BY: Ayomide Arowobusoye
Water scarcity in community since 2018
Water scarcity in Lagos State is a daily problem for many families in the megacity that is residence to over 20 million people. Yet the importance of water in the lives of man cannot be overemphasized.
This point was well-driven home by Fela Kuti, the legendary Nigerian afrobeat pioneer, through his famous song “water no get enemy” (literal translation: water has no enemy).
It becomes perplexing, to say the least, that some parts of a ‘megacity’ like Lagos, the commercial heartbeat of the country, will still be facing the challenge of acute water scarcity in 2020. The Aloba community in Ebute Metta (West), Lagos Mainland Local Council of Lagos State falls under these unfortunate parts.
The community, which is about 2 minutes work from the popular Costain bus stop and less than 30 minutes’ drive from the popular Oyingbo market, is one of the parts of Lajos where access to formal clean water is abysmally low. We, simply, cannot imagine a life without water. Man cannot lead his day-to-day life without water, as it is necessary not only for drinking but for many other purposes like bathing, cooking, cleaning, washing etc.
It is for these reasons and more that the majority of residents and business owners of the community have taken the destiny of water provision into their own hands. Thus, have to rely on the informal sector comprised of wells, boreholes, water vendors, and rainwater to survive.
Genesis of Problem
The challenge of water scarcity in Lagos (Aloba community) started in late 2018. It could be traced to a multiplicity of factors. Majorly, fracture from dilapidated transmission pipes and bad trunk lines inhabits the flow of water into households. It was gathered that this complaint has been made to the Lagos State Water Corporation (LWC), however, only promises have been made and no actions taken. This as in turn led to the non-compliance of community members with the corporation.
Another is the poor state of drainage system.
A resident in the community, Abosede, emphatically stated, amidst laughter that she went to the Iponri branch of the corporation to demand that her compound’s water be disconnected.
‘It is not like the water, is available for us to use, still at the end of the month, they come with crazy bills, can you pay for what you didn’t buy?’, she said.
Effects of the challenge
The acute water scarcity in Lagos, particularly in the Aloba community has, no doubt, negatively affected members of the community in several ways. Residents and business owners lament that the lack of constant public water supply affects the satisfaction of their domestic needs, and has pushed them to rely solely on informal sectors (that are not entirely safe for proper wellbeing) for water provision.
A resident of the community, who pleads anonymity, stated that she spends an average of N800 per day buying water from water vendors for the sum of N80 per keg.
Confirming this, another resident, Ayodeji, explained the harsh conditions herself and her family members are exposed to by getting water from these informal sectors.
‘We don’t have water at all, all we do is to buy water from Meruwa (water vendors). When there is light, a truck of water can be gotten for N300 to N400, and when there is no light, we buy a truck for N700 or N800. And for a household with many children, they will have to purchase 6 to 7 trucks in a week’.
The civil servant, added that the situation got better during the rainy season, however, this solution is still not comfortable enough. ‘When the rain started to fall, we began to collect rainwater for usage, however, when this water is used to bathe, it caused different skin infections and skin rashes for my children’.
She went further to state that even during the period of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, she kept exposing the life of her family members to danger by patronizing the water vendors.
‘The worst part was during the period of the lockdown and virus; I had no other option but to buy from these water vendors because we can’t do without using water. Even though I knew that I was exposing my family to different risks since I don’t know where the water vendors have been too and what they have in their body.’
A popular Pepper soup joint owner, who simply identified herself as Aunty Amaka, stressed that she almost suffered a setback in her business when the water supply challenge started. “It affected my business and almost made me make losses because I had to spend an extra amount of money, I never planned on buying water and so my expenses increased. I spend nothing less than N1200 on water daily because I run a food business and it cannot run smoothly when water is not available. I usually place the burden on my customers by increasing prices of my food but then I realized I was losing customers and had to stop’.
Proprietor of a fast-growing school in the community; Star nursery and primary school, and a new resident, Segun Olugbenga, also said ‘coming over to this environment, lack of water was a major challenge. We had to buy water, fetch from other compounds, and go in search of water. Along the line, we started a school and it became a bigger challenge because we can’t manage water with children; water must flow, we ended up spending at least N1000 on water from all these water boys’.
THE WAY FORWARD
Since 2018, that this challenge started the members of the community have made various attempts to find a lasting solution to it. However, most of these efforts have been fruitless.
Mr. Isiaka Sikiru, an Ex-officio of Aloba’s Community Development Associations (CDA), in his part, stressed that he has lost all hope whatsoever in the local government council.
‘When we could not get access to a solution by the government, the Community Development Associations took it upon ourselves to create boreholes. We were tired of wasting money on buying water and could not bear seeing our children walk long distances and get up at early hours to go in search of water, so we started making moves’.
Isiaka, popularly known as Alfa in the community, however, added that they could not go far with their plans as there was not a free passage of water in the pipes in the drainage systems and so if any attempt were made to dig boreholes, it might cause erosion. Therefore, they wait for the assistance of the government that, however, seems to be turning deaf ears.
Highlighting some of the steps that have been taken, Otunba Baale of the community, Chief Tunji Alabede, was quick to respond that ‘letters have been written to the local government on several occasions, there hasn’t been any significant change. We have also written Hon. Jide Jomoh, our constituent’s representative, and still await his help’.
Alabede explained that the closet help they have gotten from the government was having representatives of the local government inspect the community. He added that after this inspection, they were informed that for there to be boreholes, some construction had to be done on the road. They, however, stated that this construction can only be carried out by the state government has they were state property.
In response to this, Mr. Nurudeen Musa, an Officer at the Information Department of Lagos Mainland Local Council of Lagos State said, ‘development is a process, it is not what can be done at once. The local government has been trying to answer to the needs of as many communities as possible’. Nurudeen, mentioned some streets within different communities that have already been worked upon, including Lagos street, Jebba. street, and Glover street. The Level 9 officer, also added that the coronavirus pandemic is one of the reasons constructions have been paused.
Attesting too, Mr. Lawal of the department of Works, Lagos Mainland Local Council of Lagos State said ‘councilors have embarked on legislative projects in their constituencies, especially the maintenance of the existing ones and provisions of new ones’. He further explained that Boreholes have been provided in certain communities (like Opeoluwa-Jebba, Ibadan, etc.), and so soon enough it will go round.