Report of the 1st Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Water and Sanitation Media Network held at Gubabi Royal Hotel, Abuja, 24th-27th February 2008 By Babatope Babalobiblfnigeria@yahoo.com Preamble
The first Annual General Meeting of Water and Sanitation Media Network (WATSAN Media Network) took place in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria from 24th-26th February, 2008, under the theme ‘The Media and Public Accountability in the Water and Sanitation Sector’. The AGM attracted 25 Journalists and Media Professionals reporting the Water and Sanitation sector for Print, Electronic and Online media organisations in Nigeria.
The meeting also featured project briefs and thematic presentations by various Stakeholders in the water sector. A keynote address was delivered by Dr. Abdulmuminin, Director, Water Supply, Quality Control and Inspectorate, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, (FMAWR), represented by Mr. Chris Ikelionwu, an Assistant Director; Mrs Ifeoma Charles-Monwuba, Head, Policy and Partnerships, WaterAid Nigeria spoke on ‘Right to Water’; Mohammed El-Fatih, Chief WASH, UNICEF represented by Bade Olokun spoke on UNICEF projects; Engineer Benson Ajisegiri, Coordinator of the National Urban Water Sector Reform Project Implementation Unit briefed participants on Water Sector Reform/Private Sector Participation in Water Services delivery; Mrs Tokunbo Ogbe, a Director in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resource informed participants on the planned activities in Nigeria for the International Year of Sanitation; and Mr. Bisi Agberemi of UNICEF spoke on Sanitation Options.
The AGM also featured Skills training sessions enabling participants become better analysts of the sector. Mr Paul Killebrew, a Sector Analyst with WaterAid Nigeria trained participants on Budget Tracking with emphasis on sectoral allocations to Water resources; Bankole Ebisemiju, Information and Communications officer of WATER Aid anchored a session on ‘The Journalist as an Advocate’; Leo Atakpu, National Co-ordinator of the Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN) discussed on Water and Sanitation Networks; and Babatope Babalobi of Bread of Life Dev. Foundation trained participants on ‘Using New Media Technologies, especially Blogs to source and disseminate information’.
Welcoming delegates, Coordinator of the Water and Sanitation Media Network, Babatope Babalobi said the WATSAN Media Mnet was formed to achieve the following objectives:a. Increase the technical capacity of Nigeria’s Water and Sanitation Journalists to effectively report and analyze water and sanitation issues.b. Generally increase the understanding of Nigeria’s of Water and Sanitation Journalists on water and sanitation issues.c. To serve as a platform for its members to discharge the constitutional assigned responsibility of upholding government responsibility to the people, particularly in the implementing of water and sanitation programmes.d. Embark on Policy advocacy to ensure and guarantee every Nigerian has access to safe water and sanitation services.e. The body shall facilitate the participation of its members in relevant local and international meetings, conferences and workshops.
f. The body shall cooperate with other bodies with similar aims for the promotion of its objectives.
He said the theme of the AGM on “The Media and Public Accountability in the Water and Sanitation Sector’” provides an opportunity to discuss the role of the media in increasing transparency and accountability in the sector; as well as develop advocacy skills of the media in order to achieve this.
“By the formation of the Water and Sanitation Media Network, we are sending signals to all stakeholders that we want to join the debate on Water and Sanitation Policy and Programmes, we shall start to demand access to information on planned projects and budgets in the water and sanitation sector at the Federal, State and Local Government levels, we shall follow the money, and write investigative reports on how the various programmes and policies in the sector are really touching the lives of our people especially in the rural areas”, said Babalobi
He also stressed the need for the media to participate in training programmes in order to sharpen their skills and increase their knowledge on WATSAN issues; advocating that:
1. The National Water Resources Institute should include training Journalists on Water and Sanitation issues in order to increase our understanding.2. Private Sector firms working in the sector should support the training of Journalists locally and International; and their participation in Water and Sanitation conferences.3. That Government and Development agencies implementing Water and Sanitation projects should include a component for Monitoring of such projects by Water and Sanitation Journalists.
Dr. Abdulmuminin, the Director of Water supply, Quality Control, and Inspectorate of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources Director, in a keynote address delivered by Mr. Chris Ikelionwu, solicited “the support of the media (print and electronic) in the areas of enlightenment, publicity, education o f the Nigeria populace on the Government polices as they affect water and sanitation in the country; and sensitizing our development partners to provide funds to the government development activities.
“The media should campaign on behalf of the Government for more development partners to come on board to support the efforts of the Government towards realising the MGDs,” said Abdulmuninin.
Speaking on the Right to Water, Mrs Ifeoma Charles-Monwuba, Head, Policy and Partnerships, WaterAid Nigeria lamented that whereas, “there is sufficient fresh water for everyone’s basic need, access to it is hampered by natural inequitable allocation of resources, lack of distribution network, working system to extract ground water, systems to harvest rain water, exclusion from services, pollution and contamination of surface and ground water, and excessive extraction of ground water.
She said, the legal framework for the right to water and sanitation was laid in 2002, by the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural rights that adopted General Comment no 15; and the Right to water comprises the following:
· Sufficient water: water supply for each person that is sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic uses, which normally include dinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, personal and household hygiene.· Clean water: safe water that in particular, is free from hazardous substances that could endanger human health, and whose colour, odour and taste are acceptable to users.· Accessible water and sanitation: water and sanitation services and facilities are accessible within, or in the immediate vicinity, of each household, educational institution and workplace. Sanitation is safe, adequate, and conducive to the protection of public health and the environment.· Affordable water and sanitation: water and sanitation can be secured without reducing any person’s capacity to acquire other essential goods and services, including food, housing, health service and education· Non discrimination and inclusion of vulnerable and marginalised groups: There is no distinction based on grounds such as race or colour which leads to unequal access to water and sanitation. Non discrimination also includes proactive measures to ensure that the particular needs of vulnerable or marginalised groups’ are met.· Access to information and participation: All people have the right t participate in decision making processes that may affect their rights. All people are given equal access to information concerning water, sanitation and the environment.
· Accountability: Persons or groups denied their right to water and sanitation have access to effective judicial or other appropriate remedies, for example courts, national ombudspersons or human right commissions
Mrs Charles-Monwuba also outlined the role of the Civil Society Organisation including the media in ensuring the right, saying these include the following:· Supporting the work of governments and communities by providing information , facilitating community organisation and assisting communities with their advocacy process· Building community and Government capacity and knowledge on water and sanitation issues, including on rights and responsibilities, management and technical information· Striving to ensure that their activities are coordinated and their work supports and does not duplicate work done by Government, and other civil society organisations or international organisations
· Monitoring Government Actions on water and sanitation and that of third parties.
· Educating students and the broader public about the right to water and sanitation, and sharing research outcomes with all stakeholders
For international civil society organisations, supporting the development and growth national and local civil society organisations and community based organisations.
Another paper was delivered by Engr. Ajisegiri, National Project Coordinator, of the National Urban Water Sector Reform Project Implementation Unit on ‘Water Sector Reform and Private Sector Participation in Nigeria’.
Giving an overview of the Operational challenges in the Sector, he said Water Sector in Nigeria is characterised by the following:· Low operational efficiencies resulting to High unaccounted for water (63% in 1998), and Low productivity (High staff/1000 connections)· Low revenue generation caused by Politically sensitive tariffs, Low billing and collection efficiencies, and Weak financial management· Insufficient financial resources for capital investment· Aging infrastructures· Low institutional capacity· Energy problems, and
· Peri-urban pressure
Engineer Ajisegiri said Water Sector reform revolves around three issues1. Sector policy which includes Broader sector restructuring, Enhancement of investment climate, National water policy reform, Legal reforms at Federal & State levels, Regulatory reform, and Financial & management reform at utility level.2. Institutional Issues such as Operational Shortcomings of SWAs, Enhancement of commercial operations, and Maximising benefits for poverty reduction.
3. Governance Issues including Increased autonomy for SWAs, and Investment capital leverage for water and sanitation
Speaking on the contentious issue of Private Sector Participation in the Water Sector, Ajisegiri said this is necessitated by the following factors: The dominance of public enterprises in the provision of water has rendered the sector highly inefficient; Investments in water requires large amounts of capital beyond what Government alone can provide; PPP helps to introduce innovations in the areas of management, technology and capital utilization; PPP in water supply will introduce competition among provider of services and efficiency will be enhanced; and Rapid growth in urbanization & growing poverty require all hands to be on deck in providing access to safe water.
Adding that the Benefits of PPP arrangements that are about to be introduced under the Water Sector Reform Project are Systems Rehabilitation & Expansion; Efficiency and anti-corruption; Reliability & availability of service; Injection of private funds; and Value for money.
Speaking on Sanitation Options, Bisi Agberemi, Project Officer (WASH) with UNICEF – Abuja, said “Hygiene is the practice of keeping yourself and your surroundings clean, especially to avoid illness or the spread of disease whereas Sanitation literally means measures necessary for improving and protecting health and well being of the people- the interventions often include; Safe human excreta disposal, personal hygiene, domestic hygiene, solid waste disposal and waste water disposal. The WHO and UNICEF JMP defines basic sanitation as the lowest-cost technology ensuring hygienic excreta disposal and a clean and healthful living environment both at home and in the neighbourhood of users.
Giving a graphical picture of the importance of Sanitation as the first barrier to Sanitation related diseases, Agberemi said: “One gram of excreta alone can contain: 10,000,000 viruses, 1,000,000 bacteria, 1,000 parasites cysts, and 100 parasites eggs . As such Excreta are the No. 1 Public Enemy !
He stressed the need to introduce Interventions in order to curtail this Public menace, especially since 2008 is being marked globally as the International Year of Sanitation. Such interventions include Hygiene Education and Promotion, School Sanitation and Hygiene, Community Sanitation Promotion, Hand Washing Campaigns, Policy Development, and Institutional Strengthening
Agberemi listed the major factors militating against the implementation of Sanitation and Hygiene programmes in Nigeria as Low priority and funding, Lack of well defined Institutional framework for service delivery, Unfavorable Policy Environment, Weak and Poorly enforced Public Health laws , and Poorly motivated Sector professionals.
Some Benefits of Sanitation and Hygiene are Decrease in mortality and morbidity rates., Increase productivity, reduction in poverty and Economic Development, Improves nutrition and the physical mental growth of children, Improves school enrolment, attendance and performance, and Increase the survival of People living with HIV and AIDS.
To increase focus on Sanitation and Hygiene, Agberemi • Prioritize Sanitation and Hygiene .• Mobilize Political Will.• Demand Approach to Sanitation and Hygiene Development.• Building on Existing practices.• Pay attention to gender.• Sustained Promotional efforts.• Harmonize Institutional Framework for service delivery.• Ensure enabling policy environment.• Enforcement of Existing Sanitation laws.• More involvement of NGOs, CBOs and Private sector.
• Resource mobilization specifically for sanitation and hygiene
During the AGM, Training on Advocacy Journalism in the Water Sector was conducted by Bankole Ebisemiju, Information and Communications officer of Water Aid.
Reminding the participating Journalists that they have a statutory role to play as watch dogs of the Society, Mr. Ebisemiju cited Section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, which states that: “ The Press, Radio, Television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this constitution and accountability of the government to the people’“The media is an effective tool for lobbying”:, said Ebisemiju. “ Advocacy Journalism is a gere of Journalism that intentionally and transparently adopts a non objective viewpoint, usually for some social or political purpose; and Journalists can reach decision makers and influence wider public opinion through articles and programmes in the Print and Electronic media”
Another training session on Budget Analysis was conducted by Mr Paul Killebrew, a Sector Analyst with WaterAid Nigeria. He educated the participating Journalists on Budgetary terms such as Revenues, Expenditure, Inflation, Deficit, and Surplus budget; as well as how to read a budget critically, determine the amount being spent at the Federal level on provision of water supply and sanitation.
Other MattersThe AGM received its first annual report, ratified the draft constitution of the Water and Sanitation Media network, and renewed the mandate of the three men Interim Management Committee pending the completion of the legal registration process of the Network. Members of the Committee are: Babatope Babalobi, Regina Eche-Fali, and Omoniyi Omojugbagbe.