“The management of the Lagos Water Corporation regrets the present disruption of water supply to some areas within the metropolis. This is due to the drop in power supply in the state which is having an adverse effect on our major production centres. We therefore seize this opportunity to appeal to our customers to bear with us as PHCN has assured steady power supply soon."This quote was taken from an advert placed in major newspapers by the Lagos State Water Corporation early last month. But the plea came rather belatedly as residents of the city had for weeks combed its nooks and crannies in search of potable water. The scarcity which is becoming a recurring decimal, may not be unconnected with the high incidence of waterborne-diseases in the state. The 2006 Human Development Report which was launched recently by President Olusegun Obasanjo had painted a gloomy picture of the water situation in Africa's most populous country. The report titled: "Beyond Scarcity, Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis", gave 2046 as the earliest possible date for all Nigerians to have access to safe water at affordable cost and a safe environment. This is a far cry from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target which put 2015 as the year when potable water would be available in every home in the country. Although President Obasanjo had at the launch of the Report explained that his administration has made remarkable progress in the provision of potable water, having increased funding from less than N8 billion in 1998 to N55 billion last year in addition to the N100 billion set aside from the debt relief gains in the budget in the MDG key sectors which water supply falls into, stakeholders at a roundtable held in Lagos recently insisted that Nigeria is off the track in meeting the MDG.The Water and Sanitation Roundtable which was held by the Bread of Life Development Foundation (BLF) in partnership with Development Information Network (DEVNET) called on the President "to declare a state of emergency in the water and sanitation sector and also convene a national dialogue on deplorable state of water and sanitation sector in Nigeria as a step towards coming up with policies and programmes to redress this backward trend". The Roundtable specifically reviewed the UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme report2006 titled: "Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: The Urban and Rural Challenge of the Decade"; and also the UNDP Human Development Index report 2006. Attended by representatives of community groups, and non-governmental organizations(NGOs), the roundtable reviewed the two reports and discussed the relevance of its findings within the Nigerian water and sanitation context.The Participants commended the initiative of the UNICEF and the UNDP in producing the reports, which according to them, have drawn global attention to the strategic role of water and sanitation in developing the human potential, and also the failure of most national governments to effectively harness and efficiently manage this resource for the poor.They welcomed the UNDP's support for the human right to water and the provision of a minimum target of 20 litres of clean water a day for every citizen and at no cost for those too poor to pay. The stakeholders advocated that the Nigerian national policy on water and sanitation should reflect this. They also canvassed legislative and political action to advance,protect and guarantee this right.In a communique issued at the end of the roundtable and signed by Mr. Babatope Babalobi ofthe Bread of Life Development Foundation, Anthony Akpan of Pan African Vision for theEnvironment and Mr. Bankole Olubamise Development Information Network, the participants noted that there is a strong linkage between developing the water and sanitation sector, and the achievement of all the other MDG goals and targets. "The extent to which other goals are achieved will be precipitated by the extent which the water and sanitation sector is developed.It is therefore of paramount importance for the Nigerian tiers of government to accord top most priority to developing the water and sanitation sector," they explained.The stakeholders stated that "both the UNICEF and UNDP reports confirm that Nigeria and many other sub-Saharan countries are off track in achieving the MDG water and sanitation target".According to the UNICEF report, drinking water coverage in Nigeria fell from 49 per cent in1990 to 48 per cent in 2004 whereas coverage of 65 per cent by 2004 is required to achieve the MDG. In the same vein, sanitation coverage, though rising from 39 per cent in 1990 to 44per cent in 2004; a coverage of 58 per cent is required in 2004 would have put Nigeria on track. The UNDP report also states that "on current levels sub-Saharan Africa will reach the water target in 2040 and the sanitation target in 2076."We believe this scenario indicates that the Nigeria state and its institutions have failed in the irresponsibility of delivering this essential service to the people." They endorsed the UNDP recommendations that "public financing holds the key to overcoming deficits in water and sanitation, and that in countries with high levels of poverty among unserved populations, public finance is a requirement for extended access"."We therefore call on the Nigerian government to roll back its privatization agenda in the water and sanitation sector".The stakeholders lamented that international bodies such as the UNDP and the UNICEF are more informed on the state of water resources in Nigeria, than Nigeria government agencies at all levels. They tasked the government at all levels to undertake local situation assessment studies and come up with reports that indicate the state of access to water and sanitation by citizens in all parts of the country; the state of water resources infrastructure-both in terms of quality and quantity, and programmes/policies that lead to be implemented at all levels over the years.
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