Comrade Sanusi Maikudi is the acting Managing Director, Chairman Interim Management Committee, Kaduna State Water Corporation (KADSWAC). In this interview with Emmanuel Ado Host/Syndicated Columnist-Let’s Talk, he spoke on the mandate of the board by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, who is desirous of solving the problems confronting the corporation, with the objective being constant water supply for the citizens of Kaduna state.
Comrade how best would you describe your assignment?
There is no ambiguity in our mandate. The new Interim Management Committee of Kaduna State Water Corporation (KADSWAC), has the mandate to provide safe, adequate, portable water to customers. Over the years the corporation had developed some capacity to do that , but some challenges – structural, technical and financial, etc have affected that capacity. The key issue is leadership, so we are trying to provide a purposeful, focused, committed and determined leadership to make sure that the corporation delivers on its key mandate regardless of the challenges bedevilling the corporation at the moment – and we are making that difference.
Is affordability not included in your key mandate? I guess that’s critical.
Affordable is very fundamental. It is all subsumed and let me say this Kaduna state has one of the most affordable water rates. We sell cheaper than Lagos, Kano and Taraba. A take-home from conversations with stakeholders from the African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and other water specialists facilitated by the Chinese Construction Company is that we have the lowest tariff. We sell raw water at N100 per cubic metre and treated water to our domestic consumers at N64 per cubic metre even though we use electricity, chemicals, human labor, etc to produce. This is because the governor believes in putting the people first. We need to break down the economics of water production for people to understand that it’s a social service and that the least they can do is to pay for the water they consume.
What was the morale of the staff when you took over?
There was this initial fear that our mandate was to sack people- most times that is the conclusion people make when they hear the word reform. But we have been able to alley their fears and assure them that our mandate is to ensure that the corporation works. We also made it clear that when and where necessary …workers who are not adding value will be shown the way out……our policy is to reform. But we are going to give everyone a fair chance including those that have been tagged bad so long as the lend themselves to reform, only when they refuse to change would they face the consequences of their decision.
You have talked about reforms which is key. Recently, you had a capacity workshop for the staff. Did the issue come up?
The new Kaduna State Water Sanitation Law that was passed and assented to by His Excellency in 2016 transformed the Kaduna Water Board into Kaduna State Water Corporation. We are now a company….so we are expected to function as one….we should be able to meet our costs of production,collect bills. The major fundamental change of identity from a board to a corporation….means we have to adopt international best practices of companies, these are the parameters that are going to guide our operation as a corporation.
At the end of the day, do you see the Corporation becoming self financing?
For sure, although it is going to take time because of the backlog of unaddressed issues. In November when the Kaduna State Government under the Planning and Budgeting Commission organised the Sustainable Developmental Goals Acceleration Conference, some participants took up the governor on poor water supply being experienced in some parts of the state. Am happy the governor took time to explain the situation. He made it clear that the water facilities particularly that of the Kaduna metropolis was planned for about 800,000 people. But as we talk now the city is estimated to have about three million people. I want to inform you that when the water system was being built there were planning parameters. They knew the number of people as at then and made projections using the growth rate of the population. But urbanization changed, rather made nonsense of the projections. The corporation has to contend with a population size that is 5 times more than the initial population that the water works was meant for. This is a serious problem.
You are talking about the installed capacity. Naturally, there would be a problem considering what you have just said.
The total installed capacity is 381 million litres per day but we are operating at about 43% , and the total projected demand is about 791 million litres per day. Even if we operate at 100% capacity the corporation will only meet half of the demand. Due to old equipment , bust pipes,power , static leakages …take place at the point of water treatment, pumping or when you need to replace seals – the corporation can only deliver 50 % of the requirement. Water production is very expensive …for instance mechanical seal for one pump is between N5 to N7 million …and when the temperature is high there might be the need to change it quarterly. These are some of the factors that militate against adequate water supply. The others are the age of the plant, some of these machines were installed in the 1980’s,the pipes in the network are asbestos and they were laid in 1929. Globally asbestos have been phased out but we still have them in our network because of the cost required to excavate and reticulate, so we are replacing them in phases.
We must talk about collection. People who don’t pay their bills complain the most about lack of water supply. Do you feel bad about this? To ensure adequate water supply for Kaduna metropolis (Zaria is under control with what you are doing). What kind of investment can ensure that the people of Kaduna state living in the four local governments that constitute the greater Kaduna get constant, safe, adequate, affordable water?
It is not easy to give a figure of what it will take to deliver optimum water supply but we can paint a picture and from that picture we can be able to summarize. It’s huge. I am talking about a multi million dollars investment. Even the Federal government does not have that kind of money, which is why it borrows. Water is of strategic importance of water. To meet the water-supply demand of Kaduna city the state government needs to build an entirely new dam, because the Kangime dam that is serving as the water head for River Kaduna where we have the Kaduna-South and Kaduna-North intakes is silting, the embankments are collapsing, it cannot meet the water supply of Kaduna. Thanks to the governor a greater Kaduna urban water works has been conceived,it includes a new dam around Kajuru area.
The feasibility study including the environmental impact assessment is being carried out. It’s only after that the dam design will be commissioned….then the civil engineering and water engineering construction can start. Then the water treatment plant. In Zaria we have a 150 million litres per day water treatment plant. For Kaduna we are thinking of 900 million litres per day …6 times that of Zaria. So in addition to building a dam and a water treatment plant, we have to do a network of reservoirs so that each part of Kaduna has its own reservoirs. For you to deliver water from the treatment plant to the network of reservoirs you need booster stations with high lift pumps. I must mention part of the problems being encountered by the corporation is that of stealing of our water.
Are you saying we have water thieves?
Unfortunately yes. Just as you have electricity thieves. Any illegal connection is stealing ….such a person is not our customer somebody,because he or she didn’t pay for connection and is not billed. To address the issue we recently activated a detection unit under the commercial department in the office of the MD for effective monitoring supervision. We are gradually changing the orientation of the staff now they are working on Saturdays and Sundays…because we are in a serious business – the consumer wants water to run whenever he opens the tap. So to deliver there is no luxury.
So, you’ll pay overtime? That’s why you say your corporation…..
Yes. And for the water thieves they have to pay penalty and they might be prosecuted.
What is your monthly collection like, your customer base and by implication your expenditure because the consumers, they need to know that you are not making money and that they need to pay for what they are consuming?
I must confess that I was shocked by the figures….it’s unbelievable that the corporation has a customer base of about 160,000 that’s active and inactive customers across the state. That’s the database and it took the commercial department about two months to produce that because it wasn’t there in the handover notes and we insisted we must have one. The scandal is that only about 43% are active – so you’re talking about 80,000 consumers and the rest are dormant ,meaning there is may be no water supply to the area or some consumers have changed location. And in some cases people bought up houses and converted them into one plot. The billing is not encouraging.
We have bills for only 160,000 consumers monthly of which only 130,000 is actually generated out of which only 10,000 are paying. pay. That is one of the seven wonders of the Kaduna State Water Corporation. And we are interrogating this to find out why. Why is it that only 7.7% of the customers respond? That means collection is poor, billing efficiency is poor, customer response is poor. That is what makes the operation of the corporation as at its now unsustainable,the average monthly expenditure is N330 million and it generates around N90 million so it is surviving on subsidy of about N240 million monthly which is unacceptable because the state government has many other capital projects demanding its attention. Don’t forget that it will still fund the building of the water treatment plants, the reservoirs, the transmission lines and the distribution lines, supply of chemicals and it is also paying the electric bills. So, the corporation only pays staff salaries and carry out some routine maintenance. As a corporation, our cost recovery needs to be improved upon and statistics has shown that we only supply water to 24% of the state population. So, how can the state government be spending about N223 million on just 24% of the population? That is why the reforms is justifiable …a multi billion naira investment corporation with a 2% return on investment is unacceptable.
Can you talk about borehole levy, why must consumers pay?
Well, there is a law that approved the collection of the levy. Every law abiding citizen is duty bound to obey the law. It is a global best practice that underground water is a natural resource just like gold, silver diamond, it is a natural resources and government is the custodian of natural resources. I understand how people feel about it,especially as they are forced to sink boreholes due to inability of the corporation to supply them with water. We will ensure that we change the story.
Would you aggressively go after people?
It is a work to be done. We have no option.
Is there any plan to appropriately price water?
We will wait till we reach the bridge before we cross it, but that is one out of several options. Power supply is very critical requirement in water production. So far, the power supply has been grossly inadequate. So, there are four options on the table. One is to get Kaduna Electric to classify water treatment plants,the booster stations as high demand plants because of the importance of water and because the Kaduna state government is one of their highest paying customers in the state. The second option is to apply to get power directly from the transmission line – that option is being studied ….because we are aware that ABU has adopted that option. The third one is to do a mini solar plant after doing a load assessment. Once we get power right we are good to go in our determination to provide the good people of Kaduna with potable,safe and affordable water.