Paulinus Nsirim

DRY TAPS SET TO FLOW AGAIN IN RIVERS STATE

By Paulinus Nsirim

In continuation of his unwavering commitment to improve the living standards of Rivers people and prepare every sector in the State to be fully ready to adapt to the millennial challenges of a fast changing global society, the Rivers State Government, on August 31st, 2020, signed contracts for the rehabilitation and upgrading of water supply for Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas.

It has been universally acknowledged that water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself.

It is vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations. Water is a finite and irreplaceable resource in time and space and it is only available if well managed.

Where water is reliably available, economic opportunities are enhanced. Where water is unreliable or of inadequate quality, or where water-related hazards are present, there will be drags on growth.

Today, due to rapid population growth, economic development and other challenges that impact the natural resources, the value of water has increased dramatically and so, this project, which is expected to receive funding from the African Development Bank, AfDB, will not only upgrade 496 kilometers of pipeline which will produce 330,000 cubic metres of potable water per day, it will equally create over 1,200 direct jobs and 5,000 indirect jobs for Rivers people.

Managing Director And Chief Executive Officer, Port Harcourt Water Corporation (PHWC), Chief Ibibia Walter, signed on behalf of the Rivers State Government, while for the consortium of the three project contractors, Chen Kangle signed for CGC Nigeria limited, Yang Gengqi for Top International Engineering Corporation and Iskandar Taslakian signed for Mothercat Limited.

The need for a project of this nature and magnitude to be undertaken at a time like this cannot be over emphasised. Indeed one existential situation which many Rivers people have taken for granted is the fact that the Water Supply and Sanitation infrastructure in the State has been in poor and pathetic conditions for a long time, caused by years of neglect as well as decayed and limited pipe network.

The population of the State has also grown far beyond the existing old PWD initiated forty-year old network, with no new investment on the network over time and this has further been stretched by the urban centre which used to be the Old Port Harcourt Township, Diobu, and Borokiri now extended into most of Obio Akpor LGA, thus expanding the frontiers of the capital territory.

It has been said and also true that, “The type of access, quantum of water supply and quality of sanitation services available, determines the quality of life as well as health of the people and the potential for poverty alleviation”.

In Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor LGAs, water is either privately sourced or bought from water vendors (mai-ruwa) at very exorbitant rates with doubtful quality.

Realising that there is a lot of potential to produce sufficient water in the State due to a good recharge from our aquifers, yet the current production is not sufficient to meet the demand and spread of the city, the administration of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike keyed into the Urban Water Sector Reform and Port Harcourt Water Supply and Sanitation Project, to address this very heavy loss of the distribution network efficiency, poor quality of water supply and sanitation services.

The scope and benefits of this water project are quite impressive and it will also deliver the following:
(i) Ensure that the existing abundant water resources of the State are provided in a sustainable and affordable manner;
(ii) Improve the overall efficiency and strengthen the institutions to deliver services effectively whilst maintaining standards in terms of quality and quantity;
(iii) Promote the fact that water is both an economic good as it is a social good by encouraging and sensitizing customers to now pay for water to ensure the sustainability of the service for the future.

The infrastructure support components of this project aims at: fully rehabilitating and expanding the Port Harcourt water supply system and equally integrating environmental, climate change and green growth principles to ensure long term sustainability of the infrastructure.

Overall Sanitation Facilities will also be greatly improved with the provision of comprehensive sanitation structures in markets and motor parks, including toilets/bathrooms (with separate compartments for men and women), hand washing facilities, and treatment facilities (septic tanks and biodigestors).

New facilities will also be constructed at 23 markets, rehabilitated and expanded facilities will be provided at eight major motor parks, six slaughter houses have also been earmarked to receive facelifts with new hygienic and standardized abbatoir upgrades and the perculuar nature of our waterfronts, which have presented considerable sanitation challenges over the years, will be
addressed with new and modern facilities.

The construction of a pilot sewage/solid management system at Eagle Island, will be undertaken, as part of the Sanitation and Waste Water Management Plan under Component 3, and this will be complemented with an estimated 36 km network based waste system with a treatment capacity of 1000m3

Hygiene and Sanitation behavioural Changes across all sectors will be brought about through public campaign carried out together with the Rivers State Primary Health Care Management Board, Ministry of Education and the Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor LGAs, coordinated under an overall theme of “healthy city” or “clean and proud” or similar).

One of the most attractive and eagerly anticipated possibilities for Rivers people is the job creation capacity of this project which will open up exciting and very lucrative opportunities for Small-scale, Public Private Partnerships in the provision of public sanitation facilities.

With the uninterrupted flow of potable water, the management of the public sanitation facilities established under the project, will be outsourced to Small and Medium scale enterprises, as well as willing individuals in the form of management contracts, disposal and evacuation services and other similar arrangements. This will be undertaken in collaboration with the Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor LGAs (who will assume ownership of assets) and the Ministry of Women Affairs whose mandate and experience includes the promotion of women entrepreneurs.

The Port Harcourt Sanitation and Waste Water Management subcomponent will develop a comprehensive and integrated sanitation master plan, for sewage, solid wastes management and the devastating challenge of flood control and in line with the provisions of the Nigeria Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act Cap E12 LFN 2004, the AFDB’s Integrated Safeguard System (ISS) as well as the World Bank’s Operational Policies (OP) an ESIA has already been undertaken by the State Government through the Port Harcourt Water Supply Project to update the Report disclosed in 2013 and a final Draft of the Report has been completed.

Another futuristic attraction of this project is the preparation and updating of a Resettlement Action Plan in accordance with African Development Bank Operational Safeguard (OS2) and the World Bank Operational Policy (OP 4.12). This plan has already outlined procedures that the project proponent will follow and the actions to be taken to mitigate adverse effects, compensate losses where necessary and provide developmental benefits to persons affected by the Project (PAP), and communities there-from.

Governor Wike, speaking during the contract signing formalities, urged the contractors to mobilise to site preparatory for the expected project flag-off on the 1st of October, 2020.

“Let me warn, in Rivers State, we do not compromise with quality of work viz-a-viz timely delivery of contracts. I shall be visiting all project sites unannounced, to monitor progress and compliance with specification.

“I am requesting the African Development Bank (AFDB) that will finance the project to do so with 100 per cent cost of net of taxes. The COVID-19 pandemic presented huge challenges, as the accruable revenues both to Federal Statutory Allocation and Internally Generated Revenue has dropped.

“The Commissioner of Water Resources and Rural Development and the Managing Director of Port Harcourt Water Corporation should engage AFDB with the view to get the Bank to finance 100 percent of the cost of the project net of taxes.

“I am aware that the loan closing date is April 2021. I am directing the commissioner and the managing director to submit application to the Federal Ministry of Finance and AFDB to extend the duration of the loan by two years to enable full implementation of all components of the urban water sector reform.

“They should further engage AFDB with a view of restoring the works at Trans-Amadi, Abuloma, Woji and Elelenwo regrettably cancelled by other Development Partners, ” he stated.

The Rivers State Governor, while assuring that he would not hesitate to fully implement the PHWC restructuring and organisational build-out report, also pointed out that his administration has opened a new phase of commitment to reposition water supply serviced across the state and affirmed that through the project thousands of Rivers people would be engaged directly and indirectly throughout the life span of the project, with the multiplier effect filtering into other communities as expansion spreads across the state.

Commissioner for Water Resources and Rural Development, Dr. Tamunosisi Gogo-Jaja said the project would have four new devices reservoirs located at Rumuola, Diobu, Moscow and Borikiri in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor, adding that there would be eight elevated tanks with carrying capacity of about 1000 to 1500 cubic meters of water and about 17 boreholes in about six cluster areas connected to water treatment plants, amongst other functional and operational structures.

The Commissioner, who noted that the Rivers State Government has taken a vigorous step in addressing the challenges of providing potable water supply and sanitation in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas through the launching of the Port Harcourt Water Supply and Sanitation project (PHWSSP) in April, 2016, declared that the project which is executed with credit facility provided by the African Development Bank (AFDB) and the International Development Association (World Bank) has helped to improve service delivery to over 2 million residents in these areas.

“Expectedly, the water from this project will be potable, environmentally friendly and steady when the project is completed. It will also be provided from a controlled transportation of water to the various households within the project area,” Dr. Tamunosisi Gogo-Jaja noted.

He confidently expressed joy and gratitude that Governor Nyesom Wike, who has always believed in the popular maxim that ‘water is life’, has ensured that the project comes to fruition without any external influence on the Bidding and Procurement Process.

The Managing Director of Port Harcourt Water Corporation, Chief Ibibia Walter, said his team worked assiduously within eight months to secure the contractors trusted to execute the project and thanked Governor Wike for his commitment to ensure that rural dwellers access potable water in the State.

Speaking for CGC Nigeria limited, Chen Kangle who expressed gratitude to the governor for the trust in his company to handle the projects, assured of timely delivery. Yang Gengqi who spoke for the Top International Engineering Corporation said they have been in Nigeria since 2017 and are confident to deliver a quality project, while for Mothercat Limited, Iskandar Taslakian, pledged to engage indigenous workers on their sites.

With the signing of the rehabilitation and upgrading of water supply project for Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor capital territory areas, Governor Nyesom Wike has once again astounded his detractors and naysayers with his astute administrative and visionary leadership acumen, by providing holistic governance which accommodates all sectors of the society and ensures that the delivery of social welfare and infrastructural dividends are not only comprehensive but have been equally designed and tailored in anticipation of the unfolding challenges and impact of globalization on an oil rich state like Rivers State.

Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

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Am Flamboyant. Oku!

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