Inside 56-year-old Ogbomoso waterworks begging for government attention

Over fifty years ago, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola inaugurated a water project on Yaku land in Ogbomoso (now Oyo State) under the Western Nigeria Water Corporation. SUNDAY ADEPOJU, who visited the site, reports that the project is now an eyesore and needs government intervention.

 

On October 10, 1964, almost 56 years ago, the then Premier of the old Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, inaugurated the Ogbomoso Waterworks Project on Yaku land in Ogbomoso North Local Government Area of Oyo State. The project, as one of the legacies of the old Western Region, greatly served the people in terms of provision and regular supply of potable water, Nigerian Tribune learnt.

When states were created by General Yakubu Gowon, the project was subsumed under Oyo State Water Corporation. Under Ogbomoso district, there are schemes such as the one in Yaku, Ogbomoso, another one in Ajinapa, Ogbomoso and that of Igbeti in Oke-Ogun zone of the state. That of Yaku is the district headquarters.

Historically, the Water Corporation of Oyo State evolved out of the then Western Nigeria Water Corporation through the enabling Water Corporation of Oyo State Edict number 24 of 1977, and as reviewed by the Water Corporation of Oyo State (Amendment) Law of 2006.

According to information on the corporation’s website, the vision of the state corporation is “to be the leading water utility in Africa.” Also, the corporation states the following as its strengths: available production capacity, manpower to handle all production stages at the waterworks, competent information technology and billing staff, existing customer base that creates high demand for treated water, and production process that conforms to the World Health Organisation guidelines and Nigerian standards.

Issues listed as affecting its performance include, the (then) ongoing road expansion works which destroyed and buried distribution networks and resulted in leaks and bursts and creating dry zones; lack of enough repair materials; dilapidated treatment plants; electromechanical breakdown, and unreliable power supply.

Various reasons have been given by stakeholders for the current state of the water corporation. Residents of the host community lamented that despite the contributions of the project in the past, successive administrations in the state have paid little or no attention to funding and upgrading of the facilities.

For instance, after the inauguration of the project by the government of the Western Region in 1964, the first renovation only took place during the regime of a military administrator of Oyo State, Compol (Prince) Amen Edore Oyakhire, and was inaugurated on Thursday, April 8, 1999, 35 years later. The renovation was done under the National Water Rehabilitation Project. Again, another attempt at renovating the project was made towards the end of the tenure of Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala as governor.

Speaking on the state of the facility, a senior citizen in the community, Mr Akinkunmi Hassan, said: “If Alao-Akala were not an indigene of Ogbomoso, maybe no attempt would have been made to renovate the project since the return to civil rule in 1999. I think successive administrations might have been embezzling the funds meant for the project.”

On Mr Hassan’s claim on possible embezzlement of funds meant for the project, while addressing the managing director of the water agency, Mr Samuel Adegboyega, on the floor of the Assembly in 2019, the speaker of the House, Honourable Adebo Ogundoyin, said: “From this report, your agency awarded 13 contracts between 2011 and 2019, which is eight years. But to my amazement, none of these 13 contracts was awarded towrds the end of the tenure of the last administration. These contracts were awarded and about N1.3 billion was released within five months to different contractors, yet water is still not flowing in our pipes across the state.”

 

waterworksGovt should rescue the project – Baale Yaku

Residents of the host community lamented that the project is gradually becoming an abandoned project because of the stagnancy of the state of facilities. Historically, the Yaku royal family of Ogbomoso donated the land upon which the project was sited in the sixties. Baale Yaku in Ogbomoso, Chief Joseph Oyewale Ojo, told Nigerian Tribune that the project still begs for the attention of the Oyo State government and the local government areas in Ogbomoso zone.

“May I draw the attention of the Oyo State government to the deplorable state of the waterworks project in Ogbomoso. In those days, our family gave the land on which the project was sited to the government of the Old Western Region in the early sixties to assist the government in improving the lives of the people of Ogbomoso. What we did enjoy in those days is gradually becoming history. Nowadays, anybody who visits the site of the project will notice that there is no significant difference from what was on ground when Chief S.L. Akintola inaugurated the project in 1964,” Chief Ojo narrated.

With nostalgia, the traditional ruler recounted: “When the Ogbomoso waterworks started operation, residents of Ogbomoso were enjoying potable water; the taps were running. In fact, some youths below the age of 27 in Ogbomoso may not tell the story of the usefulness of the tap water because they never experienced it. It is not functioning and this is a sad case. Even, many people can’t believe that the water corporation of the state government still exists because the impact of the dam we have in Ogbomoso is not well felt. When the project came on board then, we were enjoying the utility.

“Therefore, I, on behalf of the people of Ogbomoso and the immediate host community, Yaku, implore the present Oyo State government to be merciful on us on the waterworks in the Ogbomoso district of the corporation. I still want to say that, perhaps, the government has not been monitoring the capital injected into it, and that is even if any money has been voted for it. It is either the government has not done enough or the money has always been misappropriated by government officials.

“As the state government has a role to play, so also do the local governments. In addition, the Ogbomoso community also has a role to play, but the state government has to start first. There are associations and groups in the community that can also play a role in developing the water project.”

Speaking on the moribund state of the project, a resident of the community, Mr Segun Ayoola, said: “As it is, the roads leading to the waterworks, from Ikoyi and Aare-Ago roads, are not motorable and are in dire need of government intervention. The government should help us to grade and tar the roads.”

 

‘Rehabilitation, regular water supply will boost government’s IGR’

In separate interviews, residents advised the government to take measures aimed at transforming the fortune of the waterworks, stressing that if there is regular supply of water, people will subscribe to it and the government’s internally generated revenue (IGR) will be improved.

For Mr Adewole Alagbe, a businessman, “To avoid the exorbitant amount that people spend on sinking boreholes, there should be a paradigm shift. The government and all of us must go back to a system of the waterworks and the government should ensure that there is regular water supply. By doing so, government’s revenue will increase. On the issue of borehole that has become the order of the day, we must also look at the risk of earthquakes as experts have claimed.”

A student, Tobi Asamu, corroborated thus: “Before any measure of increase in IGR through the waterworks, the concerned authorities should ensure that pipes reach every nook and cranny. Not only that, as a stakeholder, companies in charge of electricity supply should ensure that there is regular supply of electricity so that the amount of money spent on diesel will be diverted to other areas of maintenance. Also, the power voltage should be full.”

Explaining that people would patronise the water corporation if supply is constant, a federal civil servant who pleaded anonymity stated that the corporation’s billing system is moderate and more economical, compared to the utility that residents will enjoy. He also explained that the Ogbomoso water project is a tourist site.

He said: “For the project which was inaugurated in 1964, it should be a tourist centre and students as well as tourists will throng the site for excursion and this will boost the state’s IGR,” adding that government should put the required facilities in place so that more will be learnt by the students and tourists who visit the site.

 

In our little way, we’ll contribute – Ogbomoso LG/LCDA bosses

Nigerian Tribune spoke with council chairmen in Ogbomoso zone and they expressed their readiness to assist the project collectively. The caretaker chairman of Ogbomoso North Local Government Area, Alhaji Ibrahim Ajagbe, said: “When Chief Alao-Akala was a local government chairman, he coordinated all the other chairmen of Ogbomoso zone and each of the chairmen was contributing N200,000.00 monthly. By then, I was his supervisory councillor for works. Also, when he became the governor, he still directed all the chairmen to contribute to the development of the waterworks in Ogbomoso.”

He maintained that though the waterworks is the responsibility of the state government, “because it is one of the legacies of the old Western Region, the local governments supported it.”

He continued: “I’m aware that there is power problem and I learnt that the power must be on before water can be channelled to Osupa axis. From there will be redistribution of water to other communities in Ogbomoso.

“I will say that all of us – the 12 chairmen of the zone – will sit and deliberate on how we can contribute our quotas in any way, however small it is. I’m confident that the state government, under the control of the friend of the masses, Seyi Makinde, will work on the water corporation of the state generally. On the state of the roads leading to the site of the waterworks, we will look into it and start from grading. Recently, I went there to inspect the place and I saw that the roads are in a bad state.”

According to the caretaker chairman of Ogbomoso Central Local Council Development Area, Mr Oluwaseun Adeyinka, certain problems of the Ogbomoso waterworks must be fixed before the input of the chairmen.

He said: “First, pertinent questions come in here. What is the state of the said waterworks? What is the coverage area of the utility? The management of the waterworks should sort out those challenges so that we will not just be wasting money. Truth be said, it is beyond what the local government here can shoulder completely. If the identified challenges are looked into by the state water corporation, we will support the project.

“It will be a thing of joy if water runs through our taps and pipes. Earlier, they had come to me, asking me to deliver letters to my colleagues. They said they needed our support, and this is quite understandable. God willing, we will assist.”

 

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