By Jonathan Ugbal
Water is an essential commodity and one of the basic needs of living things with humans in particular, utilizing it in various ways ranging from bathing to drinking, cooking to laundry and many other things.
Over the years Cross Riverians like others have sought for it from several sources with the Cross River State Water Board Limited, CRSWBL since its inception supplying it at an affordable rate to a seemingly minute section of the populace outside Calabar.
For over six months now, the CRSWBL operating sections in Obudu and Ogoja local government areas of northern Cross River has stopped supplying water despite the presence of infrastructure in apparently good working conditions.
When CrossRiverWatch set out to find out the reason(s) why it was so, since the infrastructures have just been renovated and reconstructed following years of abandonment, we were informed by staff that it is lack of diesel and funding that has hampered their ability to supply water to residents.
The CRSWBL office in Obudu located along Ogoja road opposite Obudu clinic and the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHEDC office, despite several visits was always empty, with only a few staff of Lilleker Bros. construction limited, the contractor in charge of water reticulation projects, who use a section of the office premises as their branch office, always present.
The water treatment plant tanks were always empty until last week when Lilleker began washing the new pipes and renovated the water reservoir.
On Monday, May 19, 2015 CrossRiverWatch finally caught up with a staff who after much persuasion and on condition of anonymity said, “The issue is not the water reticulation project or renovation of some infrastructure as the first phase of that was completed over a year ago but the lack of supply of diesel from the headquarters in Calabar, we have chemicals here but without diesel we can’t pump from Abeb (river) and distribute”.
His colleague who agreed with him also added that, “All these began when the elections were getting tough before the primaries and see (continued in pidgin) make I tell you, you know say our chairman been dey contest elections and besides money to pay salaries been no dey, so if state government no pay salary, na water board wey people survive without am for years na it go work fully?”. He however stressed that they might resume distribution anytime soon but queried the rationale as the rainy season is fast approaching.
A walk round town especially on Saturdays and early Sunday mornings, showed long queues of people getting water from boreholes. The river Abeb which is the primary source with the water intake facility has remained unkept with indigenes utilizing it the way they feel is best.
In Ogoja, the story is the same, few staff were seen during CrossRiverWatch four visits to the office located at Mission road, Igoli a stone throw from the old Ogoja township stadium in the months of February, March and April. Several attempts to get information from staff proved abortive as they were uncooperative.
However on the 5th visit on Friday, May 16, 2015, only one staff was visibly present at about 3:38pm who also blamed the lack of circulation on non availability of diesel and funding while stressing the problem was across the state “including Itigidi, that is Ediba water project, Obudu, Ogoja here, …Ikom and even Calabar which is the headquarters is even the worst. make findings na, you will see it is across the state” the staff said without divulging information about herself quoting the civil service oath of secrecy as the reason why.
Construction work on a new water reservoir was visible in the office while a drive to the River Aya showed dredging work and other renovation work ongoing as well as the water treatment plant located along Abakpa road, a minute walk away from the Aya bridge.
At the treatment plant, a staff of CGC Nigeria limited, the company contracted for the construction and extension of water production and distribution system in Ogoja, said ever since they began work a little over a year ago, there has been no water supply in the local government.
The company which has its yard at the treatment plant, CrossRiverWatch learnt have taken temporary ownership as only authorized personnel were allowed entry, our reporter was also denied access by the security officials at the gate and only allowed to speak through the openings of the gate with a warning not to take photographs.
Efforts to get comments from the heads of the two offices were unsuccessful as they were never present during the visits by CrossRiverWatch and staff unwilling to disclose their names.
Even in the capital city, the challenge of getting water is biting hard into several weeks now and residents have continued to complain bitterly saying the water supply company has even refused to give residents information on the true position of things but continue to bring bills for them to pay.
It will be recalled that CrossRiverWatch had on March 19, 2015 published the reactions of people in Calabar over the non supply of water and the reasons behind it in a report titled ” Water Scarcity Hits Calabar As Ministry Sources Say There Is No Money To Buy Water Treatment Chemicals” which contradicts the position of staff who now claim lack of diesel is the main cause.