Ifeoma gave a historical background to the Universal Declaration of Human right to water. The United Nations General Assembly resolution in July 2010 recognized the human right to water and sanitation. This means that States ought to respect, protect and fulfil citizens’ right to safe water and sanitation.
Globally, 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe water and 4.2 billion do not have access to a safe toilet. Particularly, 152 million people out of a population of 200 million are without access to safe water in Nigeria.
#ClaimYourWaterRights is sponsored by End Water Poverty and led by Hope Spring Water Charity Foundation in Nigeria and Enugu being the pioneer State. The campaign sensitizes people to know their water rights and claim it. Also ensuring that people have access to safe water irrespective of their class, gender, background.
What do human rights imply when we talk about water provision?
Temple: Human rights can be leveraged on to get the desired result When you say access to clean water is a human right, it means there is a legal backing for you to ask the person responsible for providing you water, questions. Answers must be provided to your questions demanding that water be provided for you and if there’s any lapse in providing that amenity (clean water) you as the right holder have the right to question why there’s a lapse in the provision of water.
Human rights to water do not mean that water is free, you have the right to ask questions that water be provided but you also must have the willingness and ability to pay for the water services being provided to you.
Human rights mean access to water several communities in Enugu are not connected to pipe-borne water, if you know you are capable of paying for this service, you have the right to approach the state water board and ask questions.
Is water a basic human right?
Temple: Yes water is a basic and fundamental human right as declared by the UN resolution 10 years ago which recognizes access to clean drinking water and sanitation as a fundamental human right, Nigeria signed this resolution which means they recognise that access to clean drinking water and sanitation is a fundamental human right and obligated under the international law to provide citizens with these services.
How well do you think people are aware of the fact that they have the right to access clean water?
Temple: Many Nigerians and developing countries are alien to the human right to water. This topic is so new to many people in Nigeria, especially during our advocacy campaigns. This is the capacity gap the ClaimYourWaterRights is trying to fill in Nigeria.
This campaign aims to sensitize Nigerians about the existence of human rights to clean drinking water and sanitation. We hope this campaign will get enough Nigerians to demand their rights and also ask questions as to why they do not have access to clean drinking water and sanitation.
Are there laws that should be passed by the state house of assembly to ensure that citizens rights to water are protected?
Temple: There is a national water resources bill that recognizes access to clean drinking water as a human right, At the national level Though it is not stated in a way that leaders can be held accountable by the legal bodies. At the moment the bill is yet to be passed and still with the national assembly.
The state is duty-bound to provide clean water and sanitation to the citizens. Enugu state government has been engaged through the ministry of water resources since the beginning of the campaign. Also, communities have been visited to understand their plight and get enough evidence to engage the state ministry of water resources which subsequently led to the declaration of a state of emergency in the WASH sector.
The next line of action should have been passing this policy to aid the intervention they aim to do and for the people to have access to clean drinking water.
Should we be talking about payment when the supply for water is not available yet?
Temple: Right now the focus should be on tackling the issue of water production to ensure there is enough water for the people of the state and tariff will not be an issue. Engaging with the ministry of water resources we discovered they do not have enough production from Ajali or Oji treatment plants as they are working below capacity, coupled with other abandoned water projects that need to be attended to.
The AFD project that is meant to tackle the challenges of the Ajali and Oji sources to bring it back to working in full capacity is meant to last for five years. While we are waiting for the AFD project, the 9th-mile crash program is also an abandoned source that should provide water to the people. Recently there have been efforts to get the 9th-mile scheme to start working and this means that before the completion of the AFD project there should be a reasonable increase in the supply of water in Enugu.
How can the government control the issue of water tanker drivers?
Temple: To get things right again, the government needs to bring the water board to work in full capacity to supply water to people in their homes. There could also be a collaboration with the water tankers, while the state water corporation is supplying the urban areas, the water tankers can be supplying the rural and small urban areas.
There is a provision for Enugu state water regulatory commission, they are supposed to be responsible in regulating the activities of the water tankers, presently, there is no regulation guiding the operation of the water tankers, there is no stated difference between the water tankers and the tankers for faecal sludge evacuation; no one checks if these tankers are interchanged or not.
The quality of water we consume has a huge role to play in our health and to do that we need a regulatory body to check the quality of water being supplied by the tankers. They also regulate the activities of the state water corporation.
What would you advise households to do in order to get safe drinking water since the law hasn’t been passed yet?
Temple: Paying better attention to the quality of the water they consume. treat the water they consume either through boiling, filtering or use of chemicals. Although it’s not the right thing to do, it is expected that the water from the water corporation should be of good quality and not have a negative impact on the health of the people.
More effectiveness in state water corporation, we should be pushing for a sustainable solution to get the state water corporation to work in full capacity
Do human rights prohibit the private provision of water and sanitation services?
No, it doesn’t, what it does is to check it to ensure it is affordable, readily accessible and of the right quality. If you have a private company that supplies water, it is expected that there would be a regulatory body that checks the quality, quantity, affordability, accessibility of the water being provided.
The human rights reinforce that the water provided should be of the right standard. To start any reform in Enugu state water sector, the water law needs to be passed, and the regulatory commission that needs to do all these checks has to be effective in carrying out their duties’’
Would you agree with me that there has been a disparity between the ministry of water resources and the state water board regarding operational modalities and implementation?
Temple: I wouldn’t have the information about the disagreement between them, but the state water corporation is an agency under the state ministry of water resources. it is expected that the ministry oversees whatever activity the state water board is carrying out.
There’s a structure in the state ministry of water resources and it consists of other agencies who also ought to report to the ministry. So there should not be a disparity or disagreement between a state ministry and an agency under it, except there are no rules guiding them.
Should the regulatory commission be domicile directly under the state government or should it be under the ministry of water resources?
The Enugu state water regulatory commission should report directly to the governor through the SPA who works directly with the governor, so the ministry doesn’t end up being the lawyer and the judge on its own matter. It will help checkmate the issue of sabotage or enticement from happening in the ministry. Also, the water law clearly stated the roles of the various agencies thus: ENRUWASA: supply water to rural communities State Water Board: supply water to Enugu metropolis Small Town Unit: supply water to semi-urban areas.
Should privatizing water be the next point of call or should partnership be used to ensure the availability of water in Enugu?
Temple: Partnership is the best, leaving it to just privatization would not solve the problem. Looking at the PHCN he mentioned, you can see the negative impact it is having on the energy sector, there is this non-alignment between the private companies and the government in terms of provision, there’s quite a lot of mixture in the structure. I would recommend in terms of water supply is having a public-private partnership
Response from caller
Peter from Abakpa: Everyone uses well water in Abakpa. Water supply should be privatized just like electricity, one contractor for a particular location, we all eat dirt daily.