SPECIAL REPORT: As FCT Shuns Damaged Pipe, Karu Residents Groan Over Three Months Water Scarcity

Over N1bn Required To Fix Damaged Pipe – Insider Source

…FCT Water Board Keeps Mum

The popular maxim that “water is life” depicts how important and central water is to the life of a man. A man may survive for weeks without food, but can hardly survive for five days without water.

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Water is so central to man’s life that without it, life ceases to exist. No water, no life!

Safe and sufficient water, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) facilitates the practice of hygiene, which is a key measure to prevent not only diarrhoeal diseases but acute respiratory infections and numerous neglected tropical diseases.

For the visitors, Karu, a suburb under the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is a place where milk and honey flow, because of its position within the nation’s capital. However, for Maurice and her neighbours, it’s a glorified suburb neglected by the federal government.

The once highly respectable suburb of the FCT, less than 10 kilometers from the Abuja city centre has now become a shadow of itself with persistent water scarcity, having no end in sight.

Maurice, a 55-year-old civil servant, and his neighbours have been without potable water since the FCT Water Board stopped the supply of pipe-borne water to the area in September 2023.

The last water supplied to the area was muddy, sticky, and stinking; worse than open water, therefore, was not good for anything including flushing of toilet.

Narrating his ordeal long before the water finally stopped running, Maurice said, “The water board office in Karu has been rationing water supply for a very long time. At times we get water once in two weeks after which we will have to start looking for ‘Mairuwa’ (water vendors) to buy water.

“However, the story changed in September 2023. We didn’t have water for weeks and eventually on Saturday 30th September 2023, the water board released water that was very muddy, sticky, and stinking, it was not good for anything including flushing the toilet.

“Initially we thought the water would clear with time but it didn’t, we observed that the road (in front of NNPC retail station) was flooded with water from the water board, apparently the pipe had burst, and the water mixed with the stinking dirty gutter water and that was what entered people’s tanks.

“The most annoying part is that the muddy water got everyone’s tank dirty. We were all forced to wash the tanks in anticipation that water was coming but up till this time, over three months, there has been no sign of water in Karu.

“These days, children now go to scout for water daily after school in Karu town, what a shame!”

Shortage: Water Vendors Make Brisk Business

In the absence of pipe-borne water from the FCT water board and with no formal reason, residents of Karu have turned to water vendors to survive.

Mr. Maurice shared the bitter experience of starting to raise cut-throat budget for what they never had expected.

“We pay water vendors between N800 and N1,200 for 12 units of 20-litre jerry cans which is a truck, and we had to buy frequently. My neighbour was lamenting that she buys two trucks daily at N1,600 and her children still go to fetch water from the borehole to augment the two trucks as they are many in the house and their water consumption level is high.

“We are now living like people in the village. Sometimes I go to work late because I have to look for “Mairuwa” to buy water. With the current economic hardship in the country, we can’t even get clean water to use, it is not funny at all.”

Pleading the government to intervene, another resident said, “Please kindly come to our aid before we have an outbreak of diseases as a result of bad hygiene because of lack of good water.” With a sob of despair, she threw herself back to her chair.

Water Board Officials Are Corrupt -Resident

Another resident, Mr JJ who spoke to TheFact Investigator, said, “The water situation in Karu is pathetic. For months now, there has been no sign of water in Karu, and no one is telling us the truth about it.

“The last time I asked one of them (a staff at the water board office in Karu) told me not to expect the water any time soon, because there is no money to repair the damaged pipe.

“I asked him whether the money needed to repair the damaged pipe is too much that the government cannot afford, he said, he didn’t know. But one thing I know is that the officials are corrupt. They will always discourage you from paying the water bill using the Remita, they prefer you pay through them.

“Remita is charging N161.25 per cubic feet but if you go to any of their branches, they can charge you N350 including Remita fee. Some will charge N400, others will charge N450 depending on the area you go to make payment.

“They will always discourage you from going to the bank to make payment. Instead of you generating your RRR, going to the bank and making your payment, and getting your receipt, they would want you to come to their office.

“Whereas, some of the meters supplied were not profiled on the system, because even when you have your meter number, you are not allowed to pay on your own, which means some of the meters are not profile on the system.

“This means that your meter does not exist in FCT Water Board, so how do they manage to give you a water bill?”

Further speaking on this narrative, a resident noted that, “There was a day, I wanted to pay the bill using the Remita, unfortunately, when I tried it, my meter account was not recognized on the Remita and Water Board payment system. There is serious fraud in the distribution of meters and payment of water bills in Karu.

“Before the water supply ceased, they used an estimated billing system instead of reading the meters just to extort money from the consumers. They supply water sometimes three times a month. Some houses cannot consume more than 4 cubits, and for that, they used to charge 250 per cubit and N50 VAT, but they have increased it to 350 per cubic and multiplied with their service charge to arrive at the estimated price they are collecting. They collect between N3,000 and N4,000, depending on your consumption, but mostly accept estimated payments”, the resident narrated.

Board Can’t Fix Water Supply Over Rising Debt, Fund Shortage – Agent

Meanwhile, a Source (Agent) at the Water Board office in Karu disclosed that the current water scarcity was caused by the non-payment of water bills.

According to the source, out of five customers, only two pay for water bills in Karu, which led to a decline in revenue generation, and an eventual shortage of funds to repair the vandalized water pipes.

On why they refused to disconnect those who are not paying for water bills instead of suffering everyone, he said, because of the harsh economic condition, the consumers will beg them not to disconnect them, so that was why the government refused to repair the affected pipes, saying that government cannot use the revenues from other Area Councils to repair the damaged pipes in Karu.

So far, the source does not know when the fault will be fixed and the water supply will be restored, as that is the prerogative of the government. On how much, a new customer could pay to be connected to the water source, he said as an agent, he could collect between N80,000 and N100,000 depending on the area.

However, TheFact gathered that the problem was beyond the non-payment of water bills. Some other sources said the board could not just shut down the whole water supply network in Karu just because residents defaulted in paying bills. It was noted that the worse would have been the disconnection of the defaulting customers.

Problem Beyond Karu/Nyanya Area Office – Insider Source

Still on the acute water scarcity, the TheFact investigator spoke with an insider source at the Area Office of the Karu/Nyanya; the source however said he was not authorized to speak and referred this reporter to obtain permission from the headquarters (FCT Water Board).

The official however noted that the issue was beyond the Karu/Nyanya Area Office, revealing that the 700mm pipe which supplies water to the Karu/Nyanya area was damaged around Kugbo, and a huge amount of money is required to get it fixed.

He declined to speak on the exact amount required to get it fixed but said it’s more than the amount so far collected as water bill from the area. The official also added that while customers are lamenting, the staff at the Area Office are also lamenting because there is no water to sell and generate revenue for the government.

“The FCT Water Board is fully aware of the situation. We wrote a report to them informing them of the situation,” the official noted.

FCT Water Board Mum As Scarcity Persists

The Management of the FCT Water Board has not spoken on the issue even as the scarcity of water bites harder in Karu.

Several efforts were made to get an official response on the issue. However, TheFact gathered that about N1 billion would be required to fix the problem. If such an amount is required then it should be captured in the 2024 budget, or through emergency procurement, officials said.

This newspaper also gathered that the damaged pipe is inside a tunnel stretching over some kilometers between Asokoro and Karu which would require some level of preparation before entering because of reptiles and other dangers as gravity flow was used instead of installing a pumping station.

As at press time, no solution has been in place to ameliorate the suffering of the residents as they have no choice but to depend on vendors for water supply from the boreholes at cut-throat rates.

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