It is almost noon, and the queue looks similar to what it had been since 4 a.m. Water containers of different colours and sizes take up most of the space as women and girls wait their turn to get their share of what has become a scarce commodity. This is Tudun Wada, one of many communities in Jos battling acute water scarcity.
The water scarcity has compounded the current economic hardship that has made life unbearable for Salomi Ishaya, a resident. Sharing her experience, she feels this is life’s most challenging time.
“I cannot sleep well at night because I don’t have water in the house, and my children and my husband will have to bathe, and we need the water to cook. I came here around 4 a.m. See what the time is [10:12 a.m.]. It is tough for us here. See now, no water, no light, and nobody comes to buy anything when I go to my shop. Things are hard, and this water scarcity just made things worse,” she said.
Mrs Ishaya, a mother of two girls and a son, is a petty trader who has lived in Angwan Sabongari of Tudun Wada for nearly seven years. She is among the many residents who use the only functional borehole in the area. As the only borehole serving thousands of residents, it is outnumbered; residents have to wait for hours to get just a portion of what comes from it, not to mention the small fights that break out at this water point.
Mrs Ishaya added, “During the rainy season, we use rainwater, and some of the wells that are in good condition also help us, but now you will wish you even got the dirty one from the well, but it is not there again.”
It is a similar bitter experience at Kpatenvie Village in Bassa LGA, where Asabe Samson, a 47-year-old mother of four, shares how her children have been going to school late all because of the difficulties in getting water.
“My two older daughters are the ones who go for the water; before they return, the time is gone, and they will have to get the water to prepare for school. The wells are dried, and some must wait for the water to gather. The borehole here does not usually serve us; you only fetch it in the evening when the water has been pumped. I don’t like it, but they will go to school late because they get us water to use in the morning.”
Another resident of Tafi-Gana village in Bassa spoke of how difficult it is to get water, even with the intervention of a charity organisation that sank a solar-powered borehole in their community.
Esther Bitrus, a young woman who just got married to Bitrus Madaki, a farmer in the community, says, “Before now, we used the river, and we woke up very early to get to the river, get the water, and come home to attend to other things for the day, but the rivers are dried up now.”
She added that “we, the young girls and women, are the ones who have to trek to the other area (about a kilometre away) to get water; for those who are lucky, relatives use bikes to help them get water, and sometimes we use the wells here just because you will see the water so dirty and the new borehole is still not working well.”
Golnen Ntal, a University of Jos graduate who resides with his family at Angwan Dutse in Angwan Rukuba in Jos North LGA, shares his ordeal.
“We get water from the waterboard twice a week, Thursdays and Saturdays. Sometimes the water does not rush for up to 2 hours; considering our population, more is needed, and when you go to the well, there is no sufficient water. We need a sufficient water supply here so that students, workers, and everyone will live normally without problems.”
Water scarcity is a major global challenge that affects many aspects of society, including health, food security, economic development, and environmental sustainability. For the residents of Jos North and Bassa federal constituencies in Plateau State, their well-being and way of life are the most affected due to an unending struggle with a lack of potable drinking water.
According to the World Health Organisation, approximately ”2.2 billion people lack safe drinking water, and 4.2 billion lack access to safely managed sanitation services”. This can lead to the spread of water-borne diseases, malnutrition, and poverty.
The WASHNORM report of 2021 states that 23% of Nigerians do not have access to essential water supply services, and only 10% of the rural population have access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene services combined; this undermines the attainment of SDG Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation by 2030.
The residents of Jos North/Bassa federal constituency fall within this bracket, as accessing potable water for use will mean having women and children wake up in the middle of the night or very early in the morning to trek long distances in search of water, while others resort to buying from local vendors without knowing the source of the water.
In a bid to help the people, the House of Representatives member of Bassa/Jos North Federal Constituency nominated the project titled “Construction of Solar Street Lights, Solar Motorised Boreholes in Bassa and Other Various Communities in Plateau State” in the Federal Government’s 2021 Zonal Intervention Project for N200 million to be executed by the Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority.
Another project with the same title appeared in the 2022 Zonal Intervention Project of the Federal Government, with an increase of N50 million on the 2021 budgeted cost of N200 million, also to be handled by the Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority.
At the time of filing this report, UDEME has yet to locate the sites of these projects after several visits to communities in Bassa/Jos North Federal Constituency.
A Freedom of Information FOI request was sent to the executing agency, the Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority, to know the details and sites of these projects. The request has yet to be replied to.
Musa Agah Avia, who emerged as the member representing Bassa/Jos North federal constituency on 26 February 2022 bye-election after the demise of Haruna Maitala in a car accident in April 2021, had in a media chat with journalists in November 2022. He reportedly lamented the non-inclusion of the constituency in the 2022 budget. However, when UDEME reached out to him on the state of the projects, he said, “I am not in the picture; I was in the house briefly and got sacked by the tribunal”.
Calls and texts to the current member, Muhammad Adam Alkali’s phone line, were not responded to when filing this report.
Meanwhile, Nangor Ndam, the Public Relations Officer of the Plateau State Water Board, reacting to the acute water scarcity around Jos, linked it to “the collapse of the national grid that greatly affected the treatment plant. The building of a flyover bridge at the British-American junction is also a problem because the main pipelines supplying water to the central Jos metropolis have been removed to make way for the construction
He also enumerated reasons undermining the board’s primary responsibility of providing water to rural communities, to include ”lack of funds, poor maintenance of existing water facilities, and poor quality of some water facilities,” among others.
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