Michael Ale, the Chairman of Male Integrated Services, a company renowned for borehole water drilling and also the National President of Association of Water Well Drilling Rig Owners and Practitioners (AWDROP), in this interview by NURUDEEN ALIMI, speaks on the need for government to consider subsidising the drilling of borehole water across the country among other issues:
HOW would you assess water affordability by Nigerians and also funding by government?
My personal view which is non-empirical at the moment is that government is trying on its own best but basically most of the water supply activities from my assessment are basically from individuals. If you want to rate it from 1 to 5 you will allocate one per cent to government and the remaining four to self supply. So, from that you will understand that mostly the water supply situation is precarious as far as Nigeria situation is concerned. The statistics that is being paraded by different stakeholders especially the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), might be saying 70 per cent of Nigerians now have access to safe water supply, but from which source? is it from the government? It is not about the fact that we are having access, how much has this access being subsidised by government? Because in all saner climes water supply is being subsidised just like every other sectors such as petroleum are subsidised. These sectors that have direct impact on livelihood are subsidised for people so that many people can be taken out of poverty line. If all these are not done, then we cannot say we have good access to water supply because many people are sourcing it themselves.
Can you also share your thoughts on how sustainable are water projects in Nigeria as well as cost of getting access to water by the poor masses?
One of the bane of water supply across board especially when it comes to government agencies implementing projects. I could say that a lot of development partners such as the United Nations, Food And Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and so many of them get involved in water supply activities especially when it comes to borehole drilling in rural communities. Other development partners which are not internationally recognised such as local NGOs, CSOs and a host of them are actually getting these activities done. But the fact is sustainability, the base of sustainability is supervision and the other one is professionalism. Do we have professionals handling these projects? if we do not have, then it may not be sustainable. If we do not have the responsible clients, project executor or the project contractor or whoever that is in charge. If you do not get those group trained well to handle public projects then those project are bound to fail. We ha e several factors that militate against the sustainable infrastructural activities when it comes to water supply in Nigeria. If all these are properly addressed, I am very sure most of the bottlenecks being experienced would be a thing of the past. I think the Federal Government and all those concerned should see to the fact that this is properly done.
What are the impediments to achieving agenda 2030 and also what do you have to tell the government on the need to fast track development in the private sector funding to participate in water infrastructure sustainability for the poor?
The word development is ambiguous and it involves not only economic development but it talks about the knowledge development and it talks about the fact that you want to see that there is growth and you have improved when it comes to the aspect of science and technology. The main impediment to development as far as Nigeria is concerned is technology. We cannot say we are developing by commissioning classrooms and boreholes, that is not development. Development is something that has to do with economic prosperity, many developing countries are looking at economic prosperity, that is the way they measure their development and any development that does not include science and technology cannot be regarded as development. The impediment to Agenda 2030 is coordination of having science and technology embedded in our academic curriculum, if those things are not happening we still be like we are just repeating, so by the time it is 2030, we will be talking about 2060, so for me if we have a good leader that has interest in science and technology then we start inventing not that we are copywriting.
What is the relationship between renewable energy and water supply? Do they have anything in common?
It is not on water and renewable energy, it goes on the current industrial revolution. We have the first, second, third and the fourth industrial revolution. The fourth industrial revolution is about renewable energy and internet and from the first to fourth is about creation of energy sources. The first is about mechanisation, second about oil and gas and the third one is about machinery while the fourth is about renewable energy. So when you look at it, there is no water without energy. If there is no power in a particular community, it means you will need human energy to raise that water up. If I want to reduce the burden, I put solar or I put power generator, in that case I have broken that energy source that is I want to reduce the time it is taking you and the energy to get that water. Energy and water are siamese twins of which you cannot remove one from the other, as a matter of fact, without energy there is no water.
Talking about city resilience plan, what is it all about?
Basically, on the city resilience plan, I must say that despite the fact that we have uncoordinated development happening in the cities, Oyo State has been recorded as the most entrepreneural developing cities in Nigeria. But we must definitely look at it that as much as we keep having such opportunities, there are threats to every opportunity we have. So in the face of perceived threat there must be the need for us to have resilient plan and resilient plan has to do with looking at the issue of risk and assuming that as much as these risks are coming up, we look at them as perceived risks then we must build a resilient plan against them. And some of these risks are banditry, local thuggery and other activities that we are having all over the cities where you have such economic opportunities. Again, we have to look at the issues that have to do with deforestation, urban planning because as you keep expanding, you are destroying the forest and you are turning everything into houses. I think what the government should do now is to give a mandate that every house must plant a tree. And in that bid, even if you have many houses in the three to five years you will have the shade of that tree and then we could have more of those credits as government a nd I think it is better for us because that will definitely be helping us in reducing carbon emission. It is advisable that government should make it a policy and as part of the resilient plan that every house should at least plant one or two trees.
Would you say there is improvement in the quality of service rendered by borehole drillers in the country?
We are even deteriorating because the government is not concerned about what is happening. Let me sound a note of warning that the mess that we are causing, the Nigerian government would use their tissue paper to clean it. I mean the mess that the borehole drilling practitioners and the quacks are creating for this country. Because when you leave the activities of such a sensitive sector unchecked then you are impeding development, you are impeding development, investment opportunity, environmental sustainability, social interraction as well as economic opportunities. Most of the people in the industry are all-comers. All government needs to do is to subsidise the cost of drilling boreholes. So that we can have a very good effect on whatever we are doing.
What message do you have for the poor masses who do not have the financial strength to get a borehole water for themselves?
Like I said earlier, there is no any story about it, the cost of materials are really skyrocketing and that has to do with what is happening all over the world especially as it has to do with Forex. My advice is that government should subsidise the cost of drilling borehole to the poor masses. It is not about drilling in different communities but it is about them creating susbsidy because water is life and it is part of what they must do when it comes to the fact that they have to provide water for Nigerians, so it is very important that government subsidise the cost of drilling boreholes.
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