You could feel the excitement in the air, see the smiles on their faces and hear their laughter as the people of Awakalla filled their jerry-cans with clean water from the taps.
Two old men and a young boy were seen standing at the taps, filling their jerry cans as the taps kept running.
Salisu Awakkala, a man in his late 60s, carrying two jerry cans connected with a stick which is perfectly balanced on his shoulders said the provision of the water has been a blessing to the people of the community.
“God-answered prayer to us. It made us feel like we are not forgotten after several years of pleading and outcry to the government on the water situation in our community.”
Indeed, God truly answered their prayer through the Zonal Intervention Project(ZIP), popularly known as constituency project, facilitated in 2020 by Musa Sarkin-Adar, a lawmaker representing Gada/Goronyo federal constituency. Wakulla is an agrarian community and a home of leafy environment in Goronyo Local Government Area of Sokoto State. It is about 38km away from the big Goronyo Dam.
Before the ZIP came to their rescue, the people had no access to safe drinking water. Their only source of water supply was a stream some distance to the community and downpour during the rainy season.
It takes about 30 minutes to get to the small river and this affected the school children mostly as they were constantly late to school because they had to fetch water before going to school.
For the women, household chores like cooking was a huge problem due to water scarcity. Members of the community were also exposed to the risks of snake bites and attacks by wild animals on their trips to the stream.
“The only available water before this project construction was flowing stream water. Our daughters and wives would trek at least two times daily for 15minutes to the stream to get water to do laundry and cooking.
“And considering the state of security here for some years now, no well-meaning father would be in peace whenever his daughters are plying that route to the stream alone. But what could we do? We were helpless. We must use water after all,” said Mr Awakkala.
But since the execution of the water project in the first quarter of 2021, Mr Awakkala and other residents of Awakalla no longer frequent the stream.
“Of course, the arrival of this borehole, even though it is the only source of water in the village save for downpour, has stopped us from going to that stream,” he told UDEME.
Water Scarcity in Nigeria
In Nigeria, according to UNICEF, contaminated water leads to diseases such as diarrhoea, which annually kills more than 70,000 children below the age of five, Over 45,000 children under five die annually from diseases caused by poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene, according to WHO data.
From major research and findings, it is understood that most children who suffered the mortality lived in rural areas, as development failed to reach the families, especially children in these areas.
UNICEF WASH specialist, Martha Hokonya, called for more investment in water supply, noting that the availability of safe drinking water contributes to increased health status.
UNICEF Communications Specialist in Nigeria, Geoffrey Njoku, pointed out that water is critical to children and human survival and therefore, must be accorded priority.
The Water Project
In 2020, the Zonal Intervention Project(ZIP) document captured a project titled, “Provision of 3 nos solar boreholes. 2 nos in Gada, 1 no in Goronyo LGA, Sokoto state, nominated by Honourable Musa Sarkin-Adar.”
The project, in which a sum of N30 million was budgeted for its execution, was inserted via the Office of Secretary of Government of the Federation(SGF) under the supervision of the Border Communities Development Agency(BCDA).
Meanwhile, a response sent by BCDA to the letter requesting details on the project states that a total sum of N29,838,481.81 was paid to Cee-dor Nigeria Limited for the project and indicated the current status of the project as ‘100% completion’ at Kyadawa and Tartakoi in Gada Local Government and Awakalla in Goronyo local government area.
At the project locations, UDEME observed that the designation of the lawmaker was wrongly captured as senator representing Sokoto West Senatorial district.
Communities in GADA Local Government Area
Like the people of Awakalla community, the residents of Kyadawa and Tatorkoi in the Gada Local Government of Sokoto State were among the 69 million Nigerians who do not have access to safe water and 19 million that walk long distances to get unsafe water from lakes, streams, and rivers as indicated by the 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) before the execution of the water project in their communities.
“Aside from the rain, that borehole is the only source of safe drinking water in this village,” 60-year-old Muhammad Idris said. He was referring to the solar-powered borehole built by the Nigerian government in Kyadawa, a hamlet in the Gada local government area of Sokoto State. The borehole was built as a constituency project of a federal lawmaker.
“The only other place we can get water from is from the hand-dug wells we have in this village for long. But the water from those wells is not clean and unfit for drinking.
“Most dwellers of this community always battled series of waterborne diseases like cholera especially during the harmattan because there was no good water and no rain except the one we fetch from the wells,” Mr Idris said.
Another resident of the community who identified himself as Habeeb Kyadawa described the borehole as a great privilege to the community. He said it has saved him a lot of stress.
“I can not drink from wells or even cook with the water and I no longer go to Gada town to buy water because of this borehole anytime I visit this village,” he said.
In Tatarkoi, Four Communities Are Benefiting from the Water Project
A visit to the project location in Tatarkoi village in the Gada local government area of the state revealed that the project was executed and serving the people of the community.
The first sight in this community is of women and children going to or returning from the borehole, holding or balancing on their heads buckets, basins or jerrycans.
Kabiru Tatarkoi, a resident of Tatarkoi village said the borehole is the second borehole they have that is serving four different communities: Tatarkoi, Gidan Lana, Gidan-To, and Kantaore of about 2,500 people and the provision of the solar-powered borehole for the community has reduced deaths and illnesses among children.
“Before the first borehole was not enough for us and most of the time we wouldn’t see the water if we go there to fetch because it is using light and the only way to get water was for us to trek to a distance of about 30-35 minutes before we can have a bucket of water from a nearby river The situation was bad because the water(from the river) is not clean and mere looking at it you will know it is not suitable for the body.
“When they brought the borehole, we were very excited because at least, it will provide us with clean water and also save us the trouble of walking long distances to the river and this has reduced the rate of sickness, particularly among our children,” Kabiru said.
UDEME tried to get the reaction of the lawmaker regarding the successful execution of the projects he facilitated for members of his constituency, but the number available on the National Assembly website was unreachable as at the time of publishing this report.
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