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 •Governor pitches 70 million-gallon Adiyan Scheme II project to financiers at Lagos Water Conference

The current cholera crisis in the country would have spiraled out of control if Lagos State Government had not been proactive in controlling the spread of the water borne epidemic, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said on Tuesday.

The Governor said but for the quick activation of the State’s incident command mechanism and surveillance system to control the contagious disease, the nation would have been grappling with the “catastrophic consequence” that could have resulted from the reoccurrence of the epidemic.

Lagos remains the most burdened state as the epidemic spikes in 31 states, with fatality rate put at 3.5 per cent since the beginning of the year.

Sanwo-Olu linked the spread of cholera to the drop in sanitation at the community level and the intake of contaminated water. The nation’s vulnerability to waterborne diseases, the Governor said, had reinforced the need for collaboration between the Government and development partners to resolve issues surrounding provision of clean water. 

The Governor spoke at the 2024 Lagos International Water Conference held at Eko Hotels and Suites in Victoria Island. The event with the theme: “Financing Water and Sanitation for a Greater Lagos”, was organised by Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission (LASWARCO).

At the large gathering comprising stakeholders, regulators and funding partners, Sanwo-Olu said discussions must be focused on actions and strategies that would ensure resources were allocated to the area they were most needed.

He said the conference could end up as another talk shop if a decisive action could not be taken to address inadequacies in provision of safe drinking water to promote hygiene and sanitation in the country.

He said: “Today, we are talking about cholera outbreak and we have seen the disease spread in last couple of weeks with not too serious fatalities like we had during COVID-19. We have seen a better containment strategy because of the proactive nature of this Government. With all sense of humility, it was the level of how well we were able to take proactive steps and transparently have a surveillance engagement, that we were able to stem the tide and reduce an effect of the disease that would not only be local, but will be very catastrophic for the nation. 

“This cholera response has again demonstrated that water is a critical conversation in our movement to address this problem. We have been reminded by Fela Anikulapo Kuti that water does not have enemy. But, we are all not sincere and serious. It is not about lip service; it is about ensuring that we can put our resources where it is most needed. We need to move from lip service to actions that will help resolve the issues. Aside investing resources, we also need to identify the skills that are required.”

Sanwo-Olu said his administration considered provision of clean water as human rights, stressing that his Government had raised spendings to Water and Sanitation sector in the last four years.

The Governor said it was time to build physical partnership that would turn around operational efficiency and service in the State-owned Water Corporation. He rallied the stakeholders to support the State with technical expertise and infrastructure financing in order to complete the ongoing Adiyan Scheme II water project, which will produce 70 million gallons daily to Lagosians.

He said: “The best news I want to hear from this gathering is the fact that, when we come back next year for this yet another conference, Adiyan Scheme II, which will require tens of billions of Naira should have been completed. Whatever it is going to take; whatever resources that will require for us to be able to complete a 70 million gallons water treatment plant that will enhance access and availability of water is our commitment. We need infrastructure on the ground and people who are committed.”

Minister for Water Resources and Sanitation, Prof. Terlumun Utsev, observed that rapid urbanisation and inadequate infrastructure were part of the key factors contributing to water shortages in Lagos, urging Government agencies to leverage private sector investment in enhancing public water supply.

Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab, the pressure on the existing water supply infrastructure had made it imperative for the State Government to find sustainable innovative ways to finance and manage water supplies. 

He urged stakeholders to identify best practices and design inclusive model that would address water governance, capacity building and community engagement.

LASWARCO Executive Secretary, Mrs. Funke Adepoju, said the conference was the fifth to be hosted in the last five years by the regulatory agency to address governance concerns in water and sanitation sector. 

“The expected outcomes from all the sessions at this conference are actionable strategies that will contribute to the broader goals of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Lagos and in the water sector,” she said.

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