INTERVIEW: How we’re increasing Lagos water from current 200 to 700 million gallons daily – Corp. boss

Muminu Badmus, Group Managing Director, Lagos Water Corporation

In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the Group Managing Director of the Lagos Water Corporation, Muminu Badmus, speaks about the challenges of providing water to over 20 million residents, the poorly-maintained water infrastructures, and the planned PPP in the water sector.

PT: What are some of the challenges you have faced since assuming office in November 2015?

Badmus: We met challenges on the ground when I came and we are actually working in to overcome those challenges. Some of the challenges are easy to overcome some are not; those easy ones we have really overcome them. The two major, actually it’s three problems that we have, one of them is the PHCN – the power – and the second one is explosion of population in Lagos State. Lagos State is like United States of America where everyone wants to come so our population increases almost every day and that is also putting more burden on the water supply. Our design capacity remains at 210mgd (million gallons per day), whereas with the population that we have now, over 20 million, we should be given about 700mgd. So the gap is about 500 million gallons per day.

PT: What’s the actual capacity as at today? How much are you producing?

Badmus: We have design capacity of 210 million gallons per day.

PT: But how much are you producing currently?

Badmus: We are producing about 140- 150mgd, that’s what we are producing. It’s less and that’s simply because of a lot of unaccounted-for water, which starts from our facility, the Water Works, all the way to the household where we deliver water. It’s less than the required water consumption for the number of citizens. So we should be producing about 700 million gallons per day, supplying about 700 million gallons but we are only doing about 200 million. And the efforts we have been making to make sure that…and the government has been doing a lot of work in that and he has been assisting us a lot here is to…we have received an approval for PPP for 100 million gallons, it’s called Odomola PPP Water Works which will come from Odomola and it will supply all the way to Victoria Island. And another one is the one that we have now – we have the Expression of Interest advertised now. That one is 70 million gallons per day, that will be Adiyan 2.

And what we have on the ground now: we have Adiyan 1 which is already existing, that’s 70mgd (70million gallons per day); we have Iju, 45 million gallons per day; and then we have Upper Ikosi 4 mgd. We have Ishasi, 4 million gallons per day, then we have the mini water works, about 46 of them, all over the state and they vary between 1 and 3 mgd each. Those are the existing ones.

But we are bringing in now the 100 million gallons from Odomola as PPP, 70 milion gallons Adiyan 2, from Adiyan, and Expression of Interest was recently advertised, and we are still taking in, I think it will expire February 24, I believe. Once we get those, it will take time, it will take about two to three years to get those two and we have other ones that will be coming on broad too. And the plan is to rehabilitate the mini water works that we have. We are forwarding the proposal to the state to assist us and the state has been really helping us to do some work on them and the state is committed to at least rehabilitate those mini water works pending the completion of those big, large water works that we are expecting.

PT: What do you say to arguments against the PPP? A lot of people, including civil societies, have campaigned against it; that why is Lagos State going into a PPP when it can afford the water provision by itself? What do you say to that?

Badmus: I think people are mistaking PPP to be privatization, there is difference between the two. Yes, we do have some hiccups when we first started the discussion on the PPP, that people do not really understand, up till now people still confuse it. But PPP is not privatization, the state would still be in control, Lagos Water will still be in control. We will be working hands in hands with the investors that will be bringing money in; we are not giving away those facilities for them to run. The water that will be produced will still be in the name of Lagos Water Corporation. So we are able to convince some and we are still working with those people to explain to them why we have to go on this PPP, this is a big task for the state. And that’s why…

PT: (Cuts in) And you’re sure the water would not be priced out of the reach of the ordinary Lagosian, in terms of the cost?

Badmus: Right now we are paying like N2 for Mai ruwa (water vendors), and as I speak the water we are supplying is only 5 kobo per litre. There’s no way… and some people are making arguments that the water should be free; yes, the water is free but you have to treat the water. The diesel for instance…because we have to use diesel a lot, I told you earlier that the challenge we have is power, we use diesel a lot – N315 that’s what we are buying it from our suppliers, N300 – N315. When I came here, when I first resumed here it was less than N100, the same thing with chemicals. Our Forex is also contributing to this, it’s not really helping.  So your question on the tariff, whether it will be higher or not, it would not. We are making sure that it is way less compared to what they are buying water out there now. And right now the World Bank is doing a tariff studies for us, the entire state, and when that is completed  that will also be considered in whatever the tariff will be. We know very well five kobo is way out of line, but we have not since increased any of our traffic and we are hoping that will be… also the PPP itself is not profit driven at all, it’s not profit driven. Yes, that is considered when we are reviewing those things to make sure that it’s not profit driven.

PT: So how will the companies recoup their investments?

Badmus: They will recoup, they will make their money, of course, they’ll make some profit out of it but it’s not profit as people look at maybe to double or triple whatever they’re bringing in. Let me also make a correction on what I said earlier about the Adiyan, the Expression of Interest that was advertised is for the reticulation and the network, the State is already building the water works (Adiyan 2) and right now the cost to build that is about N57 billion which the state is paying for and that shows right there that the State is really investing in water in addition to paying for operating and maintenance for the existing one, they are building a big one right now that will be 70mgd and now the State is saying let’s bring investors in that will help us with the networks and the reticulations for the Adiyan 2.

PT: I was at Iju and Adiyan 1 water works recently and the picture is that of very poorly-maintained infrastructure. In Iju, only about two pumps were working and Adiyan 3-4 pumps. And now you are talking of building new water works. How are you going to ensure these new ones don’t face the same maintenance issues?

Badmus: Operating and maintenance have been a major problem all over the country and that is why we are looking into that with the new ones that we are bringing right now. And we have also developed O & M (Operating & Maintenance) for the existing ones.  We are going in right now and building some of those things that are lacking, those ones that need improvement, or the new ones so that at least it can carry us to the time that we will have this and so we can produce more water.  The reason why you mentioned earlier about what we are producing versus the design capacity is because of the ageing infrastructures and if we don’t maintain those infrastructure they will be failing gradually. Yes, we have been catching up with it; it is true when you went there the last time and it is still not all the pumps that are working there now; but gradually we are getting those pumps in line so that they can produce for us. You know that is a very big… the two facilities are huge facilities.  Those facilities are the largest in West Africa and we are trying to maintain it gradually and the governor has put in a lot of money into, at least, doing O &M into those existing facilities so that they will not fail completely and that’s what we’re doing now. The new ones will be different completely, we will be working in line with the investors and the O & M will be built with it.

PT: The 710mgd you spoke about, is there a timeline you are looking at when it would be delivered?

Badmus: It is gradual, that’s why we have those two now. We have the one that is approved already which is 100mgd. There is also another one that will be coming which we are not working on right now, that will be Odomola2.  Odomola2 will be 110mgd.

PT: Odomola 2 will supply which areas?

Badmus: That will supply the same area, that 100mgd is not enough to supply Odomola to Victoria Island. The other one will complement that. We also have Adiyan 3 which will also be 70mgd and of course we have Ishasi that we have to increase. We have to expand the Ishasi: expansion from 4mgd to 35mgd.  And also there are new facilities that will be built, Yewa 1 and Yelwa 2; they are 50mgd each.  There is also, I think Ibeshe, that one will also help and then we will also expand Ota-Ikosi from 4mgd now to like 35 – 50mgd.  All those will help and when we put those together they will come to like the exact capacity that we are expecting in 2020. In 2020 we are expecting 745mgd and we are actually working towards that with all these ones that I have identified; 745mgd is what we are building, hoping to achieve.

PT: Will 745mgd be the water need at that time or the state’s capacity?

Badmus: The need will actually be 733mgd, by 2020, and by that time we should have745mgd production. Another thing we are doing right now is to conserve water because what we found out after we went out and studied our system is that there’s been a lot of leakages, leakages not on the streets alone but even in the house because there’s no meter so people can leave the faucet to run as long as they want because it’s not being measured. So we are introducing meters, this is World Bank project and we are putting in between 14,000 and 16,000 house meters before the need of this year.

PT: Which areas are you targeting for now?

Badmus: Yaba, Surelere, Victoria Island,  Ikoyi, Lekki – part of Lekki – we’re not supplying all parts of Lekki right now but the few we are supplying there we’ll be putting meters, and then some other areas, we can provide you the information to that. That we’ll start by the end of this month, we start to put the meters. We have about 2,700 that have been delivered so far, the rest are on their way which should be before the end of this year. In fact, before July this year we should have, at least, about 14,000 to 16,000 meters installed. So that will help us and the citizens to conserve water and that will be like prepaid meters whereby you can only use what you pay for there. And then we’ll be able to bring in revenue to really help with the O&M for those facilities that I mentioned earlier, both the large and small facilities.

PT: What about the issue of private water vendors tapping into the government’s water pipes? Has it been addressed?

Badmus: It’s a problem, we have two ways, some households are also doing illegal connections.  Those are the pipes you will see that goes through the gutters, we do not run pipes through the gutters. And those are the ones that when they go through the gutters, if there is a leakage you will hear some citizens they will say there is brown water.  Brown water can penetrate if there is any rainstorm and there is a leakage, so we discourage that. We are encouraging citizens to let us know where those mushroom pipes are so that we can replace them or advise them to change it.

Now about the illegal connections, that is another problem.  We have a lot of them and actually we started recently to go out, we’ve had a meeting with them, we invited them here, we told them what our position is that you cannot continue to tap our line illegally and that we’ll work with them to introduce a way similar to what they’re doing in Kenya where they have those vendor port and all that. That we’ll have that only in some areas where our pipes are not yet run through, so we’ll encourage that with them.  And we’ll get to that but we have engaged them and we’ve been going about talking to them also. But yes, there is a lot of that. The reason is water is life and a lot of people are so desperate for water and they’ll buy water. Can you imagine people paying N2 for this Mai ruwa when they don’t even know the source of the water, and also other people that are supplying water, and also this bottle water that nobody knows where they’re getting it, of course some of them are stealing our water.  So we have regulatory commission at least tracking those.  Once you have meters, stealing the water will be reduced because you have to pay to be able to get water out.

PT: When you assumed office in November 2015, would you say you were overwhelmed by the scope of work to be done in the water sector in Lagos?

Badmus: It was a lot of work but I do have some dedicated staff that I was able to pull and I have been working with them since then. It’s still a lot of work to be done. We will not rest until when we get to that 733mgd that we’re shooting for. When I came, on the ground, yes it was not the same and it was not what I expected but thank God where we are now we have really achieved a lot with the staff that we have here.

PT: I asked that question because between 1999 and 2015, billions of dollars, not even naira, had gone into the Lagos water sector yet we are not seeing the impact. How would you convince people that it’s no longer business as usual?

Badmus: It is true that through the World Bank and, of course I will say even (Lagos) State also put some money into water, it didn’t show. I can’t really speak at that time because I was not here. But of course there are some projects that I have seen that could have been done differently or managed differently, and we are determined to do a better job this time and make sure that money is well spent. Yes, it is true, it was billions. I have seen contractors being awarded close to N3 billion work but we still have to look at what they have done and then redo some of them. But we’re doing things differently now and we are hoping that it would get better and we’re very very determined and we’ll make sure that water gets to the households and the water works are maintained properly and we are able to get water to every household.

PT: What do you say to people who live in parts of Lagos where they don’t have access to water from the Corporation?

Badmus: I will tell them to be patient with us and that we’re coming. I just highlighted a lot of these works that we’re bringing and soon they will soon be seeing the effects of those projects, because they’ll be seeing a lot of activities that will be on the water side, putting the infrastructure down, we will get to them. And those ones that we have water in their area that are not yet connected, please call us, we’ll be glad to come out and then see how we can connect them to water. There are still people that are not connected but we want to connect them, we want to go able to provide water because the borehole water is not a clean water if you look at it. Borehole water is not clean at all and then we’re making sure we take the borehole… we go out and educate them about the borehole water. Because if you look at in Lagos, where you see the borehole, you will see the soak-away and all these things are coming from the ground and going to the ground and that’s not a proper way and that’s why we want to make sure we provide adequate water for the citizens of the State. They need to be patient with us, we’ll get to them. And I will encourage our people if they see any leakages bring it to our attention so that we can take care of it because the water that is being wasted right there is a shortage to other people so we need to go there and take care of that. Soon also as part of it, we’ll have things that will be showing us on our system or telling us where the leakages are so that at least we’ll know ahead of time even before the citizens know it. Because there are some of those leakages that are in corners somewhere that no one will ever see but once we put all those leakage detection system we will be able to see ahead of time. All those things will be put to place with the new ones and some of these old ones will have there too.

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Ben Ezeamalu is an Assistant Managing Editor and the Head of Lagos Operations/Metro Editor at PREMIUM TIMES. A graduate of Microbiology from the University of Jos, Ben won the 2015 Africa Fact-Check Awards and was a runner-up in the 2014 CNN/Multichoice African Journalists of the Year.

Twitter: @callmebenfigo.

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