By Babatope Babalobi
Nigeria’s Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Reng Ochepe, have called for ‘strategic partnership’ among all stakeholders for the development of Nigeria’s water sector, even as she restated Governments’ belief that access to safe, drinking water is a right of every Nigerian.
Inadequate access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation is a major challenge in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. The West African country is off track in meeting its Millennium Development Goals of 75% coverage for safe drinking water and 63% coverage for basic sanitation by the year 2015.
Lamenting the failure of past initiatives to deliver the promises of improved access to water supply and sanitation, Mrs. Sarah Ochepe called on all stakeholders in the sector to tackle this challenge by working together. The Minister spoke at the Annual Partners Roundtable (APRT) of the WaterAid in Nigeria in Abuja, yesterday.
“It is a thing of great regret that we are not doing too well, today only 58% of Nigerians have access to safe and clean water, what that means is that over 50m Nigerians do not have access to clean water to drink. Only 32% have access to proper sanitation, what that means is that about 70m Nigerians do not have access to proper sanitation. This are very disturbing figures”, said Ochepe, represented in the event by Ambassador Godknows Igali, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Water Resources.
Speaking further, Ochepe said: “our message to this gathering is that of working together. We need ‘strategic partnership between the Federal Government, the state government, the local government, civil society, the media, and other stakeholders, development partners and the rest of the international community’.
“Government believes that Water is a right to all Nigerians, and Mr. President has given the ministry the charge that we must do everything to come up with strategic partnerships to enable us delvers water to Nigerians and we are hoping by 2015, about 75% of Nigerians must have access to water and 65% have access to sanitation”
Responding to the suggestion by the Chair of the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW), Mr. Leo Otakpu that the Right to Water should be reflected in Nigeria’s draft National Water Resources bill presently before the National parliament, the Water Resources Minister said: “If you look at Nigerian constitution, the derivative principles of state policy have already given people the right, we will tell drafters of the policy to look into it, it will be a critical thing”
The Annual Partners Roundtable (APRT) brings together all partners of WaterAid in Nigeria to review performance, evaluate progress and establish shared understanding of approaches and priorities for the year aimed at promoting overall improvement in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector.
The two day meeting aims at “strengthening existing relationship between WaterAid and its partners for enhanced programme delivery; reviewing the organisation’s performance of the previous year with a view to improving its current performance and document learning for integration in subsequent programming; and deepening understanding of the newly approved Country Strategy and agree on a broad implementation strategy”, said Oluseyi Abdulmalik, Communications and Campaigns Manager, WaterAid in Nigeria.
Welcoming delegates earlier, Country Representative of WaterAid in Nigeria, Joe Lambongang urged “all partners to continue working until all peoples in Nigeria have access to safe water and sanitation services”.