By Aplefe Ojong
As a result of the high cost in the production and distribution of portable water, consumers are now to pay N250 per meter cube (1, 000) litres of water in Cross River state.
The decision for an upward review of the previous amounts was reached at a one day critical stakeholders town hall meeting held on Thursday, October 12, 2017 at the Transcorp Hotels, Calabar
In a 4-point communique issued at the end of the stakeholders meeting on improved and sustainable urban water supply service , it was resolved that “In view of the high cost of production and distribution of potable water in the state… the present water tariffs
of N150 per meter cube or 1, 000 litres for household connection and N200 per meter cube of water is due for a review”, and also “acknowledged and recognized the fact that portable water ought to be a public service, but for sustainability, the need to routinely pay water bills cannot be overemphasized.”
The stakeholders’ also called for the urgent building of a robust collaboration and partnership with agencies of government and the private sector for the purpose of sustainable water supply in Cross River state and equally identified the need for government to enact a law to regulate the water sector and checkmate the current all comers affairs operational in the state.
Stakeholders also posited that the law should be able to address issues regarding improved water supply in Calabar and the relationship/collaboration between stakeholders and water board, prompt payment of water bills as well as sustained/regular supply of clean, and indeed potable and safe water.
In his address at the event, the Governor of Cross River state, Senator Ben Ayade, reiterated the commitment of his administration to ensure the provision of adequate potable water for drinking, agricultural and industrial purposes, and stressed the need for consumers to partner and cooperate with the Cross River State Water Board Limited (CRSWBL), in the area of paying their bills regularly to equally ensure regular and sustainable supply of water to them.
In his comments, the Commissioner for Water resources, Ntufam Gabriel Odu Oji, commended participants/stakeholders for responding to the Ministry and Water Board invitation to the meeting and the need for them to speak frankly on the issues to be discussed.
While responding to a question from a participant, the Water Resources Commissioner, agreed that in the past, there was private sector partnership in water management in the state, and that in the future such partnership would be on lease agreement based on mutually beneficial terms.
In his keynote address, the Board Chairman, Cross River state Water Board Limited, Ntufam Ekpo Okon, stated that it is true that water supply is a social service responsibility of government to the people, based on the present reality of things and the high cost of maintenance of water equipment/treatment plants, chemicals, distribution and supply, it becomes imperative that consumers pay a token to aid in regular supply and to recover the production cost.
Mr. Okon said that water has no enemy, and that over the years, the government of cross River state has taken critical and practical actions to ensure water supply in the state, and that the CRSWBL has been given the mandate to provide water in the urban and suburban areas in the state while the state Rural Water Supply Agency (RUWATSSA) has the mandate for the rural areas.
“Water ordinarily is a social service, but at the same time, for sustainability there must be some extent of commercial consideration in managing water.
“CRSWBL has within this period, developed quite extensive and modern water supply system within the city of Calabar extending up to Odukpani Local government Headquarters and some parts of Akpabuyo, Akamkpa local Government, Ugep, Ediba, extending to suburban communities like Nko, Ekori, Adim, Idomi in Yakurr local Government Area, Ikom extending up to Nde, Okuni and the Headquarters of Etung Local Government, Obudu, Ogoja extending into communities in Bekwarra Local government, Okpoma in Yala, Itigidi in Abi extending to such other communities like Ekureku and Adadama; some are in Obubra which is still ongoing.”
The Board Chairman disclosed that so much has been done in terms of infrastructure and installation, but they had to call the people together to discuss how to sustainably manage water supply to the public, and listen to the contributions of the stakeholders on their, experiences, challenges, concerns to collectively chart the way forward.
In his presentation titled, “Strategy for Improved Urban Water Supply and Sanitation in Calabar,” The Managing Director of CRSWBL, Dr. Godwin Igile, outlined and elaborated on the rationale for the town hall meeting, background information on CRSWBL, situation and challenges with water supply in Calabar, options for improved service delivery, the company’s commitment to regular water supply and expected commitment from customers and the general public, CRSWBL strategic approach, both short and long term, operational budget needed to achieve the company’s objectives, among others.
Dr. Igile stressed the need for public ownership and protection of water facilities such as meters, pipelines by discouraging the current practice of damage to water pipelines and meter bypass, illegal water connection and vandalism, and emphasized the importance of the role of partnership with various stakeholder groups for mutual relationship, while appealing to customers to pay their water bills promptly and regularly.
He listed the following customer care GSM numbers, 08133338798, 08167772273, and 09033366992, for easy contact.
In his comment, the Special Adviser, Forestry Bio-Diversity, Marine protection and conservation, Ntufam Edet Okon Asim, said that everything about our environment is life and water is life itself, explaining that going back to the scripture, it is stated that before the creation itself, water covered the whole surface of the earth, and that from scientific investigations, our lives depend on water just as our bodies are made up of greater percentage of water than any other element.
He reasoned that the era of colony type of water billing is no longer feasible based on the current economic realities and that if the stakeholders and the general public want to enhance the performance of CRSWBL to serve them better, there is need for an improved billing system, need for community relations system involving traditional rulers and the people to maintain and protect water facilities.
He commended the governor, Senator Ben Ayade for his commitment to the provision of portable water to both the urban and rural dwellers in the state, which earned the state and Ayade an international award from Portugal.
Also speaking, The Director General, Cross River State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWATSSA), Hon. Ita Ikpeme, disclosed that his agency that is responsible for the provision of potable water to the 75 percent rural dwellers in Cross River was established by edict number 6 of 1991 by the Cross River State government and charged with the responsibility of providing safe and potable water and sanitation facilities in the state’s rural communities which constitutes about 70 percent of the population.
He said out of a total of 1,184 motorized boreholes built to use solar power or generators to provide water for 2.8million rural dwellers about 10 years ago, only 393 are presently functional and supplying 982,500 people water in rural communities.
Out of 1,112 hand pumps meant to provide water for 278,000 people, 386 are also said to be non-functional leaving only 96,900 people with access to portable water.