The economy over residents

Fauve writes*

Despite the city of Abeokuta being one of the largest water distributors to urban cities in Southwestern Nigeria, the residents of Abeokuta themselves suffer greatly from water scarcity.  A growing population and intensifying climate change (pdf) is making the already poor potable water supply even more scarce. But politicians are prioritizing economic development over the interests of residents.

The Oyan dam, one of the main supplies of water to Abeokuta, was built in 1983 by the Ogun Oshun River Basin Development (pdf) for municipal uses in hopes of solving the water scarcity problem. However, rather than supplying a sufficient amount of water to residents, the Oyan dam is barely distributing water. Poor infrastructure, insufficient connections, and a lack of maintenance means that only 1.3% of Abeokutians get their water from Oyan.

It is important to note, however, that the dams built were not only meant for municipal uses, but also for industrial and irrigation uses in hopes of the state gaining more financial income. After a study in 2019, it became clear who the state prioritizes. Whilst the unmet potable water supply for residents was 4.5 MCM (millions of cubic meters), the demand for industrial and irrigation uses was often fully met. Unmet demand becomes understandable when looking at the revenue and expenditure of the main regulator in Abeokuta, The Ogun State Water Corporation (OSWC). In spite of gaining N9.1 billion a year (US$20k), with a recurrent expenditure set at N1.6 billion (US$3k), and capital expenditure at N7.5 billion (US$16k) supposedly used to tackle water scarcity in Abeokuta, the government prioritizes rehabilitation of dams, leading to the issue of its populace not having water being put on hold.

Due to the dam not supplying Abeokutians with enough water, the residents choose to take matters into their own hands by investing in self-supply via “private utility companies.” Therefore, if residents are able to afford it, they tend to install tanks to ensure clean drinking water. In fact, 68.6% of residents rely on their own private utilities whilst only 2.63% rely on the pipeline connection provided by government water supplies.

Not only has the lack of government action to provide potable water to Abeokuta resulted in residents installing private utilities, but it has also increased the price of water due to the costs of aging infrastructure. Residents who commonly relied on tanks to gather water face a price increase of 33% (N500 or US$1.09) per m3 of water. Though this may not seem drastic, for a family or community with an unstable income, this could decrease the average number of liters they buy, or set a stop on buying clean water at all, leading to high risks of developing waterborne diseases from unsanitary water supplies.

Bottom line: The dams constructed in Abeokuta are inadequate in ensuring a sufficient potable water supply to its residents due to insufficient funds put towards the reconstruction and building of pipeline connections as a cause of government interests lying in the economy rather than its citizens.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

One thought on “The economy over residents”

  1. Dear Fauve,

    This blog post is well-written and clear. Your explanation of the government’s prioritization of providing water to farmers and industries over residents was insightful. Indeed, you highlighted well how the profit-seeking motivations of the government resulted in an insufficient supply of municipal drinking water for the residents when the demand for irrigation and industrial uses could be met. Hence, for your case study report it would be interesting to look at the corruption mechanisms that could potentially cause the issue you describe. It is useful that you mentioned how the residents had to turn to self-supply and private utility companies as it sheds light on high-price issues and sanitary risks. One thing that could be interesting to investigate more for your case study is how many private utility companies there are and the business model they use and how they interact/benefit from the government’s poorly managed infrastructure. Overall I really liked reading your blog post and learned a lot about Abeokuta !

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