WITH a few months to the 2015 deadline set for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), some observers are of the view that Nigeria is off-track in efforts to meet some targets of the MDGs.
Nigeria, a signatory to the MDGs, claims that in its efforts to achieve the MDGs, it has been able to attain 65 per cent and 75 per cent coverage in water and sanitation respectively.
The MDGs are eight time-bound and measurable goals which were launched by the United Nations (UN) in 2000 to spur development by improving the socio-economic conditions of the world’s poorest countries.
A recent joint report of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicated that 63 million Nigerians did not have access to water supply.
Similarly, a new report released by WaterAid, an international organisation, said that Nigeria and several other sub-Saharan African countries might not be able to meet the MDG on water and sanitation until 2175, 160 years after the 2015 terminal date set for the MDGs.
The report warned that if Nigeria failed to meet the MDG, which aims at halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to water supply and good sanitation by 2015, the lives of more than 100,000 children under the age of five will be at risk every year.
It stressed that the proportion of people with access to reliable water supply and good sanitation was actually falling in the country.
The MDG on water and sanitation is specifically designed to address the challenges facing people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
Concerned observers moan that an appraisal of Nigeria’s 14-year efforts to provide its citizens with safe drinking water and basic sanitation reveals that the country may not  be able to achieve the target of the MDG.
However, Dr Martin Mbonu, the EU Programme Manager, blamed Nigeria’s inability to expand the people’s access to potable water considerably on the dearth of laws regulating the water sector.
He said that due to the factor, the water sector had not been quite appealing to potential investors.
He argued that potential investors were not encouraged to invest in the sector because it was not well-managed since there were no legal frameworks in place.
Nevertheless, Mbonu disputed claims by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources that Nigeria had attained 65 per cent water coverage, in lieu of the 75 per cent target.
“That figure is doubtful because today, I know that more than half of Nigerians don’t have clean water,’’ he said.
However, the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe, conceded that Nigeria might not be able to attain the MDG on water in spite of concerted efforts to ensure total water coverage in the country.
“We are working hard; we may not meet with the MDG but we are not doing badly.
“As at 2012, we had 65 per cent coverage, we have not finished all the assessment on the intervention we have in 2013 till date.
“I believe that by the time that is done, we would have gone a bit higher; we might get close to the 75 per cent target.
“And water is available to people at a subsidised rate,’’ she said.
Ochekpe said that in efforts to provide water for all, the ministry from time to time intervened in water supply projects, particularly in the rural areas.
She said that the Federal Government had initiated rural, semi-urban and regional water supply schemes, as part of efforts to bridge the perceptible gaps in public water supply schemes.
The minister said that the Federal Government, through the National Policy on Water and Sanitation, came up with 30 per-cent counterpart funding for regional water schemes in state capitals, while state governments were expected to provide the remaining 70 per cent.
Observers note that in spite of these claims, several communities across the country have yet to have good, reliable sources of water for drinking and other uses.
They say that the situation appears dismal, as many residents of these communities often trek long distances, particularly during dry seasons, in search of water which, in most cases, is not good enough for human consumption.
A resident of Abuja, Mr Tony Idoko, who described water as a basic human need, attributed the failure in meeting the MDG on water and sanitation to government’s apathy towards the water sector.
He also alleged that funds meant for water projects were often misappropriated.
“We still have a long  way to go in efforts to achieve adequate water and sanitation coverage in Nigeria,’’ he said.
Similarly, Mr Peter Onwuaso, another resident of Abuja, blamed the poor water coverage in the country on corruption and the lack of transparency in implementing water projects.
Besides, he said that inadequate maintenance of water facilities and vandalism particularly posed serious threats to the achievement of the MDG on water.
He, nonetheless, urged the citizens to actively participate in water projects in their various communities so as to enable them to have a sense of ownership.
Onwuaso said that only few areas in three out of six area councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had pipe-borne water.
He listed that three area councils as Bwari Area Council, Gwagwalada Area Council and Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
All the same, Mrs Veronica Anifowose, a housewife, said that she had resorted to buying water from local water vendors because of the lack of pipe-borne water in Byazin, Kubwa.
She, however, bemoaned the hygienic condition of the water, saying: “Only God knows the cleanliness of the water which we buy from Mairuwa (water vendor).
“Our lives are in danger because of the uncertainty regarding the cleanliness of the water which we drink.
“We just buy the water without knowledge of how clean the tanks and jerry cans used in supplying the water is,’’ she added.
Anifowose expressed reservations about the suitability of the water for human consumption.
“This is because many people have contracted different water borne-diseases, while some people even died because of these diseases,’’ she added.
Some of the water-borne diseases that are prevalent in the country include typhoid fever, cholera, diarrhea, hookworm infection and Hepatitis A.
In spite of the public sensitisation programmes executed by the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the sanitation situation in the country is somewhat appalling, as many people still engage in open defecation, a practice which can provoke outbreak of diseases.
Analysts partly attribute the sustained habit of open defecation in the country to inadequate water supply, insisting that a good water supply mechanism will certainly promote good hygiene and proper sanitation.

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