Despite N1.6bn Waterworks Rehabilitation Project, Lagosians Groan in Abject Water Scarcity

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water scarcity

Every 6pm, Chima Jacob must close his mechanic workshop if his family must get water to stay the next day as his wife waits to prepare dinner at home. The tap that he fetches from is located at a building, three streets away to his rented apartment in Shasha, Alimosho local government area in Lagos.

He will need to race down to stand a chance of filling his two jerry cans, usually lined up alongside many others, just before the water seller decides to close business for the day, oftentimes around 7pm.

“I’m lucky to meet up today. There were days that the tap would have been closed before I get here or it doesn’t get to my turn before the man decides to shut down for the day,” Jacob said as he tucks N200 in his pocket — being the change he collected after handling N500 note to the man operating the tap. For every two jerry cans of water he fetches, he pays N100 ($0.28). So, he fetches 6 jerry cans in three trips daily, except on weekends when he does up to four trips.

Lifting the two 25 litre-jerry cans sideways, Jacob asked: “Abi wetin man go do? I can’t afford to pay the ‘mairuwa’ guys (water vendors) N500 ($1.4) to do this for me and I don’t want my wife to go through this stress.

“We go through hell daily to get water in this community. The few houses with boreholes have decided not to sell to anybody. I don’t know their reasons, but I think it’s due to the challenge of managing the crowd. At times, argument and fight use to break out when people are waiting on the queue for their turn.” Jacob said as he trudges home, panting hard and aloud with his load clutched to his hands. Occasionally, he dodges the marshy paths and uneven roads that lead to his house, stopping every 5 metres along the way to relax the muscle and catch some air.

Asked whether he’s aware of a macro waterworks located in the neighbourhood, he replied “You mean Water Corporation? Since I moved in here four years ago, I have not heard from anyone benefitting from the corporation water. I learnt a few houses were connected, but the corporation is not supplying them with water.”

Though, the waterworks is located near his house, he said the failure to make the waterworks run has led to “suffering among residents in the area.”

The public pipes and taps in Shasha are not the only ones running dry. Similar situation replicates itself in other major and mini waterworks in the states where water production has either been stopped or activities fluctuate.

‘Water everywhere, none to drink’

Lagos, Nigeria’s most populated state with an estimated 22 million people, has three major waterworks and 48 mini waterworks scattered across the state, but the disappearance of probity and accountability in managing Lagos water had made one of nature’s ubiquitous gifts hard to come by in the state.

Surrounded by bodies of water from the gulf of Guinea to the Lagos lagoon, it was as easy as pie for the Portuguese adventurers who first touched down on the coast of West Africa to name Lagos after its many lakes. But abundant water resources hasn’t translated into the availability of clean drinkable water for much of the city’s population. Now, the popular saying: ‘water everywhere, but there’s none to drink’ is something every Lagosian can relate with in everyday life.

Despite the city hitting several developmental milestones spanning decades, solutions to the challenge of acute water shortage still loom large as The New Diplomat’s investigation revealed that the daily water supply by the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) falls short of production capacity–210 million gallons per day (mdg) quoted on the Corporation’s website, failing to match up with residents’ daily water demand estimated to be 510mdg in 2010 and projected to hit 745mdg by 2020.

Source: Lagos Water Corporation’s Master Plan Document

The demand-supply gulf widens daily amid a degeneration in public water infrastructures that had carried on for years, no thanks to transparency that had since taken a flight at the LWC, as well as several years of neglect by the Lagos government.

For instance, in Surulere, Central Lagos, the mini waterworks located just opposite the National Stadium, only manage to serve a few households in the area, while a preponderance of the transmission pipes taking water to residents in the neighbourhood had since been disconnected.

A resident, Lekan Ajanaku, living along Rabiatu Thomson Street, Surulere, lamented the situation.

“For everybody living here, it’s either one fetches from the borehole or buy water from the ‘mairuwa’ guys. I will say it’s been many years back since we last enjoyed water from the corporation here, even though we have a waterwork in our backyard.”

Public taps running dry along Rabiatu Thomson Street, Surulere-Lagos. Now, the taps have been desecrated by animal’s faeces.

The public taps located on the street is now a messy site, painted with animal’s faeces as ram sellers tie their animals to the taps that should supply water to residents.

Little To Show for N1.6BN Spent on Waterworks Rehabilitation 

In 2017, the Lagos Water Corporation awarded a rehabilitation contract to Idmon Engineering and Construction Company to carry out repairs on the three major waterworks in Adiyan, Iju and Isashi in Lagos. The corporation got N800 million loan from the French Development Bank facilitated by the Lagos state government to embark on the project.

Also, in 2018, N792 million grant was released by the Lagos State government for the rehabilitation of 48 mini and micro waterworks in Lagos. Investigation revealed that Hakkam-B and Associates Limited and Hyses-Nex company Limited were among the companies who got the contract.

However, while work was carried out in some places, albeit shabbily, contractors never went to some waterworks to carry out the repairs. And even the post-repair production target has not been met at the waterworks where rehabilitation works were said to have been carried out and completed.

The Iju waterwork has a production capacity of 45mdg and since 1996 when it began operation, there has not been any major repairs carried out on its plants, yet equipment and machineries have been badly damaged by wears and tears.

One of the damaged water pump suction pipes at the Iju Waterworks, Lagos, making daily production to flip flop

The contractor who got the rehabilitation contract, Idmon Engineering started the repairs in 2017 and declared it completed in June of 2018. But out of the plant’s 12 pumps, findings showed that only 3 were in operation as of early August and this has made production difficult.

“The renovation wasn’t up to what we expected because it was only done in parts and it hasn’t contributed to a regular production since last year that it was carried out.

“45mdg is the targeted output for the Iju waterwork. But now the output averages 20-21mdg due to the damaged pumps,” a staffer at the waterworks who will rather remain anonymous because he has not been authorized to speak on the rehabilitation revealed during a fact finding mission to the Iju waterwork.

Similarly, the Adiyan waterwork which has the largest installed capacity in the state (put at 70mdg) has not been able to save the state from the acute water shortage blushes, in spite of the completed rehabilation works by Idmon Engineering and Construction Company Limited.

Ageing dam at the Adiyan Waterworks

Since the rehabilitation two years ago, not much has changed. Production figures at the waterwork remain erratic still, largely due to the condition of the plant, as well as the non-supply of the needed production materials.

“Production target is 70mdg using 3 pumps to reach the target, but recently due to us using just one pump, production now overs around 48mdg. Atimes, the epileptic power makes it drop further to 19mdg,” an operator at the waterworks who only identified himself as Akinyemi said.

Recent production figure from the three major waterworks shows that things had significantly gone worse than they were in July and August when this reporter visited. On Monday, 23rd of September, production figure made available revealed that Adiyan, Iju and Isashi waterworks could only produce 17.63; 7.29 and 0 mdg respectively. In actual fact, Iju production was down from about 21mdg in August to that day’s worrisome showing (7.29mdg) and Isashi has not been producing since early July.

In similar circumstance, bid summary document obtained for the purpose of this investigation revealed that the rehabilitation works at 48 mini and macro waterworks for which N792 million was expended were either carried out shoddily, with no commensurate improvement in water production and supply or not carried out at all in some of the waterworks.

N1.8 million was earmarked for the repairs of the mini waterwork located behind Alausa State Secretariat, document showed. The waterworks which has a designed capacity of 1.3mdg was projected to hit 85% of its capacity post-rehabilitation, but currently it can only deliver 0.3mdg due to damaged pump and borehole. Whereas, rehabilitation was said to have been carried out and completed on it in 2018.

Agege and Shasha mini waterworks both have a designed capacity of 2.4mdg each and they were projected to reach 60% of that figure after the rehabilitation work which had gulped a total of N25.4 million and N9.7 million respectively. Till date not a drop of water has flowed out of the waterworks to feed pipes conveying water to people’s homes.

Likewise, production is at its lowest ebb at a waterwork located at Saka Tinubu, which serves as the regional office of the LWC, controlling 10 other mini waterworks in Victoria Island and Epe of the Lagos East Division.

“The revenue has gone so low, compared to what the agency used to earn in the past. We’re even struggling to pay staff. 2.4 million gallons per day is our daily target,” a top management staff, LWC Regional Office located at Saka Tinubu said. He craved for anonymity due to how sensitive the matter has become among the staff of the Corporation.

When asked whether the waterworks has been able to reach the target as at early August, he exploded in laughter, saying, “we’re currently not producing now, because of the breakdown of our machinery and due to the problems we have had. The quality of the water coming from here has been bad, so the MD directed us to shutdown.

“Since water is not coming from Iju and Adiyan waterworks, the challenge has been on how to fix these minor waterworks. Saka Tinubu is the regional office and it has 10 waterworks under it, but only five is running efficiently now because they’re connected to independent power plants.”

‘Fraudulent Companies for Government Work’

Investigations by this newspaper showed that while Idmon Engineering and Construction Company Limited headquartered in Warri was awarded the rehabilitation project for the major waterworks, nine other companies got the contract to repair the 48 mini and micro waterworks. They include: Hakkam-B and Associates Limited, Hyses-Nex Company Limited, Auspex Global Services Limited, Nature Management Limited, Monolith Global Resources Limited, Constallation Global Ventures, Femoui Int’l Limited, Thomas Chase Limited; and Quantum Utilities Limited.

Whereas, due to crass opacity, details are scarce to ascertain whether the companies went through any open bidding process before being awarded the contract, however, a company name search on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) site showed that the last four companies as listed in the above have not been registered with the commission.

To be eligible to handle contracts for the Lagos State government, prospective bidders, while submitting the new registration/renewal form are usually requested to provide certificate of incorporation and registration of business name issued only by the CAC. The certificate usually contains company’s statement of share capital; particulars of first Director; Notice of Change of Directors or Business Name, as well as the particulars of proprietorship.

Also, section 54 of the Lagos State Public Procurement Act 2011, while listing criteria for evaluation of proposals states: “The procuring entity shall establish criteria to evaluate the proposals and prescribe the relative weight to be accorded to each criterion and the manner in which they are to be applied in the evaluation of:

“(a) the qualification, experience, reliability, professional and managerial competence of the consultant or service provider and of the personnel to be involved in providing the services.”

Asides the non-registration of four of the companies by the CAC, it appears a few of the companies only exist on paper as there were no information to trace them both online and on ground. For instance, while x-raying the companies, no single details was available for Constallation Global Ventures and Femoui Int’l Limited, not even a physical address, something which accentuates concerns whether they are shell companies set up for financial manoeuvres and as conduit pipes for public funds.

According to the Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Lekki Forum (Lagos), Mr. Oladotun Hassan, the Lagos State government has erred by awarding contracts to companies that have no CAC registration and the capacity to deliver on the waterworks rehabilitation.

“It’s a gross violation of the law on the part of the Lagos State government. A company doesn’t have the legal capacity to undertake any contractual transaction without being incorporated with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Before bidding for government contract the companies must have also exhibited experience and capacity to deliver the contract. They must have delivered similar contracts year in year out. That company must also have a notable office address. These are fundamentals that must be part of the prerequisites for government officials to issue out a contract and it goes a long way in determining the efficacy of that contract and to also be able to totally measure and evaluate the performance of such contract when monies are being disbursed for the execution of the contract. But unfortunately, most contractors are appendages of the government, the reason why contract deliveries are always shoddy in the country.” Hassan said.

Berating the contract bidding process that threw up the unregistered companies for the project, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mr. Auwal Rafsanjani noted that “it means the procurement process that led to the award of the contract has been compromised and at the end of the day, it’s the Lagos people that are suffering from this corruption. Because if it’s not corruption why should you award contract to companies that are not registered with Corporate Affairs Commission? Why should you give contract to companies that have no record of delivering on the said projects? Why was the procedure for the award of contract not made competitive?

“As a result of squandering public funds, a lot of Lagosians have been denied access to clean and portable water. This is something that has a bigger consequence because if you don’t have clean and portable water it will affect the wellbeing and the health of the people. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing in Lagos now,” he stated.

‘Dodgy Answers Raise More Suspicions Over Project’

While the LWC has not been forthcoming on the details of the rehabilitation project as to who gets what and whether the bidding process was transparent, the Lagos State Procurement Agency (LSPA) backed by the Lagos State Public Procurement Act 2011 to grant approval to procuring entities (this time LWC) before awarding contracts refused to disclose whether it approved the contracts as awarded by the LWC to the contractors or not.

In a letter dated 20th August, 2019 and signed by the General Manager, LSPA, Mr. Onafowote Fatai Idowu, the agency promised a response: “Please be informed that your request is being reviewed and the agency shall revert in due course.” LSPA, in the terse response was responding to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent to it to know if the LWC communicated the bids evaluation to the agency and whether any compliance certificate was issued to LWC. Several weeks after, the Agency has not reverted as promised, despite many follow-ups.

However, further findings on the companies revealed that some of them have no online contact, company site and physical address, raising suspicions on their ingenuity and capacity to have been enlisted among the contract’s bidders in the first place.

Project signpost for the major waterworks rehabilitation erected at the Iju waterworks’ entrance

Idmon Engineering and Construction company Limited gave details on some of its past and ongoing projects on its website, but failed to include the waterworks rehabilitation, with no details linking the company to such a huge project. Meanwhile, enquiries sent to the companies were not replied, save for one.

Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Busari, Executive Director, Hakam-B and Associates Limited, who responded via email said: “there is a non-disclosure clause in our contract with Lagos Water Corporation that does not allow us to respond to your inquiries as routed.”

Up to the time of filing this report, an FOI request letter sent to the State Treasury Office, Lagos State Ministry of Finance has not been replied, despite several follow up on it in an attempt to get the ministry to throw more light on the releases and loans secured from the French Development Bank to carry out the rehabilitation at LWC.

Replying to an FOI request letter, Director, Budget Office, Lagos Ministry of Economic planning and Budget, Mr. Ibrahim Amodu Obajomo, said his ministry will not be able to disclose the actual amount budgeted by the state government for the rehabilitation work by LWC in 2017 and 2018 either as direct releases or through loan instruments.

“You can ask the Lagos Water Corporation because individual agency in Lagos draw up its budget every year and our own responsibility is to call them for a defence of the details through their supervising ministries before compiling the entire budget for the state so the governor can make his input.” When quizzed further, Bajomo insisted that his ministry cannot release any details on the corporation’s budget and releases and instead asked our reporter to meet the LWC for the crucial details.

Meanwhile, sundry back-and-forth efforts made at the Lagos Water Corporation Headquarters, Water House, Ijora to get the Corporation to react to the shadowy issues that had enveloped the rehabilitation of its waterworks and award of contracts amid public water scarcity were met with a brickwall.

First, the FOI letter delivered to the office of the Group Managing Director, LWC, Mr. Mumuni Badmus never got a response. And when Badmus who has been heading the Corporation since 2015 asked the reporter via text to meet with the LWC’s legal department to get the prepared response, that didn’t also yield any result. Thereafter, multiple texts sent to his line were ignored and calls remain unanswered till timeout.

‘Water Crisis: More Worries For Lagosians’

As authorities evade answers on begging questions around acute water shortage in Lagos, the water crisis is affecting a gamut of daily life, particularly in poor neighbourhoods.

Because water and the sanity of the environment are two key drivers of public health, the water crisis puts the city’s booming population – the largest on the African continent — at the risk of diseases like cholera, dysentery, diarrhoea, malaria and typhoid, without overlooking the challenge of underground water contamination in metropolitan Lagos and how unavailability of water promotes open defecation which is rampant in the city.

As the water crisis persists in Lagos, it continues to fly against a globally implemented policy and strategy — the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6 — which is to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

According to the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF), about 70 million Nigerians lacked access to safe drinking water, and over 110 million lacked access to improved sanitation in 2013 alone. Also, at 28.5 percent rate, open defecation poses grave public health risks in the country as an estimated 124,000 children under the age of 5 die every year because of diarrhea, mainly due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.

More so, a medical expert, Dr. Yinka Owoeye, said the high cost of sourcing for water in the absence of public water supply has further impoverished Lagos residents.

“The average price for a keg of water from the ‘mairuwa’ guys ranges between N50-100 ($0.14 – 0.28), it depends on the sort of neighbourhood we’re considering now. The average family could use up to seven or eight Jerry cans daily which translates to N10,000 – 20,000 ($27 – 54) monthly in a nation where the newly approved worker’s minimum wage is N30,000 ($83) and the average middle class family income is N75,000 – 100,000 ($208 – 278) . Now you can see what drives poverty,” she stated.

A Lagos water vendor (called mairuwa) fills his jerrycans at a public tap to be sold to residents

Enunciating his thoughts on the fallouts of the water crisis, Mr. Azeez Balogun, a community chief in Iju which is hosting a major waterworks painted a gloomy picture of water in his community saying, “Since 1914, when this waterworks was put in place, the community here has not benefited from the scheme, maybe that’s due to reasons best known to them. Most of the water goes as far as central Lagos and Victoria Island, but we that are located in communities where the water originates from have not been benefiting. We hope to take our plight to Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu.”

‘NGO Demands Investigation’

Reacting to The New Diplomat‘s investigation, the Head, Media and Campaigns, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Mr. Philip Jakpor said the scam around the rehabilitation work is a deliberately calculated attempt to divert public funds and to further pave way for the privatisation of Lagos water, an argument that has been raging for years and had led to several protest actions by Civil Society Organisations in the state.

“We have always held that the reasons why Lagos residents lack water are artificial and deliberately schemed to pave way for privatisation. The use of tax payers money should be governed by transparency to the minute detail. The fact that vital information on spendings on the Lagos Water Corporation’s so-called rehabilitation by successive administrations, particularly the last administration are hoarded and hidden from the same tax payers draws suspicion.

“We demand an investigation of the contracts and the process of the awards themselves. Lagosians must know their enemies,” Jakpor said.

 

‘This Report was supported by The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism’

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