Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a request under the Freedom of Information Act to Mrs Sarah Ochekpe Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources asking her to “provide within 14 days information on the allocation, including international aid and spending of public funds to provide access to safe and affordable water and sanitation services for Nigerians in the past 5 years.”
In the request dated 7 May 2012 and signed by SERAP Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said, “We are concerned about the number of Nigerians without access to portable and clean water which is currently placed around 66 million Nigerians (about 39% of the population without access). The figures are from the 2012 progress report released recently by the World Health Organization/United Nations Children’s Fund Joint Monitoring Programme on drinking water and sanitation.”
The organization said that, “Clean water is lacking, activities like washing of hands, cleaning of food, brushing of teeth often taken for granted in more organized societies may be disregarded because people are forced to make a choice to ration the little water, if any, that they are able to scoop up.”
According to the organization, “Across the country, majority of Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable groups, including children, women and the elderly, have been left to continue drinking water containing iron sulphide and all sorts of bacteria, germs and suspended matter capable of causing diseases.”
The organization also said that “Piped water is a near luxury, while rural dwellers continue to source drinking water from polluted springs/rivers or wells with the attendant health risks of contracting diseases such as guinea worm and cholera. In many parts of the country pipes run through gutters and many people have to get water sold in jerry cans from vendors.”
“The right to water is a fundamental human right, and the violation of this right has continued to contribute to the violations of other human rights, including the right to equal treatment; the right to a general satisfactory environment; the right to health; the right to life; and the right to human dignity and security,” the organization also said.
The organization also argued that, “Without access to improved and safe water supply Nigeria cannot achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; and ensuring environmental sustainability.”
The organization said it is entitled to request for the information by virtue of section 2(3)(d)(v), 2(3)(e)(iii) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act), which “relates to information on the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution, and materials containing information to any grant or contract made by or between the institution and another public institution or private organization.”
“The Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources is under a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to the allocation and spending of funds meant for water resources are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means,” the organization further added.
The organization is therefore “seeking relevant information on the allocation and spending on water resources in order to ascertain the level of budget allocations and specific spending on water projects for the past 5 years.” Specifically, the organization is asking for information on the following:
1. What amount has been allocated for water resources and more specifically, for access to portable and clean water in the past 5 years
2. What amount has been spent on water resources for access to portable and clean water in the past 5 years
3. Information on contracts made by the government and other public institutions or private organizations for provision of portable and clean water to households in the past 5 years.