Accessing Lagos State In-Road Toward Achieving SDG Goal In Potable Water Supply


Yemisi Izuora

Current data form the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), indicates that more than 1.42 billion people including 450 million children are living in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability.

This means that 1 in 5 children worldwide does not have enough water to meet their everyday needs.

The figures in Nigeria are particularly worrying, with 26.5 million Nigerian children experiencing high or extremely high water vulnerability or 29 per cent of Nigerian children, UNICEF analysis disclosed.

The analysis, part of the Water Security for All initiative, identifies areas where physical water scarcity risks overlap with poor water service levels. Communities living in these areas depend on surface water, unimproved sources of water, or water that can take more than 30 minutes to collect.

“The world’s water crisis is not coming – it is here, and children are its biggest victims,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.

“When wells dry up, children are the ones missing school to fetch water. When droughts diminish food supplies, children suffer from malnutrition and stunting. When floods hit, children fall ill from waterborne illnesses. And when water is not available in Nigerian communities, children cannot wash their hands to fight off diseases,” said Peter Hawkins

In the case of Lagos, the State is suffering from severe water shortage due to profit-oriented politics.

Lagos, which is Nigeria’s commercial heartbeat, is facing acute water supply challenges. The current lack of access to safe and affordable water could be traced to a multiplicity of factors, some of which include corruption, policy somersaults, antiquated infrastructure, low budgetary provisions, bad management and low government attention to the water sector among many others.

The city’s daily water demand is far beyond the production by the municipal utility Lagos Water Corporation (LWC). The utility does not even deliver half of the needed amount of 540 million gallons water per day, leaving Lagos with a huge shortage of about 320 million gallons.

The city currently has three major waterworks and 48 others classified as either mini or macro waterworks.

Most of them are in comatose state, dysfunctional or at best operating far below installed capacities. Lagos has a network of 180 km transmission mains and 2.215 km distribution mains of which some are as old as 108 years.

Water and sanitation are not only critical elements in public health but also in bolstering sustainable development and economic growth.

However, systemic neglect and bent deals by successive managers of the Lagos infrastructure have put the sector in dire straits. And even though Lagos’s previous and current governments have exploited the repair of the water infrastructure as a major campaign rhetoric, access is getting worse.

Lagos though recently assumed an oil producing state, has suffered oil pollution in the past.

The State hosts a number of oil pipelines with marine oil transportation which has affected its environment.

Thus specific locations in the State due to oil related pollution have demonstrated changes in the quality of drinking water in comparison to International standards.

There have also been various incidents of oil spills in several locations in the State mostly arising from accidents during during transportation, illegal bunkering and pipeline vandalism. Oil spills contaminate soil, vegetation and water sources and contribute to reduction in the portability of drinking water through the introduction of total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH).

The Baruwa Contamination Crises

Baruwa is a host community of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC Limited, pipeline which runs through the community from Mosinmi oil depot to Ejigbo oil facility.

The community had their wells and borehole contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbon due to oil leaks from the pipeline as a result of the aged and rusted pipeline.

In the same vein, over one million inhabitants of the area have been deprived of drinkable water since 1996 because of the oil seepage from leaking underground NNPC pipeline. Residents of the community who are largely small holder farmers have suffered persistent catarrh, irritation of the airways, wateriness, discoloration of the cornea of the eyes, skin rashes, and dermatitis.

Baruwa community is located in the Alimosho Local Government of Lagos State. It is drained by Lagos lagoon, Badagry creek and Lekki lagoon which runs into the lagoon. Geographically, the community lies on a poorly sorted coastal sedimentary plain and recent alluvial deposit in Nigeria. The Local Council is richly blessed with arable landmass of about 57.621 km2 and it is surrounded by rivers Owa and Oponu which are suitable for navigation, shing and tourism purposes.

Apart from aged petroleum pipes, vandalisation of petroleum pipelines is a major cause of pipeline fire disasters in the area.

However, except the number of deaths recorded, little information of the effects of such disasters on the environment is often reported and post-disaster remediation process is thus usually unmonitored or ineffective.

Over the years, crude oil spillage through pipeline vandalism is considered one of the major problems in Baruwa.

Rising cases of pipeline vandalism by unknown persons have significantly affected sources of revenues of government and oil companies operating in Nigeria.

This has resulted in significant negative socioeconomic and environmental problems in the community with serious effects on human lives and farm lands.

Although factors such as institutional weakness, lack of effective implementation of environmental laws were hypothesized as the causes of vandalism in Nigeria and they are considered neither exhaustive nor confirmed as no available empirical evidences can be found confirming the asserted causes of vandalism.

However, a number empirical researches claimed that institutional weakness, injustices, marginalization and corruption force people to fight for justice in a negative way.

On is part, the NNPC, had blamed pipeline vandalism, crude oil and petroleum products theft for the not-too-impressive performance of some of its subsidiaries and division as recorded in its recently-released audited financial statements.

In a note to the audited financial statements obtained from the NNPC, the corporation, however, noted that the significant increase in crude oil price in 2018, impacted positively on the financial performance of majority of its subsidiaries.

The release of the 2018 Audited Financial Statements (AFS) of its 19 Strategic Business Units (SBUs) and a Corporate Services Unit (CSU), made it the first time in its history that the NNPC is making public its audited financial statement.

However, the NNPC said: “The continuous vandalism of NNPC pipelines resulted in an increased cost of pipelines maintenance alongside loss of crude oil and petroleum products.”

Unfortunately, vandalism of NNPC pipelines across the country rose by a phenomenal spike of 50 per cent in January 2020.

This information is part of the monthly financial and operations report, which was released in April that year.

In 2020, 60 pipeline points were vandalized compared to 40 incidents recorded in December 2019. Atlas Cove-Mosimi and Mosimi-Ibadan axis pipelines accounted for 50 per cent and 17 per cent of the breaks respectively, with the remaining 33 per cent being accounted for by all other routes.

Oriental News Nigeria, reports that the NNPC is already collaborating with the local communities and other stakeholders to curtail this menace.

The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, also decries the activities of pipeline vandals whose nefarious act torched parts of the corporation’s pipeline network especially in Abule Egba area of Lagos State which has claimed lives and properties of innocent Nigerians.

He said NNPC was collaborating with all security agencies in the country to curb the occurrences of pipeline vandalism across the Country.

He stated that as part of measures to mitigate the incidences of pipeline vandalism, NNPC planned to deplore Horizontal Directional Drilling Technology (HDDT) as a check on the unwholesome incidences,

Kyari, disclosed that HDD technology would make it difficult for the vandals to easily vandalize the pipelines.

“We are having a syndicated approach to the pipeline challenge.

” First, there is the security aspect of it, over which we are getting the optimum support and cooperation of the entire security network spearheaded by the Chief of Defence Staff.

“This is working already. Another is at the level of the National Assembly which has stepped into this, with an Ad hoc Committee working on how to assist us to stem the menace of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft.

Mallam Kyari explained that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, was equally engaging stakeholders to bring everybody on the table to arrest the situation.

He added that even President Muhammadu Buhari had taken the matter up as he considered it as of national urgency in order to guarantee energy security in the Country.

He said curtailing the spate of vandalism would also ensure that resources do not end up in the hands of wrong people to prevent collateral damage that might be apparent in the phenomenon.

He stated that whenever incidences of crude oil or petroleum products spill happened in communities due to activities of vandals or age of the pipelines, the corporation as a routine, restored such lines, cleaned the environment and contained the likely effects of the leaks.

The NNPC GMD informed that there was massive stealing of the country’s crude and petroleum products as a result of a ready market for the illicit business, adding that collaboration with the security agencies could put a stop it.

Kyari explained that the illegal activities of pipeline vandals have rendered most of NNPC depots inactive, necessitating long distance transportation of products, with its attendant heavy impacts on road infrastructure across the country.

He averred that if NNPC depots were allowed to function as designed, the regular congestion of tankers at Apapa, Lagos, would be prevented, hinting that NNPC would not despair, but would continue to synergize with all relevant agencies and stakeholders across the country to find a lasting solution to the pipeline vandalism menace ravaging the nation’s downstream Infrastructure.

Struggling With Erosion Phenomenon

The community, is presently exposed to possible pipeline breach by thieves as a result of incessant rainfall which has brought the buried pipes on the surface.

Our Correspondent who visited the community reports that most of the pipes are now exposed.

Baruwa, a sprawling Lagos community already battling with underground water contamination that has constrained residents efforts in managing COVID-19 spread without potable water is now living in fear.

With over 300 boreholes and wells contaminated with various petroleum products, there is no doubt that there is fire in the mountain for Baruwa community.

In Baruwa, serial fire outbreaks have further complicated environmental challenges in that community hosting high pressure petroleum products conveyor infrastructure.

The community has expressed serious worry about new wave of vandalism of oil assets following alleged impotence of the contractor engaged by government to secure about 151 kilometers of pipelines stretching from Atlas Cove bypassing Baruwa to Mosimi in Ogun state.

There had been reported serial fire outbursts on major petroleum products artery operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in Lagos.

Oil theft along that corridor has remained unabated raising fundamental questions about alleged conspiracy between private security outfits engaged by government and the vandals in the impermissible business.

In a letter dated 6th October, 2020, and signed by the Baale of the community, Alhaji Halid Baruwa, Pa J.O Oyewole, chairman Baruwa Water Pollution Committee and Prof. J.A Ogungbangbe, and addressed to the Senator representing the area, Senator Solomon Adeola Olamilekan, and sited by our Correspondent, bitterly complained about devastating effects of petroleum products leakage on plants and other micros because of the change in the balance of ecology in the environment.

The letter complained that Places Of Worship, factories, schools, hotels and every social and economic activities are not spared.

On incessant pipeline attack in the area, Baale of Baruwa, Alhaji Baruwa, said, “We held a crucial meeting with other stakeholders after I reported several infringements on the pipeline.

Also, one of the community leaders, professor Joseph Ogungbagbe, described the situation as unfortunate, saying that the community had battled with the pipeline incidents since 2004.

Ogungbagbe, said that the entire community suffers various ailments arising from contaminated water from petroleum products leakages.

According to him, the NNPC has refused to accept responsibility that aging pipeline had caused extensive underground water contamination.

He said, “Until the community wrote to the presidency and TETFUND funding a research on the major causes of the contamination. It was a four year research work that eventually proved NNPC wrong, because from our findings they don’t want to stop pumping products so they would reject our position until the research proved that since 2004 after the first vandalism was reported that petrol had been leaking up till today.”

To confirm the environmental crises in the community, a recent research report which was supported by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, to examine the depth of environmental hazard exposed to Baruwa community exposed weak regulations in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, and deep environmental challenges of the community.

The public presentation of the report which was released in Lagos titled, ‘Petroleum Hydrocarbon Contaminated Groundwater Remediation Using 21ST Century Technology’ was the high point of a research work coordinated by Professor S. A. Ola, a Professor of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering at the Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA and Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, ABUAD, alongside 5 other professors.

The research project financed by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TetFund, examined the extent to which petroleum products spill has damaged the environment and causing groundwater contamination of a Lagos community, known as Baruwa for over twenty years.

At the public presentation of the report, the community heads led by the Baale of Baruwa Alhaji Khalid Baruwa lamented what was described as deliberate neglect by government agencies even as residents were deprived of their main source of livelihood which is farming caused by pollution from petroleum products spill.

In their presentation read by Professor J. A Ogungbamigbe, 1996 marked the year of entry of pollution to wells in the area. Initially the entry was insignificant as full attention and subsequent repercussions was not given to it until a proprietor of a school at the entry point of the community raised first alarm that there was unsatisfactory foul odour emitting from her well.

A few months later, a landlord reported the same experience until the Baale and some community elders took samples of the water to the Lagos Water Corporation which Its laboratory analysis and results revealed that the pollution was caused by petroleum products.

It was the confirmation that made the community reflect on the vandalisation of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPMC, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, between 1994 and 1996 in the federal housing estate, Abesan which later formed basis of presentation of the paper of Engr. Kupolokun the then group managing director of the NNPC at the public enlightenment campaign of the effect of pipeline vandalisation on April 29, 2005.

It was the Lagos Water Corporation result that opened the window of communication between the Baruwa community and the NNPC/PPMC and other environmental agencies.

According to Professor Ogungbamigbe, all the initial engagements produced no tangible results even with letters written to Senate committee on Petroleum Resources which reported that it has been informed by PPMC that consultants were being shortlisted to assess extent of damage and scope of repairs to be done.

Between 1996 up To 1998, there was initial flurry of activities when the community was almost turned to Mecca of sort by numerous organism and individuals who are very curious about the press for more in view of the widespread pollution.

The report revealed copious volumes of fuel leak continuously into the Baruwa community year in year out without abatement, and the leakages is coming from the pipes carrying Products from Atlas Cove to Mosimi for over 20 years.

“The publicity and activities of Baruwa community about the evil that NNPC and PPMC are perpetrating through their nonchalant attitude attracted the attention of the whole world that Baruwa became a point of attraction and research to many universities in Nigeria and journalists all over the world” Ogungbamigbe stated.

Continuing, he said, “It is necessary to let this gathering know that the Nigerian pressmen tried to help by many publications, some of which wee included in the compendium of Baruwa community activities, still NNPC/PPMC do not believe or could not be convinced that they should do something about the abatement of the leaking pipes”.

However, the publicity embarked upon by the community attracted the research team from the Federal University of Technology Akure led by Professor Ola to execute the research work.

In his presentation at the forum, the Executive Secretary, of TetFund, Dr. Abdullahi Bichi Baffa said the agency was indeed delighted to be associated with the workshop.

According to Baffa, the researchers, led by Engr. Prof. S.A. Ola are beneficiaries of the TETFund-sponsored National Research Fund (NRF).

The NRF programme is one of the major intervention programmes of the Fund that is domiciled under the Education Support Services Department and is meant to support cutting edge research proposals that will significantly contribute to national development.

Baale of the community is now crying out to both federal and state governments to intervene in their matter as they go extra mile to get water to battle the virus through constant washing of hands, clothes and even to cook.

Baruwa, said that quick intervention will save his people and avert community spread of the virus in the area.

Expectation Of A New Dawn

Barely four decades after ruptured petroleum pipeline reportedly contaminated underground water in Baruwa area, present administration of Lagos state has commenced efforts to provide potable water to the community.

This follows the historic visit of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to ascertain the level of environmental degradation of the community as a result of petroleum products leakage in the community.

Engr. Muminu Badmus, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, GMD/CEO, of the Lagos Water Corporation, informed Oriental News Nigeria, that the Corporation is at the point of procuring contractors to commence immediate remedial projects of sinking new water boreholes to provide potable water to the community.

“Baruwa is not the only community we are working on we are sinking more boreholes even to serve other areas around the vicinity.” Badmus said, adding that the bid process for water provision contracts would be closed by end of this week and evaluation process would commence by next week.

He said apart from the ongoing short term measure the Corporation is embarking on network expansion project to fully connect those communities to its dedicated pipelines to ensure sustainable supply.

The GMD, explained that the Baruwa water issue was escalated because the available boreholes sank previously were shallow wells which could not guarantee hygienic drinking water.

The community in a letter to the Governor sited by our Correspondent, decried cost of procuring usable water in the last 24 years which range from between N1,000 to N1,500 daily by families.

The letter signed by the Baale of Baruwa, Alh. Halid Baruwa, dated 6th of May, 2022, said families spend between N2,000 to N3,000 daily to procure drinking water, adding, “We have faced serious health hazard like, irritation of eyes, skin and mucous memberances, nausea and nervous system depression for a long time.

Lagos State Government said the sum of N300 billion would be required yearly to meet its Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, target on universal access to water for its growing population.

Sanwo-Olu, has however, expressed readiness of his administration to improve the water supply needs of residents towards achieving universal access to safe water by 2030.

The Governor who highlighted the challenges of achieving sustainable water supply

at the second edition of the annual International Water Conference, organised by Lagos state Water Regulatory Commission, LASWARCO, noted that Lagos State Water Corporation produces 210 million gallons per day, MGD, against the daily water demand estimate of 540 MGD.

The figure showed a clear deficit of over 300 MGD, which translates to less than 40 per cent of population having access to clean and safe water.

While stating that government was not oblivious of the huge gap and its consequences on the health of the populace, he stressed that his administration remained dedicated to its goal of becoming a global point of reference in the provision of sustainable safe water and sanitation for its increasing population.

Sanwo-Olu further stated that in furtherance of his commitment to affordable and sustainable clean water supply, his government has signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with WaterAid, an International Non-governmental Organization on capacity building for approved regulation and expansion of clean water access.

He assured that phase II of the Adiyan Water Project which now stands at 80 per cent completion stage would soon become operational.

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