Why Niger Basin Devt Author­ity must be com­mer­cialised –Ajise­giri

En­gi­neer Ajise­giri Benson, is the di­rec­tor of water sup­ply in the Fed­eral Min­istry of Water Re­sources. In this in­ter­view, he bares his mind on the prob­lems fac­ing the na­tion’s water sup­ply and the way for­ward. Ex­cerpts:

Daily Trust - - GOLDEN HARVEST - By Hus­sein Ya­haya

Your min­istry granted an in­ter­view re­cently where it said in the past 10 years, no water project was com­mis­sioned in coun­try. As the man in charge of water sup­ply, this is a big chal­lenge be­fore you. How do you think the sit­u­a­tion can be han­dled?

Thank you. The min­is­ter has said it all, that in the last 10 years no water project was com­mis­sioned de­spite the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for water projects in the coun­try. It is most un­for­tu­nate that the Fed­eral Min­istry of Water Re­sources has been in­volved in too many projects at the same time and in­stead of see­ing to their com­ple­tion, they kept adding more projects to the ex­tent that they couldn’t com­mis­sion any in the last 10 years.

How­ever, we now have a round peg in a round hole. With the hon­or­able min­is­ter him­self an en­gi­neer, he un­der­stands the im­por­tance of bring­ing a project to con­clu­sion on time. To do this, he has com­mis­sioned tech­ni­cal au­dit of all the projects and they have been in­spected. Cur­rently, we are try­ing to fi­nal­ize the re­port that has been sub­mit­ted by the tech­ni­cal con­sul­tant that went round all the states to in­spect the projects. This is to en­able us know the cur­rent sta­tus of the projects and then, we will now pri­ori­tise them.

You have worked with the ur­ban water sec­tor, what do you think is ac­tu­ally wrong with the water sys­tem in Nige­ria?

The prob­lems are in many di­men­sions; num­ber one, we have the prob­lem of in­ad­e­quate in­vest­ment in the ur­ban water sec­tor. If you go to many states, you will dis­cover that the schemes that are serv­ing the ur­ban ar­eas were built since prein­de­pen­dence. So many of them are over 50 years old. Most of the pipes in most cities are AC pipes and today no­body uses AC pipes. So all the schemes are ob­so­lete and there has not been grad­ual im­prove­ment of the schemes over the years.

Also, suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments at the state level have not been mak­ing the in­vest­ment that they are sup­posed to in the ur­ban water sec­tor and this has con­trib­uted tremen­dously in in­ad­e­quate water sup­ply in all the ur­ban ar­eas. This has forced many house­holds into self-help by drilling their own bore­holes and wells to en­able them get water.

The min­istry is poised to re­po­si­tion the Niger Basin Devel­op­ment Author­ity to en­cour­age food pro­duc­tion in the coun­try and your depart­ment is part of this. How are you go­ing to key into this ef­fort?

Well, the River Basin Devel­op­ment Author­i­ties, 12 of them, over the years, have not been per­form­ing op­ti­mally for so many rea­sons, but I be­lieve the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion is poised to bring back their lost glory. It is set to make them the fo­cus of ru­ral devel­op­ment in the coun­try and get­ting them to con­trib­ute sub­stan­tially to food se­cu­rity. Gov­ern­ment will make them im­prove our hy­dro power and con­trib­ute to our aqua­cul­ture, that means grow­ing fishes in Nige­ria. But which is the best way to go? The first way is to see how we can com­mer­cial­ize them. First of all, we have to make them run like an agency that will gen­er­ate its own rev­enue and then meet its own cost. We have to give them that ori­en­ta­tion. No­body is think­ing of the as­sets that these author­i­ties have. Bil­lions of cu­bic me­tres of water are ly­ing fal­low in many dams. The hy­dro power po­ten­tials in all the dams have not been tapped; a lot of vast agri­cul­tural land is not be­ing used, why, be­cause ev­ery­body is busy wait­ing for the money that is com­ing from the bud­get. But now we are chang­ing their ori­en­ta­tion.

The hon­ourable min­is­ter, at the be­gin­ning of the year, set up a com­mit­tee to re­vi­tal­ize the river basin author­i­ties. Now he has again in­au­gu­rated the na­tional steer­ing com­mit­tee for com­mer­cial­iz­ing the river basin author­i­ties and I am for­tu­nate to be part of the com­mit­tee. We are to come up with the guide­lines that will as­sist them to com­mer­cial­ize their ac­tiv­i­ties.

En­gi­neer Ajise­giri Benson

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