Zaria Water Project: A Project or Financial Black Hole?

Following the recent report on the further allocation of 1.7 billion naira for the rehabilitation and expansion of the Zaria water distribution network by the Kaduna State Government, a project that has been ongoing for almost two decades without producing a single drop of water, we attempt a critical review of the said project which has gazumped huge amount of the state resources for almost two decades.

Due to the intense water scarcity which has been plaguing Zaria and its environs for so many years, Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi after assuming office in his first tenure as the governor of Kaduna State in 1999 had as one of his cardinal goals the provision of the basic necessity of life which is water to the people of the affected region. It was in this vein that he considered and initiated the expansion and upgrading of the then existing fifty million litres per day Zaria Water Works Plant to start producing up to 150 million litres per day. This project was tagged “Zaria Water Project”; a project that after 16 years will still be attracting billions of naira borrowed from foreign financial institutions without producing a single drop of water.

The first phase of this contract was awarded but the project was later abandoned as a result of dearth of funds to execute it. This is not an unusual occurrence though, abandoning of important projects has become the status quo and trademark of the Kaduna State Government over the years.

After Governor Namadi Sambo took over the reins of power in 2007, this same project yet again took the front burner under his administration and it was reviewed to cost in the excesses of 15.7 billion naira. The earmarked funds were stipulated to be sufficient enough in getting the work done by the year 2011. The contract once again stalled in 2010 after he was elevated to serve in the position of the Vice President of Nigeria after the demise of President Yaradua.

Yet again, after taking over as the Kaduna State governor, Governor Patrick Yakowa made efforts to forge ahead with this project but his efforts were frustrated by the abduction of two foreign nationals who were working at the project site and the curtains were finally pulled after his tragic death in 2012.

In 2013, Governor Yero secured a loan of $100 million (over 15 billion naira) from African development Bank (AfDB) which was said to be used in funding the Phase II of this project; and another $81.2 million (over 12.5 billion naira) from the Islamic Development Bank for the Phase III of the project. He added that both Phases II and III of the project will be finished in 2017. He was unfortunately ousted from the State House in the 2015 polls.

Following the promise of breaking the Zaria Water Project by Governor Nasir el-Rufai in June, the Commissioner for Water Resources had yesterday disclosed to journalists after the State Executive Council (SEC) meeting that the Kaduna State Government has again awarded a 1.7 billion naira contract in respect to the age-old project. It is said to include the rehabilitation and replacement of some of the old pipes, construction of 7.3 kilometer lines, construction of ten reservoirs of six million litres each, construction of bolster stations, among other projects.

What are the chances that this white elephant project would ever see the light of the day?

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