduna include Sabon Gida, Gonin Gora, Hayin Dogo, Ungwar Boro, Kudenda and Ungwar Yelwa in Chikun Local Government Area, and Kofar Gayan in Zaria LGA.
In Kano, they include Danjaka in Bumai Kunchi LGA, Gwale and Kano Municipal.
PREMIUM TIMES visited some of the beneficiary communities in Kano and Kaduna states. The visits exposed that these projects have either not been implemented or do not have the desired impact, as households still rely on unsafe water for drinking and other domestic purposes.
The first sight in some of the communities are of women and children going to or returning from streams, holding or balancing on their heads buckets, basins or jerrycans. In some, people could be seen drawing water from wells.
Chikun/ Kajuru in Kaduna State is represented by Umar Yakubu Barde, a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who has been in the House of Representatives since 2003.
For Kano Municipal, the representative is Danburam Abubakar Nuhu, a member of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC).
Sabon Gida in Chikun LGA of Kaduna state was the first community visited by Premium Times. Its constituency project is a solar-powered borehole constructed in 2017 and for which N10.5 million was approved in the federal budget for that fiscal year.
“The borehole is not functioning well because since its construction, only about 10 people get water from it daily,” the village head, Ali Yahaya, said in what would later emerge as the refrain by residents of the few so-called beneficiary communities in which the projects were executed.
“We have over 120 houses and this borehole is our only source of potable water. People that cannot get water from the borehole go to the stream. Some have wells or their neighbours have. They get water there to drink and for other domestic needs,” he said.
Ibrahim Ja’afaru, the village secretary, said no official had been around to check the condition of the borehole since it was constructed.
“Since 2017 no official or even the people that worked here have come to check the condition of the borehole they mounted. Most people in this community no longer bother to go to the borehole because they already know they will not get water. They go straight to the stream from their homes and those that have wells get water from there,” he said.
A resident who identified herself as Gloria also spoke with our reporters in the same vein.
“Since my family relocated from Aba to Kaduna some years ago, my children suffer from one illness to the other. It was difficult getting use to drinking stream water and sometimes well water.
“So when they brought the borehole, we were very excited because at least, it will provide us with clean water and also save us the trouble of walking long distances to the stream.
“Our excitement did not last long because we realised the borehole cannot serve any purpose. It was only on one or two occasions I managed to get water from the borehole. It is either the water has finished or one pipe is broken. So our only reliable source of water now is the stream and sometimes, well,” she said.
In Gonin Gora, the contractors started construction of the borehole but never completed it. Some residents said the contractors were last seen April 2017.
“Some people came to construct the borehole but it was not completed,” a resident, Samson Tanko, said. “They fixed the engine but it was stolen about three months later. Since then, it has been like this. Even before the engine was stolen, the borehole was not functioning, the solar was not fixed and no generator was provided to power the borehole,” he said.
The village secretary, Abu Yusuf, said the only functional borehole in the community was constructed by the Emir in 2012.
“The people that constructed this borehole did not come to the village head before they started working. So when we heard that the engine was stolen, we didn’t bother to do anything about it because we were not involved from the beginning. Before the engine was stolen, the borehole was not functioning yet. People in this community get water from the well or the borehole over there, constructed by the Emir in 2012,” he said.
Although N10.5 million was also approved for a borehole in Hayin Dogo community, the project was not executed. The last borehole, which was constructed in 2006 is no longer functioning.
The community chief, Yusuf Ayanda, said, “We do not have a borehole in this community. Our people get water from wells and those that do not have go to the stream.”
A resident, Maryam Yakubu, said “We get water from our wells or from the stream.”
Kudenda in Sabon Gari ward of Chikun LGA is a community of about 53,000 residents. N10, 5 million was also approved for a solar-powered borehole in the community but the project was not completed. Residents said the construction started in mid-2017 but was soon abandoned.
The Sarkin or head of Kudenda, Gabriel Galadima, said he was not informed before the contractors started work, so he saw no point getting involved.
“The people in charge of the borehole are government officials, they came into the community and did not even inform the head of the community. They just went ahead to construct a borehole. And to make it worse, they couldn’t complete it. They make lots of promises when it is time for election, but they never fulfill them,” he said.
“When the contractors came in 2017 to construct this borehole, they broke our shops, claiming they are too close to where the borehole will be mounted,” Michael Awodiya, who runs an electronics shop in the village said.
“Despite destroying our shops, the borehole was not completed. It is really painful that those in government are doing this to us,” he said.
Another resident who identified himself as George said, “Our shops were cut half way just to get access to pipe for the borehole but the borehole was never completed. If they knew they are not ready to complete it, why start it in the first place? Why inconvenience us for no major purpose.”
The boreholes seen by our reporters in in Anguwan Boro are private-owned, although N10. 5 million was approved in the federal budget for a solar-powered borehole there too.
“All the boreholes you see in this community are private-owned. Some are owned by churches while others were constructed by private individuals,” a resident who gave his name as Baba said.
“When there is enough water the owners allow people to fetch from the boreholes.
“Since our representative in the House was elected, we have not seen or heard from him. He made lots of promises during the election campaign but he is yet to fulfil his promises. We are waiting for him to start his campaign for 2019, because that is the only time we can see him,” he said.
Anguwan Yelwa has a solar-powered borehole constructed in 2017 but it is not functioning. It was courtesy of the 2016 federal budget but as in Gonin Gora, residents said the engine was stolen three months after it was mounted.
Barde Solomon is the son of the Sarkin or village head. “The Sarkin was not involved from the beginning,” he said. “He was not informed before the borehole was constructed so when the engine was stolen, he was not aware until the police got involved. The police are investigating the incident and some arrests were made.”
He said residents get water from a private-owned borehole. “He (the owner) gives water to people freely, so the people has now turned it to a public borehole. That is the only publicly accessible borehole in Anguwa Yelwa,” he said
The last time a public borehole was constructed in Kofar Gayan, a community in Zaria LGA, was 2015, residents said. In the 2016 federal government budget, N10. 5 million was approved for a solar-powered borehole in this community as a constituency project of their representative in the House.
“If any borehole is to be constructed in this community, I will be aware of it because I am a plumber and we have a group which shares information,” a resident, Shittu Saidu, said. “The last borehole here was constructed in 2015.”
A resident, Abdulrazaq Abdukarim, said “The only borehole I know of in this community is almost 15 years old. It was constructed by Mustapha Bawa, who died some years back. Our only source of water is the stream and sometimes we buy water from mai ruwa (water vendor)”, he said.
For Danjaka, a community in Bumai Kunchi LGA, N15.5 million was approved by the federal government for the construction of an earth dam. But the project has been a source of sadness to the residents. The dam was half-way done when it was abandoned. The water has since dried up.
Idris Adamu Danjaka, a former chairman of PDP in Bumai ward, said “The dam was constructed but the water has since dried up. In 2017, I heard that some people were constructing a dam, so I went there to check. I realised that the dam is not up to what can be used, as the level of water is too low.”
Mr Adamu, who is the APC treasurer in Bumai ward said: “We heard on radio that the Honorable said he has done the project and the people in the environment are enjoying their farming but it is a big lie. The only thing we are to benefit from this government is this dam, yet it is not functional. Since its construction, no one person has benefited from it.
“I have been monitoring this project from the beginning and I begged the contractors to dig it deeper but they refused to listen. So we have decided to write to the Kano state governor to come to our aid,” he said.
Haruna, a resident of the community said, “When they came, we begged them to dig it deeper but the workers said no poor man could tell them what to do. Our village head pleaded with the Honorable to work on the dam and make it functional but we are yet to hear from him.”
In the 2016 federal government budget, N15 million was approved for 10 hand- pump boreholes in Gwale Federal Constituency in Kano State. Residents all said none was delivered.
“No borehole was brought to this constituency that I am aware of,” Albati Gomasalatan, said.
“All those people in the House are lairs, they make promises and deceive us to put them there. We trusted them but they have disappointed us,” he said.
“There is no way a borehole will be brought to this constituency and we will not know about it,” another resident, Nasir Saheed, said.
“We know everything going on around us, so if 10 hand-pump boreholes were brought, we will be aware of it. So I can boldly tell you that no hand-pump boreholes here,” he said.
In Kano Municipal, the hand-pump boreholes allocated to five wards were also not delivered. The son of the district head, Abubakar Hassan, said, “Right from time, the Honorable does not do any of these projects. They lack respect for the people in the community and the district head. They do not even come to the district head to inform him of the projects meant for the community. No hand-pumps were brought to us in this community. The people in this community gets water from wells or streams,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES’ efforts to get full details of the constituency projects and the contractors were unsuccessful.