Emmanuel Ada Adanu’s passion, commitment to meeting Nigeria’s water challenges

In the way he uses biblical anecdotes of the creation story to underscore the importance of water, Emmanuel Ada Adanu leaves you with no doubt about his passion for the subject of water resources. Adanu holds a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D) in hydrogeology from the Technical University, Berlin, Germany, and has been a professor of geology since 2017. Earlier, he obtained a B.Sc in Geology and an M.Sc in Hydrogeology from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He also obtained a postgraduate diploma in civil engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Minna. For all these qualifications, he maintains a special relationship with water.

Adanu, currently director general/chief executive officer of the National Water Resources Institute, Kaduna, says, “Water is the ultimate in God’s sight” and reflects, “The first thing that was created was the universe and then water. The verses of our scriptures mentioned that God created water in the beginning; the oceans were raging; the earth was void; and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And that’s the way we take water. God gave water reverence, right from creation, but sometimes we misunderstand how important water is because it’s just available.”

However, he cautions: “Since creation, water volume has not substantially increased. So, it requires God’s intervention again to create more water.”

But, in addition to such divine intervention, he sees his mission as “working hard to make the little water that was created very profitable for our existence” since “Water is so central to the existence of living things and even non-living things.”

Read also: Poor access to water worsens Nigerians’ living standard

To achieve industry objectives, Adanu urges experts to confine themselves to their areas of specialization. That’s how he himself goes about his business. He takes time to elaborate on this dictum: “When you are technical person, you must remain technical and allow the politicians do the politics. You must advise you seniors on technical issues; tell them the fact. If they want to politicize it, it is not your business. Just tell them the facts and be constructive. So if they are coming out with a policy, it should be looked at as a constructive policy based on the right information provided.”

The 67-year old from Odugbo in Benue state was, prior to his appointment in 2015, the Director, Dams and Reservoirs at the Federal Ministry of Water Resources. He was also a lecturer at two prestigious universities in the country, starting with Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria in 1978; and Nasarawa State University, and currently lectures in NDA as well. He specializes in applied hydrogeology, geotechnical; pipeline conveyance technology and water resources and environmental management.

He is leading the Institution to deliver on the mandate of training middle level manpower in the water resources sector. He has had to contend with challenge of getting the Institution assume the responsibilities vested in it by the decree that set it up, which is now an Act. “But unfortunately,” he says, “only a very minute part of these (responsibilities) is being paid attention to.” He has also taken steps to ensure the organisation is ahead of others, through research and training.”

But he has come upon the familiar challenge of limited resources to fund research. “You know research is funding, but we do not respect research in Nigeria and nobody cares about it. But, they don’t know that it’s the main thing that drives an economy and that we must spend money on it. So when money was not made available, there was a reduction in the scope of people who will do the research. The thinking capacity of the people will also be considerably reduced. When I came, I said we have to work for funds, and we started raising funds, then our scope started manifesting.”

His background as a university researcher has come in handy, because he was involved in the development of the National Water Resources Master Plan. He’s been able to use his contacts to secure jobs from outside government relating to research, which has yielded funds ploughed into the development of the Institute. Stressing the importance of research funding, he notes: “When we start a research we must finish it and produce results. Fortunately, too, I made sure that all our universities and polytechnics are on our mailing list for our research results– even water boards. We even have codes of practice for certain activities like well drilling and reservoir operations and we are now developing one for water supply facilities, because it is our mandate to come up with codes of practice for all water resources development, activities.”

The Institute is conducting research on the requirements of the different players in the agriculture sector for water. He explains that for agricultural purposes, there are dams that have been developed in the country over years. Most of them in the North are silted up and that is a big problem. The active capacities of the dams are reduced, but during construction, the quantities of water in the dam were calculated and apportioned to certain areas like irrigation, water supply, hydropower etc. But right now, with population growth and expansion in irrigation activities, these reductions in the capacities of these dams also reduces our capacity to meet the demands. If there is a policy right now for maybe 100 hectares of rice for a certain dam that was constructed long ago, with the reduction in the capacity now, the 100 hectares are no more achievable; and this is tied to the increasing water supply demand as a result of the population growth.

Therefore, research is conducted to let government know it is no more feasible to stick to the initial plan rather adjust to current available potential. For agriculture, we calculate the water requirement for crop. If it is for rice, we advise government that rice takes more water than wheat and then advise them to reduce the rice cultivation here and maybe substitute it with wheat. We can advise government on how they can do this kind of reduction.”

His Institute is taking full advantage of the UNESCO Regional Centre for Integrated River Basin Management project, in which Jabi Lake has been selected for Ecohydrology studies where nature-based treatment is used to purify Jabi lake, he boasts. He intends this will be replicated all over the country. Without using chemicals any more, but with the use of plants to treat the whole lake, which will be a stepping stone for other water bodies in municipal environments.

He explains further that, inside his Institute’s premises is what they call “non-native crops development”, which arose from their decision to take ginger from Kaduna state to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan for an experiment. “Ginger is not native to them there, but we asked them to plant it and see what happens. They planted the ginger and we realized that the ginger there produced more in quantity and more peppery than the one here. So we tried to understand why ( — the soil or the weather)? In return, we took cocoa and planted it here in our institute and it is budding now after two years. The reason is to discard this notion that some crops cannot be cultivated in some parts of the country. Anybody can farm any crops in any part of the country, with appropriate management in terms of the timing for planting and water requirement. We have written the report on this, which will be presented to the government later.

He continues: “We planted wheat here within our premises to ascertain if we can grow wheat in any part of Kaduna state, and it thrived very well. We monitored the water requirements and the temperature and we have the records of these. This is our wheat (pointing at a sample?).We will come out with a result on how to plant wheat, how to plant different varieties and how to use them.”

In addition, the institute is also benefitting from being host to the UNESCO Regional Centre for Integrated River Basin Management. This has given it a broader perspective on the West African sub region and it can explore the potential of trans-boundary waters in the west African sub region for how they affect Nigeria’s water resources development. Adanu says he is comfortable with the quantity of water available in Nigeria, the internally generated water resources in the country, which is enough for the country to effectively develop and manage for our socio-economic demands.

He is satisfied with the steps he has taken to boost the morale of the Institute’s staff and the impact of the facilities he has provided to enhance its operations. One of these is the hydraulic modelling centre, one of the very few in the country. “We used to go to South Africa and Europe for modelling of some of our, dams like Gurara, Kashimbilla where we spent millions upon millions of naira on a models that can developed in Nigeria,” he recalls.

Even though Prof. Adanu was not involved in the conceptualization of Gurara, the construction took effect under his watch. Prof. Adanuwas editor-in-chief of Water Resources, the journal of the Nigerian Association of Hydrogeologists. He has been involved in several high-profile projects in the country, the geological mapping of Agana and Makurdi sheets; paleontological investigation of the Makurdi Formation; and space application in water resources development and management.

He appreciates the support he has had from the current Minister of Water Resources, Engr Suleiman Hussein Adamu (FNSE, FAEng, FNAH.) whom he characterizes as “disposed to listening to facts and intelligent arguments. I’ve never had a problem with him. He is always pushing me, telling me you can do it’. When your Boss tells you can do it, it means he has a certain respect for you and some regards for your intellect.”

He aligns with advocates of the controversial Water Resources, although he concedes that it was introduced “at a time when lots of our established personalities were not aware of the contents’’ He continues: “In 1996, when we were still operating the decree 101, a committee was up to produce the guidelines for the operation of the decree. Some technical officers were selected from all the departments in the ministry for this purpose. I was the chairman of the committee and we spent about 22 days in Ilorin on this assignment and we came up with the guidelines for the operation of the decree , because the decree was like an ordinance.”

On the legacy he hopes to leave behind in the institute, he says: “If you go back to the ministry and ask the people that worked with me, you might still see some ruminants of the morale we collectively established while I was there. Your workers must have a high morale; otherwise you can’t get the best out of them. My legacy here so far is the environment I have managed to create for them to work very well.”

A former Principal Private Secretary to the Military Administrator of Benue State, he has served on various state and national committees, including as chairman of the Benue State Committee on Vision 2020; chairman of the Ministerial Committee on the Revitalization of River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs); Chairman UNESCO Governing Board for the Regional Centre for Integrated River Basin Management.

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