DESPITE the over 40 billion naira budgets of the Abuja Municipal Area Council over the past four years, residents of the Angwa-Agani community are hard-pressed to access clean and adequate water to meet their demands for water usage. SMI can report that their sole source of water comes from a small hole in the ground in what looks like an underground cave.
“We used to boil the water before drinking it because there is so much dirt inside it,” 67-year-old Mallam Tanko Agani, who is the leader of the community, told SMI. Tanko said they have lived in this condition for sixty (60) years.
The Angwa-Agani community is situated in the Gwa-Gwa ward of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. SMI’s visits to the community find that it has been neglected over decades, with no provision of basic amenities by the government. Some residents said the authorities have not paid attention to their needs, despite several appeals.
“We have written to the council on several occasions through our councilor, and we are still awaiting their response,” Tanko asserted. The community leader, however, was unable to provide SMI with any acknowledgement copies of the letters he had written.
The wish of this community is that the local council authority drills a borehole for them. But their wish has not materialised after several years, despite the AMAC’s over forty billion Naira budgets over the previous four years.
Media reports have shown that under the 2023 fiscal year alone, the AMAC Chairman, Christopher Zakka Maikalangu, presented yearly spending estimates of twelve billion, three hundred and ninety-three million, five hundred and eighty-seven thousand, and six hundred and seventy-one Naira (N12), 393, 587, and 671.00 to the council’s legislative arm. This year’s projections represented a nominal increase of 1.88 percent from the previous year, 2022.
The budget’s capital expenditure, put at 62.19 percent, or N7,707,738,792.00, “is given priority over 37.81 percent recurrent expenditure (N4,685,848,878.00) so as to meet the yearnings of the electorate in infrastructural development and provision of service”. The chairman was quoted.
In 2021, the AMAC proposed the sum of ten billion, eighty-seven million, two hundred and twenty-eight thousand, and two hundred and sixty-eight Naira (N10,087,228,268.00). The budget represented a nominal increase of 10.4% above the 2020 year’s estimate of N8.7 billion.
The chairman said the budget was aimed at bringing the dividends of democracy to the doorstep of every resident of the council, adding that his administration was committed to sustainable rural development.
The breakdown of the budget proposal had the sum of N5.71 billion allocated for capital expenditure, representing 56.67 percent of the budget.
“By allocating 56.67% of the 2021 budget to capital projects, the council is also demonstrating its strong commitment to continue to develop our infrastructure across the 12 wards of the council,” the AMAC chairman at the time, Abdullahi Adamu, said.
When the crew of SMI reporters arrived in the community, their first point of contact was the home of the community leader. Tanko, who hurriedly left his farm to meet with his visitors, was visibly worried as he walked down the narrow bush path to his home.
The crew would later understand that his worry was not that the mission of his visitors was unknown to him. It was how he would get a bucket of water to wash off the dirt on his body before meeting his guests and later heading to the mosque for the Friday prayer.
Tanko said, “For two to three days now, we have not had water supply from the Chinese, and it is either we fall back to our only source of water or we pray it rains.”
The SMI crew became curious when he mentioned the Chinese.
Tanko explained to SMI that the community had for years relied solely on the small hole in the ground as their source of water supply. But recently, a Chinese firm, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), provided what could seem to be a sigh of relief.
The Chinese company, CCECC, is working on a train track that bypasses the community.
In a bid to change the fortunes of his people, the ward leader approached the company to allow his community to channel water from the project site to their community.
With the permission of the company, the community was able to channel a hose (a hose is a flexible tube conveying water or other liquids) to provide water to a storage tank in the compound of the community head, where residents are able to fetch clean water.
A sigh of relief, really?
The CCECC gesture, though appreciated by the community, failed to provide the desired relief. SMI found that the water supply is not regular and the storage tank lacks the capacity to serve the entire community, so the community still falls back on their only source for their water needs.
“There are about 1000 people using this water. We also have the Fulanis, who live close to us and who also come to fetch the water whenever it is available. The water tank we are using to store the water is small. That’s why I am appealing to the authorities to provide us with all the help they can render,” Tanko appealed.
How the women bear the brunt
“We wake up as early as five o’clock in the morning and begin to fetch water,” Raina Abdullahi, a 22-year-old mother of three and resident of the community, stated.
Raina explained that she makes five trips to the water source daily, which is about a distance of 1.5km, before being able to fill her small water storage drum.
Raina is a tailor. Commercial tailoring is the source of her livelihood. She is worried that the time she spends fetching water would have been used to complete her house chores and attend to her job.
“The children are suffering too,” Raina added. “There is no school in this community. So our children go to school in the neighboring communities. They have to fetch water before going. This makes them always arrive late at school. Sometimes, they are even so tired that they will decide to leave school for that day.”
She is pained that after all the efforts in fetching water, “the water contains some dirty particles that make it unsafe for drinking. We simply allow it to settle down, and we drink it like that.”
Sadiya Ahmed, a 30-year-old mother of five and resident of the community, normally purifies her water with potash alum, which she buys for five hundred Naira, which is about half a measuring pan locally called “mudu.” She added that with the rising prices of goods on the market, she could not afford the potash alum any longer. Leaving her with no choice but to drink the water with turbid substances.
She calls for help: “We really need help. We share the water with the Fulanis living close to us. They also bring their cattle to drink from there, which is unhealthy. Non-governmental organisations have always come to us to make promises of helping us, but they never come back.”
According to a 2022 special report by UNICEF and WHO with a focus on gender, 7 out of 10 women and girls in households around developing nations are responsible for fetching water.
The implications of drinking turbid water: experts share their concerns
It is unsafe to drink water that has turbid substances. The World Health Organization (WHO) says drinking untreated and unsafe water can transmit diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. Unclean water is estimated to cause 485,000 diarrhea deaths each year.
A public health pharmacist, Cyprian Dirji Dimka, explained that open-source water like the one in Angwan-Agani is prone to various forms of contamination from human and natural activities.
“From human activities, there are things like open defecation because it is possible that if the community is not being supplied with pipe-borne water, their toilet system may not be fully functional. This poses public health threats,” he said.
Dimka, who is also the Chief Pharmacist at the Federal Medical Centre, Abuja, added that since the Angwan-Agani residents are mostly farmers, there is likely going to be contamination from fertilizer, pesticides, and other chemicals used on the land.
“These chemicals get washed up, especially in the rainy season, and they are deposited in the water,” he said.
Speaking further, Dimka explained that the activities of wild and domestic animals can also cause contamination of the water, and when it’s untreated, it poses a huge public health risk.
“When people drink water from these contaminated sources and cook or even wash their vegetables, they are exposed to a lot of health risks,” he noted.
According to the expert, “some of the common germs you will find are Salmonella typhi, which causes typhoid; Giardia lambia, the common cause of diarrhea; and, in some cases, Hepatitis A, after ingesting food or water that contains some of the germs”.
He warned that prolonged consumption of contaminated water can weaken one’s immunity and expose them to unfavorable health conditions.
With a population of over a thousand people, Tanko told SMI that his father was the first settler in the community, which, according to him, has been in existence for about sixty years.
“We came all the way from Jibi, in Niger State, around 1963. I was still little then. We were farmers, and we settled here. I got married here. Then, there were no communities around here except Gwagwa, Jiwa, Saburi, and Madalla. We all walked along the bush path because there were no motorable roads. Now that things have changed around here, I don’t know why our village, which is supposed to change too, has not,” he wondered.
While neighbouring communities like Filin Dabo, Gwagwa, and Kaba have experienced some development, Angwan-Agani is obviously left out, with no potable water, electricity, or access roads.
The government is saddled with the responsibility of providing basic amenities, including potable water, for citizens in their communities. But a 2022 report by the World Bank has shown that approximately 70 million Nigerians had no access to clean and potable drinking water, indicating a farfetched attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6), which is to provide access to safe drinking water for all by the year 2030.
When SMI contacted the chairman of the AMAC, Christopher Maikalangu, on the issue, his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Public Affairs, Citizen Kingsley Madaki, said the council is doing its best to ensure that affected communities are provided for with all their needs.
Madaki said, “Government is in phases, and gradually, it will get to them.”
We also sought the response of the councilor for Gwa-Gwa ward, Hon. Musa Umar, who said he was well aware of the needs of the Angwan-Agani community and that he was working to ensure that they were captured in the next year’s budget.
“We have two pending projects in the community: water and electricity, and I believe that they will be included in the next year’s budget. The council has already constructed solar boreholes in four communities in my ward,” Umar stated.
This report, published by Safer-Media Initiative on Monday, August 14, 2023, and produced with the support of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development, inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA Project) with funding support from the MacArthur Foundation, is reproduced here under the CMedia understanding on amplification of reports.