By Abubakar Hassan

Despite sinking billions of Naira into the Niger State water sector by the present administration under the leadership of Gov. Abubakar Sani Bello, the state Water and Sewage Corporation has disclosed that domestic and commercial water consumers in the state are owing it over seven hundred million Naira (N700,000,000).

This disclosure was made during a media chat organized by Niger FOMWAN USAID E-WASH, held at the conference hall of Niger state Water Corporation, Monday.

Top on the debtors list were the Army and other security formations in the state, top government officials, Legislators and some Tertiary institutions.

The Corporation alleged that the Military and other other Paramilitary organizations alone owed the Corporation over N300 million, while a Tertiary Institution owes about N5 million, adding that the refusal of water consumers to pay their bills is affecting its services.

While responding to questions, the Assistant General Manager (AGM), Commercial Services of the Corporation, Aliyu Danladi Umar told Journalists that top government officials especially Commissioners, Permanent Secretaries and Legislators are also defaulting in the payment of water services.

According to Umar “the amount of domestic and commercial debts owed the corporation is over N700 million and the corporation is battling to recover the money from these organisations. You know, it is not easy for us to enter into some of these outfits and then disconnect them.

“We all know the Army Barracks is not a place one can enter anyhow, also, the Police and Nigeria Correctional Services are not places one can just go and disconnect or take actions.

He also disclosed that the state Commissioner for Water Resources and Dams Development is doing his best to ensure that the corporation recovers the debt, adding that they have engaged a consultant to dialogue with some of the debtors, especially the security organizations and recover what they are owing the corporation.

“We have engaged a consultant to begin a dialogue with these organisations especially the Army and we have started engaging on how they can pay us. The money is much needed and we need them to pay, he said.”

Blaming some government officials for their ineptitudeness, Alh. Danladi Umar said “it is alarming that a lot of them do not pay for using water from the corporation. It is very sad because domestic water payment is just N1, 000 monthly but these personalities are not perturbed because they do not know that the cost of production is very expensive.”

“It baffles me that it is very difficult to pay N1,000 monthly for water whereas commercial water vendors sell 10 gallons of 25 litres of water for N300 which is not usually enough and hygienic for a household use.”

While calling on consumers on the need to pay their water bills, he disclosed that the Chanchaga Waterworks, which is one of the six urban waterworks of the Corporation, spends over N60 million monthly and gets only a maximum of N15million.

Also, the Head of Customer Care Unit, Zainab Yunusa disclosed that the corporation only collects about N12 million out of over N36 million billed by the corporation monthly, adding that the coming of E-WASH is one of the best thing that happened to the water sector in the state, disclosing that not until the coming of E-WASH there was no customer care unit where customers interact with the corporation freely.

Presenting a progress report of the Niger state Water and Sewage Corporation, the Public Relations Manager of the Corporation, Aliyu Jibo Garba said that the volume of water produced monthly is over 1,580,940 cubic meters but the corporation is only able to sell just 519,379 cubic meters monthly.

He said the Corporation had received a lot of support from E-WASH which includes customers’ enumeration, organizational development, capacity building for management and staff, developing utility support fund, ICT facilities, pipes, valves and other accessories.

Earlier, the Programs Manager, Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN) USAID E-WASH, Dr. Hadiza Mohammed said the Media chat was aimed at collaborating with the media to promote the FOMWAN USAID E-WASH activities and provide a platform for monthly media interaction, urging the media to partner with relevant stakeholders so as to address the issues of water, hygiene and sanitation.