Jigawa State Ministry of Water Resources made a claim in a report that potable water supply has increased to 90 percent in the state after spending nearly N6 billion to build and rehabilitate boreholes. Jigawa is now the first state in northern Nigeria where nearly all the residents have access to safe drinking water, according to the report.
But an investigation by WikkiTimes reveals that there is no truth in this claim. Many of the residents still do not have access to potable water after the state government claimed that 3,556 new boreholes had been constructed and 2,295 others rehabilitated in communities across its 27 local government areas since 2015.
In most of the communities visited by WikkiTimes, inhabitants still drink from dirty wells while the state is caught in the latest outbreak of cholera, a disease often caused by bacteria from contaminated water sources.
From Gwiwa, Roni to Mallam-Madori and Dutse, most of the hand pump boreholes that the state constructed were in ruins.
“Most government claims are mere propaganda,” said Sabastian Koladun, co-founder of Water for All Initiative in Northern Nigeria, a non-profit organization. “If the proper parameters will be used to check some of their claims, I am sure a lot will miss out from international funding,” he added.
When WikkiTimes asked the state government’s officials to respond to the findings, they blamed Unicef, the United Nations children’s agency, for the false claim. Unicef, however, identified a survey by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and the National Bureau of Statistics as the source of the claim.
Neglected communities and abandoned boreholes in Jigawa North-West
At Kael, a community in the northwestern part of Jigawa, villagers gathered round a tiny well, each taking turns to draw water from the well. The area does not have any boreholes constructed by the government.
“We have been drinking from this well,” said Umar Bawa, district head of Kael who was frustrated by the lack of potable water in his community. The well is situated at the outskirts of the community and most villagers must walk a long distance to get to the well.
In Firjin Yamma, another community, there are two boreholes provided by the government, but they are no longer functional. The boreholes broke down barely two years after construction, according to community leaders.
Muhammed Danjuma, a motorcycle rider and district head of Firjin Yamma, told WikiTimes that the boreholes were constructed after they begged the state government but their joy of having safe drinking water was short-lived.
“As we speak, we have gone back to drinking from the same well we abandoned. I am sure they will say we have benefited from their political promises,” Danjuma said.
Likewise, in Korau, a borehole was built but it was poorly constructed. When it broke down after its launch, the people returned to their previous unclean well.
Korau is about 10 kilometres away from Firjin Yamma. In this community, two hand pump boreholes were dug as part of the state’s water project.
“You can see for yourself, is it working?” Usman Maigari, district head of Korau asked about the borehole that had been abandoned. He added ironically: “Maybe you should push it yourself, magical water may come out.”
At Dan’Sure, the community does not have potable water because the two hand pump boreholes in the community had not been working. They were built about 10 years ago, according to Yunusa Kawo, the district head.
Kawo told WikkiTimes that “People buy water daily in this community but those who have their truck have to go as far as over one kilometre or two where the borehole is, and it is for business purposes only because it’s someone’s private property.”
Ahmadu Lilo who has been a water vendor for over 30 years pointed out: “I have been in this water business for over 30 years. We have always lacked water in our community. The government came with several promises to help but we are still here.”
Dilapidated boreholes in Jigawa North-East
At Kagadama in Roni Local Government Area, many of the residents buy water from mobile vendors because the hand pump boreholes provided by the government were in ruins.
Bala Abubakar, the community head of Kagadama said: “Sometime in 2017, three-hand pump boreholes were constructed for us. I can’t count how many times we have repaired them. Only one is working now.”
Another community Garin Gabas in Mallam-Mador Local Government Area has two dilapidated boreholes provided by the government.
A resident of the community Ibrahim Salisu told WikkiTimes the boreholes did not function up to a year after the construction and they started repairing the boreholes before they eventually abandoned them because of the cost of repair.
“We had to set up a committee, did monthly contributions for their repair and maintenance, but we can’t do more than we have done,” Salisu said.
Decrepit and shaky boreholes in Jigawa South-West
Residents of Takur’Aduaa, a community just behind the Government House in the state’s capital, depend mostly on water vendors as the boreholes are not working.
Silas Abraham, a resident, explained that the nearby borehole had not functioned since he relocated to the state for his national youth service. “I served here and have decided to stay back,” he said. “This borehole has never brought out water. I buy my water daily, but I don’t drink from it.”
Another resident Maimuna Bulama said that they once had two functional boreholes in the area. “They all went bad,” he said. “Since no one has come to repair them, we fetch from the well around us or buy from water vendors when we have the money to.”
In Kawaye, a community in the southwestern part of the state, the people are worried about the water they have.
“We were blaming our wives that they don’t know how to cook, that they take longer time in preparing our meals until we realized it’s the fault of the water from the well. It seems to contain something,” Bello Ahmad, district head of Kawaye told WikkiTimes.
“The water we have been using is badly contaminated,” Ahmad continued. “It is salty and has a terrible taste. We now have to send our children to one community very far away from here just to get water.”
Jigawa blames Unicef for the false claim
Labaran Adamu, managing director of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA) denied knowledge of the water scorecard that his agency published.
“We never conducted the survey which you are referring to that 90 percent of Jigawa residents now enjoy access to potable water supply,” he said. “Unicef contracted it to an independent body. We are aware they went and did the survey, but how they arrived at the 90 percent, we can’t tell.”
He said that it was not the responsibility of the agency to fix rundown boreholes. “After construction, we handed over the hand pump boreholes to the community, but when they come to complain that it’s bad, we send a team there to help detect the fault,” he said.
“It’s not our responsibility to fix it,” he continued. “Politicians are the cause because when they go to these communities for politics. The people are informed to always call on the government, yet no provision for it in the budget.”
Unicef acknowledged in an email that it has had a long partnership with the government of Jigawa State. “Over the years, UNICEF, with the support of partners like DFID (now FCDO) and EU, has facilitated the construction of many water facilities (handpump boreholes and solar motorized schemes).”
But Unicef noted that “There is the possibility of a breakdown of some of these water facilities due to the wear and tear of fast-moving parts, as some of these facilities were constructed many years ago.”
How then did the report that access to potable water has been increased to 90 percent? Unicef responded: “The Water Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) survey report of 2018 and 2019 put the level of access to basic water supply services at 90% and 92%, respectively (details can be found in the NORM report ww.unicef.org/nigeria). This survey is done by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), with the support of UNICEF.”
Despite the difference in semantics (access to potable water versus access to basic water supply) by the state and Unicef, both claims are false unless rundown boreholes that do not bring out water were counted as water supply in their surveys.
Monica Auta, water, sanitation and hygiene expert told WikkiTimes that governments at all levels have failed in providing potable water to Nigerians. “The level of water supply in rural communities in the country is poor, and the situation is pathetic,” she said.
From all indications, many of the residents of Jigawa State do not have access to potable water as claimed by the state government as well as the survey supported by Unicef. The boreholes provided by the state have broken down in almost all the communities visited by WikkiTimes.
This story was produced in partnership with the Civic Media Lab under its Grassroots News Project.