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Lagos N168m Debt Undermines Country Water Supply

Rural inhabitants in Lagos State might not have entry to consumable water in 2016 because of the N168m debt the state government owes private administrators of its smaller scale water plots, The PUNCH investigation has uncovered.

Findings by our correspondent showed that all the managers of the state’s 28 micro-water schemes, spread across rural communities in the state and being owed N6m each by the government, may pull out of the arrangement next year.

Some of the managers, who spoke to The PUNCH, said they might stop running the schemes if the situation does not change.

The arrangement between the state government and the private managers was initiated by the Babatunde Fashola administration to supply potable water to rural communities and reduce water-borne diseases in the state.

It involves the annual payment of N6m each to the managers to maintain the schemes and supply water to the rural community free of charge.

The PUNCH learnt that the contract which is rewnewable yearly has been on for about two years.

One of the managers of the state micro-water schemes, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the situation to our correspondent.

The manager said that as part of the contract, the state government supposed to pay them “N6m each to the 28 managers in two instalments in a year to supply the various communities potable water three times weekly, employ at least four workers, fuel and maintain generators that pump the water and paint the premises every year.”

However, the manager added that the state government had failed to pay the managers for the 2015 in spite of satisfying the required conditions.

Findings showed that some of the managers have vowed to stop supplying water to the rural communities after the end of 2015, “if the state government fails to pay what it owes them by then.

“We are supposed to be paid 60 per cent of the money by April and the remaining 40 per cent by August, but in 2015, we have not received any money from the government to maintain the facilities and supply water to the rural communities,” another manager told our correspondent.

“Therefore, we have been sourcing for funds to maintain the facilities on our own. Some of us borrowed money from finance houses, hoping that the state government would have paid us by now. But up till now that the year has almost ended, we have not heard from the state government.

“We owe our workers salaries and have incurred debts to offset our tax returns and pay other charges to the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency. We cannot continue to do so after this year because it puts a lot of financial burden on us. We have written letters to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode but nothing has changed.”

Our correspondent learnt that the managers have all received letters of contract renewal.

It was also learnt that provision was made for the funding of the micro-water schemes in the state’s 2015 budget.

Some of the micro-water schemes are located in Araromi, Ijede, Bayeku, Igbokuta and Aga, all in Ikorodu. Others include Lakowe, Ibeju-Lekki; Ijegun-Olorunsogo; Itokin, Epe; and Mowo, Olorunda; and Kakon in Badagry.

It was learnt that a committee set up by the state government, constituted by officials of the various ministries, including the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs and the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, was to investigate the running of the schemes ad it submitted its report in October.

But the managers have yet not been paid even though the state government is set to close its accounts for the year on Friday, December 18, 2015, after which major financial transactions would be put on hold till the New Year.

A resident of Ikorodu, who benefits from the scheme, Mrs. Adekemi Ajayi, lamented the situation, saying that rural residents would suffer should the scheme be stopped.

“It will be sad because it is the only thing we benefit from the government here,” she said.

Efforts to reach the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, Alhaji Musiliu Folami, were unsuccessful.

Calls made to Ayorinde’s telephone lines were not answered and text messages sent to the same numbers were not replied.

Folami was said to be unavailable when our correspondent visited his office and an official in the ministry’s Public Relations Office said she could not say when Folami would be available.


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