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Water is a vital resource that constitutes a new strategic issue that mobilizes the entire international community in facilitating its access as well as ensuring its rational management. The attention paid to the issue of water is properly stressed with its inclusion among the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established by the United Nations Development Programme.

Nigeria is home to varieties of water sources spread across various locations from the coastal region to the arid zone, yet water and sanitation coverage rates in Nigeria are amongst the lowest in the world. Famous English Poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his 1798 famous work, ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’ fittingly defines the global water conditions: “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”.

Nigeria is classified a water–short country, whose water resource is likely to reduce from 2, 506 cubic meters per year in 1995 to 1, 175 cubic meters in 2025, if not properly managed. The reality is that access to safe drinking water is not too encouraging in many households in the country. Responsibility for water supply is shared between three levels of government – federal, state and local. The federal government is in charge of water resources management; state governments have the primary responsibility for urban water supply; and local governments together with communities are responsible for rural water supply.

Presently, Nigeria is not on track to reach the Millennium Development Goal for water and sanitation. The country’s MDG target of supplying 74 per cent of the population with safe water by 2015 seems far-fetched. With slow pace of progress, Nigeria might miss the water target even by 20 years. It is important to stress that UNICEF has supported rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene in communities and schools across the country since 2002. Its interventions have been financed by DFID and the European Commission. A total of 6,960 new safe water sources (boreholes dug wells and protected springs) and over 19,100 household latrines have been constructed. Over 400 schools have been provided with latrines with separate provision for boys and girls and hand washing facilities.

In Lagos State, the water situation is quite challenging.  The state is popularly referred to as the ‘State of Aquatic Splendor’, an obvious reference to the presence of diverse bodies of water that surrounds it. On the account of this, non-Lagosians often suppose that Lagos residents have un-hindered access to potable water supply. This, of course, is not entirely true as Lagos, like every other cosmopolitan city has to contend with various challenges in respect of access to safe water.

Over the years, the State Government has invested heavily in the water sector. The Lagos water programme which is anchored on 15 year expansion programme is not limited to the urban areas alone as it is the desire of the state government to ensure that every part of the state has unrestricted access to portable water supply. The project entails expanding water supply facilities, transmission and distribution systems, rehabilitation of existing, improved administrative infrastructure and institutional support.

The first phase of the project, coordinated by the Lagos State Water Corporation, LSWC, involved the construction of 15 mini micro water works that have the capacity of producing 30 million gallons per day across various parts of the state to improve accessibility. The completion of these mini water works, aside enhancing output and improving water distribution channels in the state, has also reduced the untold hardship experience by Lagosians while searching for water. However, the long -term plan is to resuscitate the Adiyan and Iju water works which both have the capacity to produce 230 million gallons daily, if fully operational.

Part of the state government’s long term plan is also to encourage private sector participation in the water sector. This explains why it is investing heavily in the sector in order to make it attractive to private investors who will subsequently device creative strategies that will make the sector lucrative for investment. It has been realized by governments world-wide that funding of government programmes and projects can no longer be sustained by the government alone as evidenced in the global economic recession and decline in oil revenue.

Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is a contractual relationship between the private and public sectors as a systematic collaboration geared towards ensuring communal, state or national socio-economic development that is comprehensive and self-sustaining. It is an arrangement with clear direction and defined roles and responsibilities of all the actors in the plan. PPP is a financial module designed to attract private investors to engage in infrastructural projects with short and long term benefits to the people.

In adopting this strategy, government is not abdicating its responsibilities but essentially releasing scarce resources for other equally important projects thus creating a win-win situation for the government and the private enterprise as well. The major advantage of the involvement of the private sector in governance is the efficiency it brings to project management. The issue of wastes, delayed delivery and abandonment that is usually associated with public projects is highly minimized. This is as a result of the optimization of the returns on huge investment of the private sector.

In Africa, PPP model in water supply could be traced to 1959 with the implementation of the Cote d’Ivoire urban water Affermage – a successful operation that continues to provide water to over 7 million people today. In Ghana, the private sector is equally involved in urban and small-town water provision as government strives to improve access to water supply services for its citizens in line with sustainable development goals. Similarly, between 2001 and 2013, in Niger Republic, the PPP model has equally improved access to potable water supply. In Nigeria, many state governments have equally opted for the PPP model in water supply.

Across the globe, many countries are also going for the PPP model in water supply. For instance, in the United States, UK, Brazil, Philippines, Haiti, China, Germany, Mexico, Australia, Morocco, Romania among others, the PPP model is in vogue. When considered that annual population growth rate in Europe is only about 0.22% compared to 3% of Sub-Saharan Africa, it is quite imperative that African states urgently seek alternative means of funding infrastructure development in the water sector.

It should, however, be stressed that the Lagos State government is not divesting or selling off water assets.  Lagos Water Corporation retains ownership of the assets, while the State Government regulates the sector. Bringing in the private sector to invest in water supply is merely one of the various options being explored by government to ensure Lagos residents have un-hindered access to safe water.

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