By Ushang Ewa
The Cross River State government is on the verge of losing a USD5 million grant from the United Nations Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council due to it’s failure to provide the counterpart funding of NGN104 million to expand the sanitation and hygiene program.
This equals NGN1,802,500,000.00 (one point eight billion Naira) at NGN360.50 to USD1 rate as at the close of Tuesday’s trading in the official market.
The Rural Sanitation and Hygienic Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) which is funding the UN program had, in collaboration with other agencies, jointly supported Obanliku Local Government Area to become the first open defecation-free LG in Nigeria in 2016 reports The PUNCH.
And, the state is about to lose USD5 million earmarked for the next phase of the program said Mr. Tony Kedang the state coordinator of the Society for Water and Sanitation Network in a press briefing in Calabar, the state capital on Tuesday.
The UN program contributes to the reduction in sanitation related diseases and it is currently being implemented in Abi, Bekwarra and Obanliku local government areas of the state and having failed to meet the September 30, 2017 deadline set by the Federal Government, Kedang said this will affect other states that have indicated interest on the program.
“Cross River is about to lose USD5 million which has been earmarked to Nigeria for the next phase and expansion of RUSHPIN program.
“This is because the September 30, 2017 which was set by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, the coordinating body of RUSHPIN program for participating states to pay their counterpart fund, has elapsed.
“If the state does not take urgent action, this opportunity will be forfeited to other states that have indicated interest in the program.
“Cross River has been on the verge of becoming a model for sanitation and hygiene and is on track to becoming the first state in Nigeria that is open defecation free.
“We are formally appealing to the state government to release the sum of NGN104 million that had been earmarked and subsequently approved by the governor as the first tranche of counterpart funding to Cross River for scaled up of the local government area of Obudu.”
A failure to do this and an exit from the program will likely increase mortality rates in the state said a member of the society, Mrs. Okoho Ene.
Ene said: “Otherwise, there will be high rate of mortality and it will increase poverty as the little money in circulation in the rural area will be channelled towards tackling health challenges.
“Children might end up having increased cases of diarrhoea and dysentery.”
The Governor, Senator Ben Ayade in September promised that the state will pay up its counterpart funding for all UN programs.
Abi and Obanliku local government areas have been declared Open Defecation Free so far.