• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Revitalising the Abia water scheme (1)

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Remember the legendary afro-beat maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti? Remember that popular song, Water has no enemy?  One Leo Ogbonna, acting general manager of the Abia State Water Board is singing that song right now in a different tune and shape in Abia State. He is not dancing on the stage with a rap of cannabis stuck to his mouth and with an array of female dancers. No, he cannot be Fela. But, he is executing the message of the song by ensuring that the hitherto moribund regional water schemes in Abia are back to work and there will be water everywhere and for everybody.

There is a new energy in the Abia Water Board which is being directed towards the accomplishment of the programme of Governor Theodore Orji-led government in the area of provision of social amenities.  “The Board is an instrument of the government in proving public utilities and we are working to accomplish the dream of Governor Orji in the area of revitalising the Regional Water Schemes and creating new ones. We are complementing the effort of the governor in ensuring a better life for Abians,” declared Ogbonna.

Towards this purpose, the Board has embarked on a large-scale programme of rehabilitation of the state’s regional water schemes in the two municipalities of Aba and Umuahia and in the communities.  Starting with the first phase of the Umuahia Regional Water Scheme which was moribund for over 14 years, the Board has moved on to the second phase of upgrading the capacity of the scheme so that it could serve the outskirts of the Umuahia municipality like the Ohiya Mechanic Village, Industrial Market at Ahiaeke and the other nearby communities which are today part of the Umuahia city. “I did the rehabilitation as a special project between two years and 14 years. Now, we are upgrading it because when the scheme was designed some 28 years ago, it was only for the Umuahia municipality. But, now we are upgrading it so that it could cover the outskirts like the Ohiya Mechanic Village, Industrial Market at Ahiaeke and the adjoining communities,” Ogbonna said.

Ogbonna disclosed further that to achieve the goal of putting water in every home, the Board have designed the pumping statistics to be three times per week due to cost of production But by the time he accomplishes the task of refurbishing the 2.5MVA Power transformer, the Board will hook up to NEPA and the cost of production and of sustaining the pumping statistics will come down. This will mean that the job of the Board will be a lot easier.

The new helmsman of the Abia Water Board has also directed energy towards revamping the   rural water schemes. In Abia, there are fifty-seven existing rural water scheme cut across the seventeen local councils and which have been moribund in the last fifteen years.  On assumption of office in January 2014, Ogbonna  did a tour of  fifty-seven  rural water schemes with the view of having first hand information about their status and to know how best to serve rural people through the schemes. “I did a pilot sampling with four rural water schemes. I did the rehabilitation of four out of the fifty-seven existing schemes in the first two months of my assumption in office, namely: Itungwa rural water scheme in Obingwa, Ohafia Rural Water Scheme in Ohafia LGA, Abiriba Water Scheme, Umuagbai in Osisioma LGA,” he said.

Upon the successful completion of the four pilot programmes, Ogbonna said he applied to the executive governor and got his approval for the rehabilitation of the first set of twenty schemes out of the fifty-seven.  The Board has since embarked on these projects. “Right now, we are in Ututu in Arochukwu LG where we are doing a new industrial borehole for them. If we successfully complete this, we will come to Ubakala Rural Water Scheme. We are doing it as the need arises. In Ututu, it is difficult to drill a borehole there and get water. The terrain is called Nsukka formation and we work as the fund is available,” he told this writer.

Indeed, the Abia Water Board is not resting on its oars. It has also stepped into the Aba Water problem. In Aba metropolis, there are four regional water schemes namely; Ariaria pumping station, CKC pumping station, Aba River Intake and Orgbor Hill Booster station.  Except Orgbor Hill & Aba River Intake that are inter-linked, the other two schemes are independent of each other. These schemes were designed to provide water to the city of Aba set by set, serving each section of the town. And they were functional until about thirteen years ago when the Federal Ministry of Water Resources contracted the rehabilitation of the schemes to a foreign firm, JDP Construction Company, for rehabilitation and relaying of pipes in some zones. Unfortunately, JDP abandoned the project.

But to Ogbonna’s shock he was to discover that the state government under Orji Uzor Kalu was not privy to the contractual agreement between JDP and Federal Government. The initial contractual agreement was N1.1 billion. Three months before the company entered the site, they had a variation of another N800 million, bringing the total cost to N1.9 billion and they were given a takeoff grant of N500 million. After the initial N500 million, another N200million was released to the company from Federal Ministry of Water Resources. After this, they pulled out from site. Today, Ogbonna’s crusade is that the JDP Construction Company and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources are holding Abia State to ransom and this is even more worrisome when one considers that Aba is a thickly populated city.

Ogbonna’s frustration is very clear. “We cannot even access the project sites because they locked up the project sites. I have invited JDP and demanded for what they did so far and why they left the site without accomplishing even one set of the project. Now, from their presentation to me, the whole thing was a scam arrangement. Whatever clause that was in that agreement is endemic to Abia State people,” he said.

GODWIN ADINDU