Shalewa Alabi, an indigene of Oyo State, is tired of lamenting the poor state of public water supply in the Bariga area of Lagos State where she lives. The food business of the 39-year-old widow, who has five children, has suffered a setback since public water supply suddenly ceased in the area.
“We depend on the government for water, but for the past four months, we have not had water supply and we can’t afford to continue to buy borehole water. I live here with my aged in-laws and we are poor; only rich people can afford to rely on buying water from vendors.
“It has really affected my business because I have to buy water from vendors who sell in kegs. And I know there is no way I can increase the price of my food, as my customers would complain.
“When we used to get water from the government, I used to complain that it was dirty because I had to boil it every time before I could cook with it, but now I need it more than ever because the cost of buying water from Mai ruwa (water vendors) is too much. Every week, I make a profit of about N9,500, and I have to buy kegs of water worth N3,500, it won’t be good for my business. Also, my children depend on me for everything; there is no form of financial support from anybody,” she said.
Water supply in some areas of Lagos including Bariga, Lawanson, Ojodu, Ketu, Mile 12 have experienced disruptions, a situation that has lasted for over two months.
On November 8, 2018, in a statement posted on its website, the Lagos State Water Corporation assured residents of the state that it would soon restore water supply.
Its Managing Director/CEO, Muminu Badmus, blamed the disruption on the repairs of leakages at the LWC Akute Intakes, which he said was adversely affecting water production and supply at the facility in Adiyan area of the state.
Badmus had promised that water supply would soon be restored across the state, while stressing that the corporation was expediting steps towards ensuring that the leakages were fixed promptly.
He said Adiyan Waterworks was crucial to water supply in the state as it had the largest waterworks supplying 70 million gallons of water per day to residents of the state and its environs.
However, many residents of the state have insisted that water supply to their areas have not been restored.
For Moruf Adejokun, who operates a car wash in the area, the pressure from residents looking for water has made him to start selling water. He used to manage only a car wash but a section of the place has now been converted to where people can buy water.
“This place was opened solely for the purpose of operating a car wash business. But when the shortage of water in Bariga got worse, most of the residents started sending their children to my car wash to fetch water in buckets and kegs.
“Initially, I would give them water for free but when the electricity situation got worse, I had to start selling it, which is why there is a section here for people to buy water and the queues are usually long,” he said.
The situation is probably worse in Ketu and Mile 12 areas of Lagos as some of their residents, who earn below the minimum wage, have had to pay through the nose to get clean water.
Chidera, a cleaner in a private school around Shangisha, said she was finding it difficult to buy water because of competing needs.
“I just finished spending a lot of money on my last son who had diarrhoea recently. I suspect he contracted that disease from the water we got from the well in my neighbour’s house. The well is used by so many people and it looks like it will soon dry up. After my son fell ill, we stopped getting water from there. Now, I have no choice but to buy water from vendors; meanwhile, I only earn N12, 500 monthly, so it has not been easy for me at all,” she said.
Following the recent metering system introduced by the LWC, low density areas are expected to pay 200 per cubic metre equivalent to 1,000 litres, high density areas pay 260 per cubic metre, while commercial users pay 350.
Speaking to our correspondent, a water vendor, who is a native of Kaduna and resident in Bariga, Adamu, said he had made a lot of money from supplying water to people in the area. He said his duty was to supply them water every morning and evening.
“I have made a fortune from this business because many need water and I deliver water to some on a regular basis – every morning and evening,” he said.
Asked about the hygienic measures he takes to ensure he supplies his customers with potable water, he boasted that his kegs were always kept clean.
“My kegs are always clean, even my customers trust me; I simply rinse them every morning before I put water in them. I am also aware that most of my customers boil their water before they drink it. But I can assure you that any water you buy from me is clean,” Adamu said, sounding pleased with himself.
Sitting adjacent to Adamu was Baba Fadare, who owned the tanks where Adamu and his colleagues fetched water from. Curious about what our correspondent was enquiring from Adamu, he joined in the conversation.
“Madam, if you want to buy water from any of these men, you can buy because we sell the purest water in this place. I always wash my tank at least once every six months and my customers have never complained about my water.
“People that depend on government to give them water in Bariga are wasting their time because even when there is public water supply, it is brown. It is only once in a while that they get clean public water.
“I know a lot of people who only use the water the government supplies to clean their toilet. A lot of people can’t even use the water to wash their dishes let alone boil it for drinking,” he added.
In Alapere and Ajegunle, two congested areas of Lagos Mainland, many families have settled for well as their major source of water.
Speaking to our correspondent, Callistus, an electrician, noted that it had been tough for him to get clean water.
“I had to look for people who dig wells to help me bring my abandoned well to life again. The well water is brown because of the frequency at which people fetch there. People come from different streets to fetch from this well; I can’t stop them because water is life.
“Since the water that comes out from the well is brown sometimes, we are left with no choice but to use it like that. After fetching water for a while, we leave the well alone so that the dirt can settle,” the father of three said.
Kemi and Tolu are currently youth corps members serving in an organisation in Ikeja. They were shocked when their landlord insisted they must pay a certain amount of money to enable him to dig borehole and install a water tank.
“Our landlord has been mounting pressure on us to contribute about N5,000 because he wants to dig a borehole in the compound. We told him we were only youth corps members and tenants, but he insisted that we must all fix the problem of water supply in the house.
“Most of our co-tenants have also been complaining; times are hard and it is not easy to raise N5,000 just like that. We always buy water from Mai ruwa, but we only use it to bathe as we boil it before drinking it. We don’t even bother to cook these days because we are trying to reduce water usage. Basically, we eat out.
“Water is a very scarce commodity these days; anytime we mistakenly leave our kegs of water outside our apartment, by the following morning, they won’t be there again,” they lamented.
Meanwhile, some young men who are professional ‘load carriers’, popularly called Alabaru, around the popular Mile 12 market, have abandoned that trade for a new one – selling water in kegs.
Speaking to our correspondent, Chinedu, who owns a business centre in Mile 12, where he sells water, described water scarcity as a major issue in the area.
“The demand for water in kegs is very high these days, so some of the young men who are known as Alabaru at Mile 12 market have joined the trade. Some of them even sell water at exorbitant prices because they are sure that some people will still buy from them. People pay them N500 for six kegs of water,” he said.
On July 26, 2017, it was reported that at least two people died, while 25 other residents received treatment in hospitals following an outbreak of cholera in three local government areas of the state. The state government said the cases came like the typical diarrhoea and vomiting associated with cholera. It blamed the outbreak on heavy rainfall being experienced at the time and the aftermath of flooding in the state.
Subsequently, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, said the outbreak had been traced to the Somolu, Oshodi-Isolo, and Surulere local government areas.
“Twenty-seven cases have been listed by our epidemiology/disease surveillance officers as of today, July 25, 2017. Two deaths were recorded from the 27 cases.” Idris said six cases were recorded in Somolu LGA, adding that one of the patients died. He explained that while four were managed at the Somolu General Hospital, one was managed at a private hospital, while one patient died at home.
“In Oshodi-Isolo LGA, two cases were recorded. One was managed at a private hospital and he survived, while one died at home. In Surulere LGA, 14 cases were reported and managed at Randle General Hospital. No death was recorded,” the commissioner had said.
The commissioner had added that two other cases were managed at the Mainland Hospital with no death recorded, while three cases were managed at the Gbagada General Hospital.
“The main suspected source of infection is the contamination of water sources with faecal matter from faulty septic tanks and soakaway, following the heavy rainfall in the state. Samples of well water have been collected and sent to the Lagos State Drug Quality Control Laboratory. We are still expecting the results,” Idris had said.
The commissioner asked people to use potable water, describing sanitation as critical to reducing the impact of cholera and other water-borne diseases.
“The clinical manifestations of cholera are nausea, profuse diarrhoea, vomiting (in early stages of illness), fever, and leg cramp. Later presentations are dehydration, shock or coma,” he had said.
When contacted, the Manager, Corporate Communication of the LWC, Rasaq Anifowoshe, said the corporation had released a statement immediately it discovered that there was shortage of water in some parts of the state.
“We released this statement immediately we discovered there was shortage of water in some parts of Lagos. I cannot specifically say the date when it started because I am not in the production department; however we discovered late last year,” he said.
However, another official of the corporation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Anybody complaining about brown water should check their reservoir and service pipe. We are currently working on expansion, our plant production capacity is about 210MDG, and it cannot serve all the residents of Lagos State.
“There are some parts of the state we cannot cover for now; that is why we are expanding to meet the water demand in the state. We started expanding since 2010. As I speak, we are not covering every part of the state; the government caters for other sectors like transportation and health, so they are trying.
“We assure residents of Lagos that within three days they will have a feel of the impact of public water. However, it may take time before it finally gets to some parts of Lagos immediately because all the pipes are dry. We also have leakages at some points; we can’t detect the source of the leakage until we start pumping water.”
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