Chukwuma Oji, a resident of Ogui New Layout and teacher in one of the schools in the Enugu metropolis now goes to big hotels and banks every day to answer nature’s call because of unavailability of water in his neighbourhood to clean toilets in his apartment.
Oji now takes his bath once in three days because he could no longer afford N400 everyday to buy two bags of sachet water at N200 per bag for his daily bathing.
Indeed, water scarcity has been a major social problem in Enugu State, especially the Enugu metropolis, over the years.
According to Orji, for the past two months or thereabouts, the state water corporation has not supplied water to the area, adding that wells which he and other residents of the area rely on for alternative water supply have dried up because of the dry season the state is witnessing currently.
“In two weeks, we have had no water and since then I have been hoping that the tap will rush. Before, if there was no tap water, I used to buy water from a well for N15 to bathe and flush the toilet but wells have dried up and wells that have water, before it gets to your turn, you will spend about two to three hours to fetch a gallon or two. Now since last week, that well has not been opened for the public. It is now restricted to the owners because the water in the well has gone down drastically.”
Narrating how excruciating to source water for his domestic use, he said, “Now, other people that have well have increased the price of a gallon to N50 and the queue there equally is troubling, and before you know it after about 50 gallons have been fetched, it will finish and you won’t get water from it until the following day and if you didn’t get there before 5:30 am, you wouldn’t get water. Now I didn’t have a big tank that I could buy water from.
“I now manage to use sachet water (pure water) to bathe but flushing the toilet is the biggest problem because the kind of water we use to flush the toilet you cannot find it and using sachet water is very expensive. A bag of sachet water is now sold for N200. You can imagine how many bags one needs to buy to flush the toilet for one day. So what I do is to manage and go to hotels as somebody like me because of the job I do, I go to hotels or banks – even in banks you don’t find water there but what I do is to go to big hotels to answer the call of nature until such a time when water scarcity eases.”
While appealing to the government to do something urgently to revert the shortage of public water supply considering the condition in the state capital, he said, “For some nights, I have managed to sleep without bathing.”
Meanwhile, the problem of water scarcity in the state capital which has thrown many residents into hardship is as old as the city itself. It has defied all solutions by successive administrations in the state.
The situation, it was learnt, became worse about two months ago following a major equipment failure in Oji and Ajali stations which pump water to the metropolis coupled with activities of vandals on the water pipes.
Under the former administration of Sullivan Chime, it was reported that billions of naira from the World Bank and the Federal Government were spent on several water projects in efforts to address recurring water scarcity which has become a hallmark of the state.
A former spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress, Mrs Kate Offor, had told journalists in one of her briefings that “there were two or three tranches of funds voted to provide sufficient water in Enugu State in the last two decades including the money voted by Petroleum Trust Fund under Muhammadu Buhari and the 50 million dollars World Bank loan obtained by the administration of Governor Chime.
“To start with in the late 90s, the Petroleum Trust Fund then chaired by President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), after an intensive study, designed a water scheme for Enugu Metropolis taking a cue from the 1904 Oji River British drilled wonderful borehole which is still functional today. The water flow line designed from Oji River to Enugu is about 25km. The PTF finished a successful test borehole, set aside money and nominated a German company for the project. Shortly after General Sani Abacha’s demise and return to democracy in 1999, the Peoples Democracy Party took over and we would want to know how the money was used.”
She queried how $50m World Bank loan, a transaction she said took place under the watch of Governor Sullivan Chime, and described it as the second failed opportunity to provide water for Enugu residents.
However, addressing journalists the then Commissioner for Information under Sullivan Chime, Chuks Ugwoke said the state approved N400m for the provision of potable water for residents, adding that the measure would go a long way in providing adequate water for the people.
While he explained that N300m would be spent on the rehabilitation of the Ninth-Mile Corner Water Scheme and re-building of eight bore holes and drilling of four additional ones; N49m would be spent on procurement of water supply facilities at the proposed state Theme Park, located in the Udi Local Government Area of the state.
“The state government gave approval for the water scheme rehabilitation to be done by Eauxwell Nigeria Ltd and the hiring of Quodroform Engineering Company as the consultant,” he said.
However, residents of Achara Layout, New Layout, Obiagu, Ogui, New Market, GRA, New Haven, Iva Valley and Independence Layout are most hit with the acute water shortage.
Clement Ezeoka, a resident of Iva – Valley, who spoke to our correspondent, said that they used to get water twice or thrice a week before now but for over a month the water board has not been supplying water in the area.
“This scarcity of water in Enugu is a problem for us now because in all the places in the metropolis people are running about scouting for water. Take for instance we that are living in Iva, we have a reservoir but we don’t have water. If you come to Iva now, everybody is stranded because of water scarcity.
“I am appealing to the government that it should do something about the water problem in the state because people are dying. We are saying that we are hungry for food but scarcity of water has compounded our woes. Our problem now in Enugu is water. We need water to survive. In streets, we buy water from tankers where you see one N100 or N150 for 20 litres of water while well water is N50 or N70. Water from government resources costs N20 to N50 depending on your bargaining capacity but it does not serve everybody.”
Also lamenting the biting scarcity of water in the Enugu state capital, a Computer Scientist, Miss Maduakor Nkechi, who has been living at Affikpo Street in Achara Layout for the past four years with her family, said the residents had not seen water rushed in public taps and had been buying drinking water from water vendors for that period.
He asked, “Does it mean that the area is not part of Enugu again or that the government has forgotten the area, or that the pipe they laid there is not working or the reservoir located at Emeka Ebule street that supply water to the area is no longer working or the state water corporation has mapped out that area that we are not supposed to have water.”
Earlier in March 2021 when the residents were faced with water shortage in the city centre, the state government announced that it had received $50m from the French Development Agency to tackle the perennial water scarcity in the state and assured that in six months’ time the issue of water scarcity would be a thing of the past.
In short, the Chairman of the Board of Directors and Management of the State Water Corporation, Mr Innocent Diyoke, who announced the fund, said, “This funding is already in place and is being used to fund the Enugu Water Supply System, including the production centres.”
On Tuesday, December 21, 2021, when the General Manager Enugu Water Corporation, Mr Martin Okwor, was contacted on telephone, said he regretted the development, adding that the corporation was doing everything humanly possible to supply water to the city of Enugu.
Okwor explained that the current water scarcity was caused by what he described as major equipment failure at their stations. “We have major equipment failure now in two of our stations and we succeeded on Saturday to get one pump working. We are working at the other ones and that is why there is scarcity of water in the metropolis. We released water on Sunday to Ogui, Uwani, Obiagu and some parts of Independence Layout but the volume we are producing is not much. It is when we accumulate much volume then we push to some areas but it is going to be eased.
“We started testing our crash programme at Ninth Mile on Monday and that is what we hope will save us this dry season.”
The MD stated that the situation in the country was the major factor hampering the efforts of the government to address the water problem in the state. “His excellency in anticipation of this thing (water scarcity) has approved for us to buy new pump to install at Oji station that has been troubling us, but you know the process of importation of 450 KVA pumps are not the same as materials you will go to a shop and buy, you must place order and even to place order before you get forex to pay for it is another major problem.”
Okwor promised that if a tax force the agency set up was able to repair at least three pumps by the end of that week with the crash programme, things would improve. We understand that the price of water has skyrocketed but we are appealing to the residents to be little patient and water supply will be restored. We are not resting on our oars until water is provided to the people of Enugu metropolis.”
However, despite these huge investments in the water sector in Enugu State the state remains as dry as the Sahara desert with no water in sight.