Enugu declares water emergency after #ClaimYourWaterRights campaign

Hope Spring Water
30 Jan 2020

On 23 January, Enugu State declared a state-of-emergency in its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector. The state government also established an 18-member inter-ministerial committee to revamp the WASH sector. The declaration comes after a series of advocacy meetings between state officials, Enugu’s water utility provider, the ministry of water resources, and civil society organisations, to reinforce Nigerian citizen's rights to safe drinking water.

Enugu State is commonly referred to as the capital of southeastern Nigeria and is well known for its abundant natural reserves of coal. Enugu has been plagued with perennial water scarcity that is exacerbated by the state’s topography. This makes it difficult to access groundwater. According to WaterAid Nigeria, over half (2.37 million) of Enugu residents lack basic water services. Further, their research shows that lack of access to WASH is a major contributor to poverty and poor health with almost one in ten children under age five being stunted. Despite several funding interventions by the state government and international development organisations such as The World Bank, millions of people in Enugu are still denied their human rights to safe drinking water.

Disturbed by such stark statistics, Hope Spring Water targeted Enugu as a key state to implement the #ClaimYourWaterRights campaign, which seeks to end water poverty through mobilising people to advocate for their human rights to safe drinking water.

This declaration shows the government have recognised the decay in water and sanitation services and are ready to revamp the sector. The 18-strong interministerial committee comprises of experienced directors, officials from Enugu’s water corporation as well as heads of state ministries such as health, water resources, justice and environment. Civil society organisations (CSOs) are also represented.

Two key outcomes are expected from this declaration:

1) Improved water supply in Enugu State.

2) End open defecation in Enugu State.

This declaration is a great step forward for the #ClaimYourWaterRights team in Enugu that gives us impetus to further amplify the campaign.

Hope Spring Water
The #ClaimYourWaterRights team with Dubem Onyia


Immediately after the declaration, the #ClaimYourWaterRights team, led by Hope Spring Water, visited the Special Adviser to Enugu's Governor on Water Resources, Dubem Onyia - who will head the interministerial committee - to learn their plans to improve the state’s water supply. Onyia confirmed the government’s commitment to ending water poverty in Enugu, while stating that the government has already started to rehabilitate most of the state’s water production and distribution networks. He reiterated that the state government has approved funds for the rehabilitation of the 9th mile water supply scheme that is due to be completed by April 2020.

Onyia also confirmed that the state's WASH Policy, which has long stalled, would be passed into law before the end of January. Another development is an ongoing dialogue for the receipt of $50 million from the French Development Agency (AFD) for the revamp of Enugu State Water Corporation. In terms of advocacy and capacity building, he reiterated the need to collaborate with civil society and development partners.

Nigeria is the open defecation capital of Africa: out of 774 local government areas, only 16 have been certified open defecation free (ODF). Of the 16 areas that are ODF, none are in the southeast. Following the state-of-emergency declaration, it is expected that Enugu will produce the first ODF local government in the southeast. Onyia expressed his willingness to make this happen. The #ClaimYourWaterRights team will continue to engage the government at various levels to ensure the proposed plans are implemented.

Lessons learnt: 

  • We observed a deep lack of knowledge around the human rights to water amongst from both duty bearers (politicians) and rights holders (the public). Sustained sensitisation of both parties is imperative.
  • Holding strategic planning meetings with engaged civil society organisations was instrumental in amplifying the campaign’s key messages.
  • The campaign’s success largely hinged on having separate meetings with key stakeholders such as water ministry officials.
  • Presenting case studies was key in drawing government attention to the plight of people living without safe water. 

Next steps:

  • Follow up with Dubem Onyia to facilitate the passing of the WASH bill into law.
  • Follow up with Dubem Onyia to help ensure the AFD releases the $50 million fund for Enugu State Water Corporation.
  • Follow up on plans for the rehabilitation of the 9th mile water scheme.
  • Schedule a site visit to various water treatment plants in the state.
  • Host a radio programme to sensitise the public on their rights to water and the implications of the state-of-emergency.