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Water sector reform: States develop water and sanitation policies


By Babatope Babalobi


In Nigeria, the three levels of Government share responsibilities for the provision of water supply and sanitation. At the Federal level, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources is responsible for the formulation and coordination of national policies, allocation of water resources between the state and approving water resources development projects.

The River Basin Development Authorities under the Federal Ministry are in charge of hydrological and hydro geological data. They also provide multi purpose dams, which supply bulk water for potable water supply. The National Water Resources Institute, also under the Ministry, is responsible for   training professional technicians for the sector.

At the State level, responsibility for provision of potable water supply is vested in the State Water Agency (SWA), which was created by all the 36 states and FCT for the purpose. Each SWA were established under an edict within its respective state to meet sound financial objectives. The SWAs are responsible to their state governments through the State’s Ministry of Water Resources or other Public utilities.

At the Local Government level, each local government has water supply and sanitation unit that is responsible for provision of rural water supply and sanitation facilities in their area although they have limited resources and skills to shoulder the responsibility. Generally, the SWAs have also failed to provide efficient water services to the people. The huge gap between the Water supplied by Public Utilities and demand by Citizens is augmented by Small Scale Independent Water Providers (SSIPs) throughout Nigeria.

There are key major challenges facing the water supply and sanitation sector in Nigeria:

  1. 1. Financial Challenges: The sectors in critical need of funds to finance the required investment in water supply facilities development and rehabilitation.
  2. 2. Commercial Challenge: Most water agencies are not commercially oriented, because of the subvention they enjoy from government, which in most cases are grossly inadequate. They tend to treat water users as consumers instead of customers. Hence, complaints from the customers are usually not given the priority they deserve which in turn makes the customers to relate by not paying their water bills.
  3. 3. Operational Challenges: Most water agencies are operating in a very constrained environment using facilities whose design capacities cannot be attained because of malfunctioning equipment and plants.
  4. 4. Institutional Challenge: At the Federal level, there are still problem relating to sector coordination, monitoring and evaluation. At the state level, despite the fact that the edicts that established the SWAs provide that they operate autonomous entities, in practice they operate like government departments closely integrated into the civil service. At the local government level, the major challenge is the lack of competent staff for water and sanitation services.

A 2006 World Bank Project Performance Assessment Report (PPAR) shows that some of the previous bank financed water projects in Nigeria failed because of the inefficiency of the public water agencies.

The Project Performance Assessment Report (PPAR) evaluated three water supply projects: The National Water Rehabilitation Project (Loan 3322-UNI) for US$256.0 million was approved on May 21, 1991, became effective on August 27, 1992, and closed on June  30, 2001, two years after the original closing date of June 30, 1999. The First Multi-State Water Supply Project (Credit 2372-UNI) for US$101.0 million was approved on May 28, 1992, became effective on May 4, 1993, and closed on September 30, 2000, one year after the original closing date of September 30, 1999. The Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Pilot Project (Credit IDA 3350-UNI) for US$5 million equivalent, was approved on May 18, 2000, became effective on August 1, 2000, and closed on June 30, 2004, one year after the original closing date of June 30, 2003.


The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) rates the outcome of the National project as highly unsatisfactory, its sustainability as highly unlikely, and its institutional development impact as negligible. The outcome of the Multi-State project is rated as moderately unsatisfactory, its sustainability as unlikely and its institutional development impact as modest. In contrast, the outcome of the Small Town project is rated as satisfactory, its sustainability as likely and its institutional development impact as substantial. While Bank and Borrower performance were rated as unsatisfactory for the National and Multi-State projects, the performance of the Bank and the Borrower for the Small Towns project is rated as satisfactory.
One of the findings of the PPAR report is that Water Projects cannot succeed without the political will to reform:

“The failure of the National Water Rehabilitation and First Multi-State Water Supply projects show there was not effective attention paid to tracking meaningful operational performance indicators, and to creating viable Commercial systems with appropriate tariffs and systems to bill and collect sufficient revenue to enable the State Water Board to become financially sufficient. The ultimate responsibility for this failure must be shared between the political and technical authorities in Nigeria and the Bank preparation and supervision teams.”

The report further states that historically, Nigeria’s water supply and sanitation sector has been caught in a vicious circle characterized by an absence of policies that could enable efficient, sustainable service for all. Specifically, this includes:

a) The dearth of tariffs that reflect costs of service;

b) An absence of autonomous State Water Boards;

c) Perpetual operating deficits which deprive the state water boards of funds for maintenance, new investment and back-up power supplies; and

d)     Grossly inadequate power supplies that cause intermittent water service and damage to electromechanical equipment.

To address this sectoral challenges, the Federal Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with the World Bank, is coordinating the implementation of the Urban Water Sector Reform Project in five States of the Federation. The states are: Kaduna, Cross River, Lagos, Ogun and Enugu.

The National Coordinator of the NUWSRP, Engr. Benson Ajisegiri said: “one of the components of the reform programme is the development of  appropriate Water Supply and sanitation Policy and legal instruments that will enhance sustainable water supply and Sanitation services in each state and the establishment of the State Water Regulatory Authority.” Towards the achievement of this goal, a Consultant was appointed last year to implement the exercise and draft water and sanitation polices have since been developed for all the five participating states, awaiting stakeholders validation and approval by the respective state executive councils.

The development of a Water and Sanitation policy is an entry point to Water Sector Reform.  Professor Lekan Oyebande, the Chairman, Technical Committee of West African Water Partnership, said: Policy development provides the basis for legislative and institutional reform, and the preparation of strategic water resources development plans.. According to him, the development of a Water Policy is necessitated by the following:

  • To guide Government actions on water supply and sanitation issues.
  • To promote accountability  and transparency in water supply service delivery
  • To solve the problems of cost recovery and operational performances of the SWAs.
  • To internalize national and international policies, principles, and approaches.
  • To provide a framework for legislative reform


In Kaduna, one of the project states, a meeting of Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) stakeholders was  organized by the State Ministry of Water Resources on January 20, 2011 at  Royal Tropicana Hotel, Isa Kaita road, to review the  draft Kaduna State Water Supply and Sanitation Policy 2010 developed with the support of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources- National Urban Water Sector Reform Programme (NUWSRP) Project Implementation Unit (PIU).

The meeting  which also deliberated  the draft WATSAN bill and was attended by key stakeholders including key representatives of Kaduna State water related agencies and development partners including the Project Coordinator, Federal Project Implementation Unit,  National Urban Water Sector Reform Project, Engr. Benson Ajisegiri; the Honourable Commissioner for Water Resources, Kaduna State; the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, Kaduna State, Isa Ismaila (who Chaired the meeting); the Project Manager of the Kaduna State Water and Sanitation programme (WATSAN)- James Yaro; and the General Manager of the Kaduna State Water Board- Engr Hassan Mohammed

Resolutions reached at the meeting include the following: The data used in the policy should be updated based on recent studies conducted in the Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) sector; the WSS Targets in the policy should be reviewed to be in line with the 4 year life span of each newly elected government, to serve as a yardstick for measuring the success of  each successive government; thePolicy should promote 100%  cost recovery for O and M costs in the short term and n 100%  capital costs in the long term; on gender mainstreaming-the WSSpolicy should uphold the 35% affirmative action; Universal metering should be introduced on all connections including public taps; and  the WSS policy should strike  a balance between water as a social good and as an economic good.

Other decisions reached are that: in public  and market places, the private sector should be engaged to provide basic sanitation services at a commercial rate; provision of Water and Sanitation facilities  in schools should be captured into education plans without prejudice to the role of other agencies; Policy should allow the WSS agencies to go into any Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements., while specific forms of PPP will vary from location to location and facility to facility; principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) should be integrated into the policy; and lastly a Monitoring  and Evaluation (M and E) structure should be adequately highlighted in the policy.

Arising from these resolutions, a final draft of the Kaduna state WSS policy is being expected for presentation to stakeholders in the coming months.

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