Abuja - President Goodluck Jonathan said on Monday that an estimated N350 billion (1.91 billion dollars) would be needed every year for Nigeria to meet the demand for portable water.
The President made the disclosure while declaring open a two-day Presidential Summit on Water with the theme ``Innovative Funding of the Water Sector in Nigeria’’.
Jonathan said his administration had made investments to boost various aspects of the sector, from the line budget and special funds dedicated to ecological matters and natural resources.
According to him, in 2011, N40.94 billion was budgeted and untilised on water sector.
He said that in 2012, over N43.6 billion was spent on water supply excluding expenditure on specific projects.
The President said the specific projects funded in 2012 included the Goronyo Dam - N3.4 billion; Kashimbila Dam - N38 billion; Gurara Dam and irrigation- N36 billion and Ife Dam - N3 billion.
In 2013, Jonathan said government proposed N39 billion from line budget to be spent on water related projects in addition to special intervention funds.
He, however, said that the fund spent had not achieved the desired results in the sector.
``Government is actually investing significantly in the water sector.
``However, the situation in our rural and sub-urban areas as regards access to clean water remains unacceptable.
``On the average, only one in five rural households has clean water at home.
``Most families collect water from unsafe sources, such as rainfalls, ponds, streams and rivers.
``It is estimated that over 350 billion naira (1.91 billion dollars) will be needed annually to meet our water and sanitation targets.
‘’In the current circumstance, I charge this conference, therefore, to look into other areas that we must work.
‘’Just like President Olusegun Obasanjo said, not just the politicians alone, not just members of the civil society alone, not just the private sector alone but for us to work together with the development partners to make sure that as a nation we have portable water for our citizens.’’
The President urged the Summit to explore new investment opportunities in the sector.
``It should examine how water projects can attract more financing and new technologies, from both public and private sources.’’
The Minister of Water Resources, Mrs Sarah Ochepe, said that the Summit was a personal initiative of the President for improvement in social services.
She said that similar initiatives in other sectors in the past one and half years had witness improvement in services, including power supply, rail and road networks, aviation infrastructure, housing and sports.
The minister said the initiative would assist the country in attaining drinking water and sanitation targets for MDDGs and for other multi-purpose uses of water.
Ochepe said the ministry had completed projects and initiatives in the water sector which would soon be commissioned and put into full use.
To open space and create opportunities for private sector participation, the minister said that the ministry had established a Public Private Partnership Unit last year.
She said that the unit was working with other relevant agencies to screen various water sector projects for concessioning.
``This will ensure better operation and management and thereby lead to increased production from such investments.
‘’These include existing water supply, irrigation and dam projects as well as new schemes that have been designed spread around the country. ’’
Niger Governor, Babangida Aliyu, hailed the initiative by the President and his team, noting that it would help in solving the challenge of making portable water available.
Aliyu recommended that the policy should be institutionalised in such a way that people who do not get access to portable water could drag government to court for redress.
He noted that that the challenge of the water sector was not availability but delivery of portable water for easy access by the poor.
The Governor said that the Summit should come up with suggestions that would favour the poor and would not be hijacked by the private sector for profiteering.
‘’Development is about people and government is about people, we should implement policies that are people-oriented.’’
Aliyu suggested that funds should be made available from Sovereign Wealth Fund to fund special projects targeted at enhancing supply of portable water to Nigerians.