There is no water in Lagos. Let us rephrase – there is too little potable water in Lagos. This of course is a glaring irony considering the fact that Lagos is a coastal city with several rivers, and the only Lagoon in Nigeria running through it.
Lagos also boasts of having the largest water plant in Africa – the Adiyan water works, with an installed capacity of 70 million gallons of water per day. Add to this the first water system in the state built in Iju and several other smaller plants, and we have a combined output of 210 million gallons per day of water in Lagos.
Breakdown of the problem of water in Lagos
The state requires in excess of 540 million gallons per day to meet demand. While this gives the impression that almost 40% of the state’s water requirements are met, the reality is very different. Firstly, the infrastructure – piping is simply not installed in most places. Where available, installed pipes have been destroyed by vandals.
Secondly, the power (electricity) required to pump water to the metropolis is epileptic, forcing the authorities to resort to the use of expensive diesel generators.
So we have found the root causes of the problem. All we need to do now is try to solve them and all will be well. Sadly, the issues run a little deeper than these simplified problems identified by the authorities. The problem in fact is almost exclusively political.
According to a 2015 Bloomberg report, the lack of potable water in Lagos and the rest of Nigeria cost 20 times more lives in 2014 than Boko Haram! This is the extent of the water problem in the country. Why then is the government not allocating a proportional amount of money to the problem?
Let us return to Lagos. The previous administration spent billions of Naira developing a wonderland playground for only the richest people in the country – Atlantic City. It is set to rival the world’s best showpiece centres like Dubai upon completion. Another (mis) priority, the beautification of Lagos especially at christmastime was said to have cost the state several billions of naira over the course of 8 years.
Where then is the (political) will to do good by the electorate? The common people who toil largely in vain in Lagos? That migration to Lagos is putting a strain on resources and infrastructure is not an admissible excuse. The same large population is responsible for earning the state the largest IGR (internally generated revenue) in the country by far. Take the rough with the smooth.
But here’s the thing – pipe borne water is a far less glamourous achievement for a government than a shiny new city. It isn’t much of a physical legacy either.
Governor Ambode is on track to be the most successful governor in the history of the state. Short of a devastating blow to the head or the remote machinations of a very powerful ‘jazzman’, this goal will be achieved. And it will be acknowledged by the vast majority of Lagosians by the end of his first term. But he has to keep an eye on the little-big things too.
The governor’s handling of the water situation, which frankly can and should include partial privatization, will go a long way to determine the fate of his administration. Plainly put, he runs the risk of sinking with the super structures favoured by big business.
On the other hand, he can swim with the vast multitude of voters who he must turn to in the next 3 years for political sustenance. The governor should literally now ‘pour water on the ground’ for his people. The people who truly matter.