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Sokoto Residents Buy Water From Boreholes Funded By Federal Lawmaker

Abstract: Residents of the Shuni and Mahe communities are purchasing water from boreholes built by a lawmaker via the Zonal Intervention Projects.

When residents of Shuni in Dange-Shuni Local Government Area of Sokoto State saw construction workers on-site in April 2021, they marvelled in joy. Soon, that hard labour expended in getting water from the well and other sources would soon stop, they had thought. But their joy was short-lived.

“We found out that it’s not free, we have to buy water from them,’’ Lauwali Muhammadu, a 45-year-old resident said. Like other residents of Shuni, Mr Lauwali buys water from the borehole daily for domestic uses.

According to the 2020 national budget, the communities were billed to benefit from new boreholes under the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The boreholes were indeed sunk but residents cannot access the water source without paying.

“We buy N10 or N20 per jerry-can and thousands of other nearby areas usually gather their things in a long queue to buy water from this borehole every day,’’ Mr Lauwali said. Jerry cans, which come in different litres, are containers used by many Nigerians to fetch water.

Apart from Shuni, a neighbouring community, Mahe also got a new borehole. The community dwellers also buy from the government-funded borehole.


Why are residents charged to access water?


Speaking to UDEME, the Mahe community chief, Usmanu Mahe, said the water was free for all at the beginning but the need to self-provide electricity informed the charges.

“The solar panels that the contractors put are not enough for the borehole here at Mahe.  As a result of that, it’s hard for even one tank to be full. That’s why we suggested that we should collect money so that it can help us to pump more water, said the community leader of Mahe, one of the borehole beneficiary communities at Dange-Shuni Local Government.

In 2020, N20, 922, 000 was allocated for the provision of boreholes, toilets in markets, and schools in the Dange/Shuni Local Government Area of Sokoto State. The project was sponsored by Hon. Balarabe Shehu Kakale, the lawmaker representing Bodinga, Dange/Shuni and Tureta federal constituency. 

Document from the office of the Accountant-General shows that all ZIPs for 2020 are fully funded, meaning that the whole amount for the project has been released.

However, when the reporter visited the location of the boreholes in the Shuni and Mahe communities, he witnessed that people buy water from those two boreholes.  

UDEME tried to reach the lawmaker who facilitated the project but calls and messages attempted to his line were not answered.

Aliyu Abubakar, the maintenance manager, who is in charge of the borehole at the Shuni market area explains why they charge money for fetching.

“Yes! We are selling water for people and since the borehole was built in 2021, nobody or any politicians supported us to pump water. We are using the money for maintaining the generator. We just need to be collecting something to take responsibility,’’ Mr Aliyu said.


How residents buy water


At the Shuni market borehole, Maisango Aliyu toils for water every day for the use of his family of two wives and 10 children.

A peasant farmer, Mr Aliyu spends at least N100 daily to buy water from his meagre earnings from the farm.

‘’If I have money, I use to buy 10 jerry cans every day and we buy each jerry can at the rate of N10 to 20. Now that my business has stopped. I find it uneasy buying the water,’’ Aliyu said.

Another resident of the Mahe community, Malami Usmanu is happy the borehole affords him easy access to water. Like some other residents who spoke to UDEME, Mr Usmanu is not aware that a government-funded ought to be free.

“Providing this borehole has made it easier for us to buy water from a closer spot, compared to when we brought it at the rate of twenty-naira per jerry can from a far distance,” Mr Usmanu, who buys a minimum of 20 jerry cans per day.


Commercialising public property against the law


Doyinmola Ogundokun, a lawyer, said the people selling water from government-funded boreholes are guilty of the offence of a civil crime called ‘nuisance.’ This is included in the penal code, section 198 of public nuisance and it’s the law that governs criminal acts in the Northern states.

“Section 183 of the penal code defines a public nuisance as a person who does an act which is guilty of an illegal act which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public. Because the boreholes are built for the convenience of the general population but some persons are gaining wrongfully from that project and the penal defines wrongful gain as a public nuisance,” he said.

He added that punishment for such an act, which is one-year imprisonment or fine or both, is spelt out in section 198 of the penal code.

Auwal Musa, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) and head of Transparency International in Nigeria said that adequate provision of social amenities, like potable water, constitutes the major purpose and function of government and should be freely accessed by the people.

“Provision of social service at the community level like a borehole drilled from public funds, primarily to bridge the gap in water supply, is expected to be provided free of charge to the people. Any attempt to milk revenue from the community through such service must be reported and thoroughly investigated; as an effort to alleviate people’s suffering should not be commercialized,” he said.

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution, the agency that supervised the project, could not be reached. When contacted through the number on its website, the receiver commented that the line wasn’t that of the agency. The agency could not be reached via its Twitter handle as well.

Keywords: Boreholes, Sokoto, Nigeria’s north-west, Zonal Intervention Projects

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