The Rescue initiatives of Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku has advanced towards a definite realization of its intended purpose, by putting his entire self into whatever concerns his people’s welfare. DDI’s appearance on Taraba’s landscape has been applauded by many as the best thing that has happened to the State bringing into cognizance the harrowing experience of socio-economic stagnation over the years. Tangible features of development that would have an impact on people’s lives were in trickles, in selected sectors and spread over long indefinite intervals.
The people seemed to have given up on any possibility of escaping from these state of affairs until they saw renewed hope in the advocacy of the Rescue Agenda. His perception of the poor state of activities in the state amidst abundance ignited in him the resolve to water the beautiful but dried landscape by restoring hope. Literally, water remains a cardinal objective of the rescue mission which the Rescue Captain and the African Development Bank are to expend Ten Billion Naira.
Prompt and Timely Rescue.
The cliché that water is life is practical and the use of water transcends all human activities from food production, processing to manufacturing and industrial use. Water is a fundamental human need. Studies indicate that each person on earth requires at least 20 to
50 liters of clean, safe water a day, for drinking, cooking, and simply keeping themselves clean. Water facilities in Jalingo have been in existence but in an epileptic state. Water pipes were practically obsolete and taps in homes were not functional. People turned to any available water source to meet household needs. The challenge is that what is available to a majority of people especially in rural areas, is polluted water which is not only dirty but deadly. Some 1.8 million people die every year of diseases like cholera. Tens of millions of others are seriously sickened by a host of water-related ailments—many of which are easily preventable.
The United Nations considers universal access to clean water a basic human right, and as an essential step towards improving living standards worldwide. Most communities in Taraba State are typically economically poor as well, their residents are trapped in the cycle of poverty.
Looking at the big picture of the Rescue Mission of DDI, any other thing will be a mirage without a healthy population. Virtually every sector of the society is linked to health. Education suffers when sick children miss school and so will it be when sick teachers fail to turn up at work. Economic opportunities are routinely lost to the impacts of rampant illness and the time-consuming processes of sourcing water where it is not readily available. Children and women bear the brunt of these burdens when so much time and energy is invested in the bid to provide water for the family.
Practically everything needs water to function beginning from humans, animals, and plants for hydration, the Agricultural sector, and industries that depend on water for food production. Sanitation is an equally important factor in healthy society and water is essential to realizing the objective. The absence of proper sanitation services not only breeds disease, it can also rob people of their basic human dignity.
Health scholars have argued that Nigeria is one of the countries in the world that has unsafe water supplies due to the uncoordinated efforts of various federal, state and local agencies. Given the low quality of drinking water in Nigeria, most Nigerians usually contact a waterborne illness. Studies have also shown that, when pollutants find their way into drinking water sources and are not eliminated by water treatment processes, it can make people sick. Some common causes have been attributed to lack of sanitation system, dilapidated pipes, contamination of running water in environments where human and wildlife use the same source of water.
The reality of the living condition of people became known to him during his campaign tour when he saw humans sharing water sources with pigs at Lau. From that moment, he was determined to change the story of Taraba once given the mandate. On the whole, Taraba State was dehydrated in multiple ways but the step to rehydration must begin somewhere – with potable water. By these considerations DDI, at first instance could not stand the sight of his people suffering due to lack of water so he called his first shot.
A cross section of the populace had different views at the beginning, some were optimistic about the rehabilitation exercise and had confidence on the government to deliver on campaign promises, others saw it as an avenue for government officials to embezzle funds and yet others were indifferent to the entire process. They preferred to watch as events unfold. However in few months, the story on the lips of everyone is the same as water flows steadily. Before now many persons who never saw the need to have pumps in their houses have been forced to have a rethink while others have shared testimonies on how they have been able to cut down on their spending as huge amounts being spent on buying water has been slashed out.
The DDI water revolution is a giant initiative, changing the lives of the people and wetting the ground for limitless socio-economic possibilities for Taraba State. There has not been a better time than now that the water sector receives pragmatic and purposeful attention and support from the government.
So far, the following remarkable achievements have been recorded:
- The repair of all broken down plants, pumps and equipment in all water supply stations of the state on assumption of office.
- The restoration of water supply to Jalingo and 39 other towns through consistent release of funds to the State Water Supply Agency for the operation and maintenance of the State water supply systems.
- Visit to the Country Director, African Development Bank Nigerian Field Office for collaboration and partnership towards meeting the State’s developmental stride. This has enabled the Governor to secure another support from African Development Bank towards improving rural water supply in the state.
- The award of new contract for the Jalingo Primary Water Source to augment existing effort.
- The payment of counterpart funds for JICA drilling rig which has been lying dormant for about two years.
- The drilling of 100 boreholes in communities across the State.
- The purchase of cutting–edge modern laboratory equipment for water quality control.
- The purchase of water treatment chemicals to ensure good quality water that is safe for the people.
- Study and benchmarking visit to Nairobi City and Sewage Corporation.
- The purchase of 500 water pumps to support irrigation and dry season farming in the State.
- Construction of 2 boreholes and dedicated water transmission pipeline to the Greenhouse site at College of Agric covering a distance of over 3km.
- The passage of National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene policy document to establish the legal framework for water resources development in Taraba State.
- The Gains of the Kenya Tour.
The passion of Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku to turn around Taraba’s socio-economic fortune has been at the centre of his activities since he assumed office on 29th May 2015. Keen observers have remarked that he hardly lets any opportunity pass by without looking out for possibilities to add value to the State and the people. He is always exploring new grounds and expanding his contact range to reach as many potential intervention agents as possible. With the Rescue captain, there is certainly no dull moment when it comes to his commitment to make good his promise of providing development in exchange for peace.
The Kenyan study tour and benchmarking exercise to the Nairobi City Water and Sewage Corporation was characteristically pedagogic, featured in presentation and participatory sessions, and visit to some leading water supply facilities of the Nairobi Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation as well as to the Thika Dam which serves as the main water supply source to the Corporation.
The interactive session placed in perspective the real needs, possibilities, challenges, projections and successes that will set Taraba State on track for realizing its goals in water provision. This firsthand interaction and practical tour of the water facilities is a major step for the team. Sharing their experience in the development and management of their water sources, distribution, billing, and deployment of modern technology for effective and efficient operations for self-sustainability and quality services presented the visiting team with first-hand narratives that efficient and sustainable water supply is achievable in Taraba State and it is the Ernest desire of the Rescue Captain to make the water system work in the manner they saw in Kenya. Offshoots of the visit include the following:-
- The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Taraba State Water Supply Agency and Nairobi City Water and Sewage Corporation, thus creating a platform for collaboration.
- The government has worked out modalities to send about 50 personnel of the Taraba State Water Supply Agency on a Hands-on –Training to Nairobi City Water and Sewage Corporation to build capacity for the operation and maintenance of the water systems in Taraba State.
- Governor Darius Ishaku has promised to support the TSWSA through the deployment of technology and innovations to help the agency achieve service efficiency. The government is also working with the African Development Bank to create an enabling environment for the operations of the State Water Agency through the review of existing laws to cater for the new outlook of the institution through institutional reforms and capacity building.
- The Government is also considering the granting of autonomy to the TSWSA using the principle “Hands-off-Eyes-on”. They are working out modalities for a gradual withdrawal of government financial support for operation and maintenance, while they encourage the Water Supply Agency to stand on its own considering the fact that Water remains a huge revenue earner that can guarantee returns on investment if properly managed.
According to the Governor, Board of Directors comprising highly experienced individuals with a reputation would be appointed to give policy direction to the Agency. The Management of the State Water Supply Agency will be strengthened and repositioned for better performance. They shall sign performance contracts with the management with defined targets and deliverables to achieve in order to ensure accountability and commitment.
Recently, a Town Hall Meeting on Taraba State Water reform Sector was held and all and sundry were present; All present commended the Timely Rescue and urged the Governor for sustainability, just like Oliver Twist they unanimously asked for more.
The General Manager of TSWSA, Hon. Musa Buba Siam thanked the Governor for his prompt and timely interventions, and his ever willingness to provide aids in terms of the need to the Water Sector of the State. He conformed to the genuinety of all listed landmarks by DDI in the Water Sector.
The Commissioner of Water Resources, Barr. Gowon Emmanuel Hallan on his own part shed light on the government intervention, he gave more revelations. In his words “The journey has not been easy, even though interesting. The person that turns the tap and sees water running does not understand the energy exerted in planning, construction and operating the system to enable water flow through the tap, but one that is involved in the complexities of the onerous tasks. I appreciate it now that I am involved”.
The Revolution that greeted the water sector in Taraba State has restored the hope of the common man as they now see for themselves what Abraham Lincoln defined as “Government of the people, by the people and for the people”. There is only one thing on the lips of everyone – Praise for Governor Darius Ishaku as he has indeed rescued all from the shackles of lack of portable water supply. The Rescue Mission Agenda of the current Administration have indeed been made manifest in the Water sector and other areas which have made the people to constantly chant “Taraba, Sai Darius”.
It is indeed a time of accentuated activity for the Rescue captain as he explores all avenues, leaving no stone unturned in the process, to tell Taraba’s story and beckon on willing partners to come and join in the business of moving the State to an enviable height. It is the hope of all Tarabans that these seeds he is sowing will yield profitable results in the near future and posterity will remain grateful to him for the exploring and daring spirit embedded in this astute visionary.
Sylvanus Y. Giwa
(Senior Special Assistant to the Executive Governor of Taraba State on Media and Publicity)