Saturday, April 14, 2012

WOULD YOU PROVIDE POTABLE WATER IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE YOU CAN BREAK EVEN?


Thank God for a glass of cold water! Credit: Walter J. Pilsak/Commons.wikimedia.org

Residents of suburban Abuja moan for potable water from the Government. Since a major part of the population of Abuja (80%) live in satellite towns and its suburbs, one wonders when Government will find the will to respond to this plea. Unlike other services, few private firms will be willing to play the role of Government.

Potable water is a service that is very expensive to establish and after setting it up, even if you make sales or not, you still have to maintain it – like buy fuel for generators, ensure the pipes do not burst etc. Since private firms have refused to enter the business, then one can conclude that the price they could charge for providing potable water to the residents of suburban Abuja might never make them break even.

It is imperative then that Government comes to the rescue. For one, when a private firm endeavors to take the risk of investing in a service like potable water, it faces competition from meruwa (water vendors) who trek from street to street, and private boreholes. Would that firm be able to price its water at above cost, where the meruwa(s) sale for competitive rates? Furthermore, if the private boreholes make jealous profits, then boreholes would be springing up aplenty for a share of the profits.

The private boreholes that exist were established to serve the water needs of the households that set them up, and whatever revenue is made from selling to the community is not tempting.

At satellite town, along Badagry-Expressway where I live, we have the same problem. Water is delivered to houses by Lorries with tanks full of water. The private boreholes that have been established do not exist to break even.

To further compound the problem of building a network of pipes to serve the community, is the fear that some miscreant could burst these pipes in order to draw water from them for nothing, further compounding its cost situation.

These are why the Government should step in. When private firms find it difficult to provide potable water, or power, or clean up pollution, for reasons that are beyond their abilities, we pay taxes for the Government to do this.

But does the Government have the will and the ability?

If Bala Mohammed, the FCT Minister, is interested in keeping true to his promise, then would the meruwa(s) not be determined to take the ability from him, calling on age-old traditional ties and lobbies? It would be a pity that so many of them would have to lose a means of livelihood if he keeps true to his words. By the way, the satellite towns and suburbs surrounding Abuja do not count for much in his estimation. So why should he bother? This problem will not stop at anything but being epileptic but prolonged.

For all one can say, the residents of suburban Abuja would have to do with meruwas and private boreholes for a long while.



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