After successive governments, both state and federal must have expended billions of naira to the resuscitation of the Ojirami dam in Akoko-Edo local government Area of Edo, the gigantic water plant supply remains a shadow of itself. Patrick Ochoga writes.
Beyond the obvious failure of Edo state owed Ojirami dam constructed by the then late Dr Samuel Ogbemudia and commissioned by former military head of state, Gen Yakubu Gowon, today the relic of the dam can best serve as a sad reminder of another failed government projects which totted the landscape of the nation.
Many residents especially in Igarra, in Akoko-Edo local government, parts of Owan East, Owan West and Etsako had hoped that the dam if functional would put an end to the age long water need, little did they know that few years after its establishment the multi-billion naira dam will become another conduit pipe for corrupt government officials and agencies to enrich themselves.
Besides, Akoko-Edo , the dam was built to cater for the water need of Ikao, Ojirami Petesi, Ojirami Afekunu, Dagbala, Uneme-Erhruru, Akuku, Enwan, Igarra, Okpe, Ugboshi, Okpella in Etsako East local government council, Ibillo, Uneme-Osu, Ojah and Ososo and their environs which span across three local government areas.
Ojirami town is surrounded by hilly mountains which stretches from Igarra takes about 15 minutes bike ride from Igarra, the administrative headquarters of Akoko-Edo local government to the sites of the dam.
Ironically, the locals where the dam is located wake up every day in search of clean potable water and in most cases they depend on few residents who own bore holes within the community for their water needs.
In spite of efforts to revamp the plant it was however gathered that beside the obsolete, dilapidated and rusty equipment that littered the premise of the dam, one of the major problem hampering the supply of water besides electricity is the lack of fund to procure the needed water treatment chemicals for the plants such as hydrated lime, alum and chlorine.
When Leadership visited, residents living around the premises of the water treatment plant were seen fetching untreated water that flows from the dam for their domestic consumption.
It was gathered that in an effort to get the dam working again, the 7th national assembly had released a whooping sum of N1. 5 billion through the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC for its resuscitation and procurement of chemical for the dam but sadly the amount was allegedly frittered away by corrupt officials in charge of the projects.
The filtration, sedimentation, coagulation and alum chambers are in pathetic state, an indication that the dam had not pumped water in more than 10 years to the communities it was established to serve.
The present administrative office meant for the few staff, is an abandoned three guest room house that sheltered the late Premier of the defunct Western region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the late former governor of Bendel State, Prof. Ambrose Alli of blessed memory.
An indigene of the area and a bike rider who identified himself as Kunle said in the last 10 years the dam had not supplied water to the communities, adding that the only generating power plant had broken down and when they were functional, the cost of fuelling was huge.
He said they now use water from the streams and wells around as even the reserve in the dam which they all now use would soon be exhausted.
“I came from Igarra to fetch water, we used to have water sometimes in some parts of Igarra close to Enwan but for many years now, they said the transformer has broken down and that they don’t have chemicals to treat water so we have to now come here to get water. The only tank now serving everybody will soon go dry and that will be a serious problem for us here,” he lamented.
Most of the people in the area have dug wells while those who could afford to, now have boreholes in their compounds and others built by government and politicians to ameliorate the suffering.
However, the member representing Akoko-Edo federal Constituency at the national assembly, Hon Peter Akpatason, who attributed the collapse of the multi-billion naira dam to many years of corruption by both military and civilian government, noted that as a lawmaker his effort to dig into the reason for the sorry state of the plant had proved abortive by relevant government agencies responsible.
He expressed shock that the N1.5 billion allocated to its resuscitation to the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC was never felt on the dam.
The federal lawmaker however promised that when the 9th Assembly comes on board Ojirami dam will be one of his key priorities and ensured that it is given all the necessary attention for the people of his constituency and other benefiting communities.
According to him: “We in Akoko Edo believe that it is the ultimate source of water to Akoko Edo, Owan and part of Etsako when it was designed and commissioned by Gen. Yakubu Gowon years ago. But due to many years of corruption by both military and civilian governments, the project was downgraded to a level where it cannot even supply Akoko-Edo local government area. But when we came on board with this new dispensation we will try as much as possible to revitalise the dam.
“I personally give credit to Col Tunde Akogun , the then leader in the house of representatives in the 6th Assembly who made provision of N500 million for the revamping of Ojirami dam. When I took over from him, those funds were not released. We will work together to ensure that much fund is released for the execution of the plant because we believe that digging bore holes everywhere is not the ultimate solution but temporary because of its environmental consequences.
“So we will focus more on getting Ojirami dam to be working optimally but the funds that was released was only sufficient to change the pumps and as we speak all the pumps have been changed by the manufacturers , the same company that established the dam, so we have the best pump as we speak.
“However, we still have a couple of issues, there is need to distil the dam because it has been occupied by a lot of impurities which in my own understanding are rubbish that are brought into the dam through a process of water flow and other unwarranted items. So it requires a lot of dredging”, explained Akpatasi.
“The distilling was done but I believe it was grossly inadequate because of poor budget releases but at some point in the 7th Assembly the provision of N1. 5 billion was made for dredging of the dam and as we speak I don’t know where that money has gone. I don’t know whether it was used for dredging because we never have access to the contractors that the contract was awarded to and I think important questions are asked about that.
Explaining further the lawmaker added: “I have asked our NDDC Committee and I never got an answer to date because the N1.5 billion was an NDDC Provision in the budget. But I don’t have 100 per cent information how that has gone. All efforts to update me with information on that has been unsuccessful and also the reluctance of the functionary to avail me of the appropriate information.
“I have not seen any sustenance of water flow and it appears that nobody seems to be willing to increase the funding both in the ministry and NDDC. All efforts made so far have proved abortive, he added.
Another resident of Igarra , Omeiza Jacob said “If all the elected representatives are able to put their heads together to see that Ojirami dam is put in sustainable shape for the good of the LGA and its environs, definitely it won’t be a bad idea. But, will the current political scenario playing itself out allow for genuine synergy amongst the political class? It has been self-help and a clear mockery of quality representation across board,” he noted.
Godwin Ogedengbe said the water situation has been a very bad situation and for a very long time. The people are suffering and that is why we are appealing that the dam should be put into use for the people.
Isoiza Osho said “It has been borehole and wells all the way. Anyone under twenty years in my area never saw water flow from the public tap in the area.
However, the state government has expressed commitment to tackle the water challenges not only in Ojirami but the entire state. This commitment may have informed governor Godwin Obaseki when he marked his second year anniversary in office when he disclosed small Town Water Agency will be encouraged with support from UNICEF (United Nations International Children Emergency Fund) to meet the water deficiencies of councils that are worst hit.
When contacted on the matter, the commissioner in charge of the ministry, Yekini Idiaye had earlier stated that contracts have already been awarded for public water supply in the five local government areas which is having the support of UNICEF and that the projects are expected to be delivered by February 2019.
He said “We have awarded contracts on it and the contractors have been mobilised to site and they are expected to finish work in three months by February 2019 Ovia South West, Etsako West, Owan West, Orhionmwon, Akoko –Edo and Uhunmwonde local government areas.”
He said the project would also include reticulation of water, sanitation and construction of toilet facilities in public places such as, schools, market places and health centres.
Idaiye who gave the total project cost at N2 billion, said the state would provide N600 million, which represents 30 per cent of the funding, while the UNICEF would make up the balance of N1.4 million.
“These communities were carefully selected following a baseline survey across the state. In the survey, it was discovered that the selected communities to benefit from the project, lacked access to portable water.
“It will interest you to know that the project is not just all about provision of water, it includes improving the sanitation of the communities by addressing the issue of open defecation’’, he further explained.