Many Nigerians are groaning under acute water scarcity as vendors in several parts of the country have increased charges as a result of persistent power blackout and fuel scarcity making access to water for domestic needs difficult for many families.
While boreholes, wells and even streams in cities and rural communities are being overcrowded by families in need of water, LEADERSHIP Sunday observed that one might mistake them as car owners queuing for fuel or those waiting to collect souvenirs from events.
Abuja, Abia, Kaduna, Ekiti, Lagos, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kwara and Gombe are reported to be worst hit. Over 70 per cent of residents in the aforementioned states rely on solely on commercial water vendors who prior to the hardship sold a 20 litre jerry can of water for N10 as against the new rate of N50.
Further findings by our correspondents revealed that the scarcity has affected the production and distribution of sachet water (pure water) as many manufacturers used to source their water from public supply sources and private boreholes.
Consequently, a cart containing twelve 20-litre jerry cans which was sold for N250 now sells for N500.
LEADERSHIP Sunday also observed that most taps in city centres have gone dry without a drop of water for a couple of weeks.
Some borehole operators in Abuja told our correspondent that they were currently running at a loss, and they all agreed to add only N50 to the initial fixed price of N70 for which they sold a cart of 12 cans of 20-litre jerry cans.
Borehole operators in Kubwa, Nyanya, Karu, Kado and Gwarimpa and other suburbs of Abuja told LEADERSHIP Sunday that their facilities were crowded because domestic users who purchase water directly from them get it for as cheap as N20 for the 25-litre jerry can.
They said the price increase was due to the prolonged power outage and exorbitant fuel price, especially among black marketers which has remained at N400 per litre.
They said, “The electricity situation in Abuja as you can see is affecting our business; most people with boreholes aren’t even selling because most fuel stations where they used to buy petrol from to pump their generators are not willing to sell fuel in jerry cans. Worse is that soldiers often seize plastic containers, sometimes with already purchased fuel, leaving us frustrated.
Asked why water vendors popularly known as ‘mai-ruwa’ were selling at exorbitant prices, the borehole operators said; “They are independent and we cannot regulate their prices or decide for them. They are just hot cakes now, that too, they have seen that families that are lazy are patronising them.”
They said youths who are supposed to utilise the opportunity to make money for their families have chosen to be parasites to their parents and relatives, while foreigners from neighbouring Niger and Mali were making brisk business after which they would travel back home for their farm work.
Some water vendors who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday said they were Nigeriens and Malians who came into Nigeria in search of greener pasture. They said most borehole operators who use power generators to sell water to them do so at higher rates.
They said; “We have no choice but to pass the cost to our customers, although they complain, we also explain to them, it is not easy to push a truck loaded with water around.
“This is because we do not find it easy to cope with the high demand this dry season; the job of ‘mai-ruwa’ (water vendor) is energy sapping. Every day, you have pains all over the body, so what we do is to rest when the sun is much.
“We even charge higher for those who stay upstairs. We don’t always like to carry water to such customers, we charge like between N60 per jerry can for people that stay on the first floor, while we take N70 for higher floors.”
Many residents said they spend between N500 and N700 daily on the average on water due to lack of public water supply in their areas.
Mrs Linda Ogbe, a housewife, said she now spends over N300 daily on water compared to N60 she spent before now for the same quantity of water due to the fuel scarcity.
She prayed to see the end of the prolonged power outage and fuel scarcity.
Mrs Ogbe said, “This water thing has not been easy for us in the past three weeks and the additional cost is becoming unbearable; we want the government to provide water for residents. Water boards nationwide should be begged to pump water, they should be reminded that their job doesn’t stop at distributing bills.
Another resident said; “Even of more concern is the quality of water, the vendors source from shallow wells which might not meet acceptable public health standards.
“The current water situation can lead to an epidemic should any waterborne disease break out, it is God that has been keeping us,” she said.
A school proprietress, (names withheld) told LEADERSHIP Sunday that until the ugly development, they depended solely on the water board for water. She expressed fears about the health of her pupils as she emphasised that water is hygiene.
“My dear, I fear for my learners. Reason is that we now patronise water vendors but the question is how many trucks can we buy in a day? Our toilets, in fact, I can say most school toilets are not properly flushed. We are handicapped. This isn’t healthy. No light, no fuel and no water. We hardly can convey school pupils using the school bus and after all the stress, one cannot get water to freshen up. I fear for Nigeria, if nothing is done to address this mess, families, schools and in fact, all public places might be forced to stop people from using public rest rooms,” she said.
Like most states of the federation, prices charged by water producers and vendors in Ekiti State have increased. The association of water producers, particularly sachet water, about a week ago, increased the price of water by around 70 per cent.
The leadership of the association in the state after a series of meetings with members even before the fuel crisis had announced their resolve to increase the price.
A bag of sachet water formerly sold between N130 and N140 is now sold for N200. A water producer in the state, Mr James Adamolekun, said they had no option than to increase the price in order not to run at a loss.
He said; “The cost of maintaining our distribution vans, micro filters, water facilities, fuel and diesel have skyrocketed so we are left with no option.”
In the Benue State capital Makurdi, though there is the River Niger, water scarcity has remained a major challenge. The story is the same in Abia, Kaduna, Gombe, Plataeu, Kwara, Nasarawa and other states.