As Nigerians continue to grapple with challenge of accessing potable and clean water, the Federal Government, Tuesday, lamented poor maintenance, breakdown and vandalism of water facilities in States and Local Government Areas.
Speaking on government’s commitment and effort to ensure availability of potable water for Nigerians in the villages under the National Village Level Operation and Maintenance,VLOM, Strategy, the Minister of Water Resources, Engr Suleiman Adamu, in a keynote address at a one-day Sensitization Workshop on Village Level Operation and Maintenance, VLOM, programme, held in Abuja, said only 11per cent of water facilities are dependable with respect to their operation and maintenance.
Adamu who was represented by the Director, Water Quality Control and Sanitation, Emmanuel Awe, said 758 hand-pumps and 344 solar boreholes have been repaired in the States.
It would be recalled that the National VLOM Strategy on March 25, 2019 was launched by the Minister of Water Resources, Engr Suleiman Adamu, to serve as a roadmap to improve sustained access to potable water to the rural populace.
VLOM is supported by UNICEF for full implementation in benefiting communties.
He said: “According to the 2021 Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM), only 53 per cent publicly owned water facilities are functional and 22 per cent broke down within the first one year of installation.
“The report also shows that only 11 per cent of water facilities are dependable with respect to their operation and maintenance.
“The lack of maintenance of water facilities results in frequent breakdown and abandonment which is further compounded by lack of adequate monitoring of the water facilities and communication between benefiting communities and those in authorities.
“The National VLOM Strategy is intended to address the challenges by putting facility ownership in the hands of the communities, establishing the VLOM Units as an institutionalized structure within the WASH Departments in all LGAs, establishing and creating communication channels where benefiting communities can report the status of water facility to those in authority and building the capacity of Local Area Mechanics (LAMs) with the objective of achieving 100 per cent functionality in line with the Sustainable Development Goal.
However, the Minister expressed optimism that, “Evidences abound that the operationalization of National VLOM strategy is one sure way to improve access to water supply in rural areas.
“Between 2016 and 2017 a VLOM pilot project, supported by the European Union and UKaid was implemented in 41selected Local Government Areas (LGAs) across 12 States. The result showed an overall 14.17 per cent improvement in the functionality of hand pumps thus raising the functionality status from a baseline value of 75 per cent to 89 per as at then.”
Meanwhile, he made it known that the Ministry in collaboration with UNICEF has operationalized this VLOM strategy in the three States under the on-going DGIS ASWA II projects in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states and some of the States that have keyed into the implementation since the end of 2019 till date.
He also explained that VLOM units are created in the state RUWASSA’s and LGAs to coordinate VLOM activities in the communities.
“This, no doubt, is a feat that should be replicated in all the states of the federation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed more demands on stakeholders in the WASH sector not to leave any stone unturned at ensuring that WASH infrastructures are provided and maintained.
“It is my sincere belief that state actors in this meeting will use this opportunity to adequately grasp the provisions of the VLOM strategy especially their roles and responsibilities and adapt same in their respective states”, he stated.
Meanwhile, in a presentation, the Chief of WASH, UNICEF, Jane Bevan, said it is expected of participating State Commissioners for Water Resources to scale up the the process in their own settings.
Bevan also counseled that grassroots people are to own the water projects in order to make it sustainable.
According to her Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 focuses on water at its different levels of service, which everybody has access to water by 2030 at quality, quantity and in their premises.
“Acceptability, affordability and availability. These are really important things to consider when are looking at water provision.
“Water itself is free but the means to get it costs money and that money has to be found from somewhere.
“The reasons why all these sustainability issues arise across the whole value chain of water provision. It is to make sure all these levels are sustained so availability continues. The benefits are maintained so water supply continues”, she said.
In a goodwill message, the European Union, EU, Ambassador, to Nigeria, Amb Samuella Esopi, represented by Project Manager, EU, Yakubu Ogwuche, said, “One of the issues we have in Nigeria today is the sustainability of our WASH facilities, especially at the grassroots.
“So VLOM is very important aspect of sustainability of our WASH facilities in the rural areas, and I am so glad that EU has been part of this journey right from the onset, and we are glad today that we are seeing the success of this programme.
“The strategy has been developed, and now the responsibility has come upon us the commissioners, managers to now put this into implementation because is not just developing a strategy is implementing the strategy.”
Also speaking was the NEWSAN, Benson Attah, said the attention on water facilities at the grassroots by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources is commendable, because it gives a sense of belonging and sense of ownership of water projects, hence will reduce abandoned projects.
Attah also pointed that carrying the grassroots people as strategy will avoid vandalisation and other factors since they are made the owners of the projects.
In a goodwill message, the Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere, represented by Head of Advocacy, Kolawole Banwo, commended Federal Ministry of Water Resources and UNICEF for carrying the grassroots people along by making them own the programme under VLOM.
Also the representative of Tulsi Chanrai Foundation, TCF, Syed Murshed Imam, said the Foundation has over the years in Nigeria embarked on several water projects at the rural areas, and glad that the government and UNICEF are keen to transform the lives of Nigerians at the rural areas with VLOM which it supports also.