Acute water shortage in Plateau: What hope for Sabongida community?

In faraway New York in 2019 then Plateau governor, Simon Lalong, made one of the speeches that was expected to define his tenure as the Chief Executive of the state.

Addressing attendees to the Global Citizens Festival, an event that was held on the sidelines of 74th UN General Assembly, Lalong vowed that his administration would tackle water scarcity, sanitation and end open defecation in the state.

A statement issued by his then media aide, Makut Macham, Lalong promised a war chest of N27 billion to achieve the objective which he said was paramount to his administration.

He said his government would provide N15 billion out of the amount while the private sector and other stakeholders would contribute the balance of N12 billion.

However, several years after that landmark pledge, for the people of Sabongida village in Langtang South Local Government of Plateau, water scarcity remains one of the major challenges they have to contend with.

Sabongida residents search for water

Some Sabongida community residents scavange for water

The concerns range from complete dearth of health facilities, bad roads, very few and poor quality schools while electricity is a luxury they don’t even worry about.

But for its leader, Mr Pozing Durfa, the worst headache is the lack of water.

“Water is life, but we don’t have it here.

“We are forced to rely on far away ponds which we share with animals, especially cows, goats and dangerous reptiles,” a worried Durfa told newsmen recently.

He regretted the lack of a reliable source of potable drinking water in the area in spite of various efforts by his people to tackle the menace.

Residents of Sabongida community scavanging for water

Sabongida community school age children in search of water

He says the problem gets particularly bad during the dry season.

“The water scarcity gets worse everyday; my people are forced to travel many kilometres in search of ponds where they fight with cows, goats and dangerous reptiles.

“We are forced to consume this dirty water in spite of the associated risks of contracting waterborne diseases like cholera, gastroenteritis, among others”.

Mrs Christie Ndam, a resident of the community, says that their plight is “excruciating”.

“We take basins and move to far away areas; we keep looking around for streams and ponds.

“Very often, we have to wait for cows to finish drinking the dirty water before we scoop whatever is available. Unfortunately, that is the only option available to us,” she fumed.

She said that some journeys take four to five hours before one could sight a stream or pond as the few available ones keep drying up due to pressure.

“The situation is ‘appalling and unfortunate’. But even more traumatic is the scary fact that there doesn’t appear to be any solution in sight”.

One of the ponds that provide succour to the Sabongida community is fast drying up

One of the ponds that provides succour is fast drying up

She said that the absence of potable water was affecting the quality of food Sabongida residents consume, making them vulnerable to various diseases.

“We are vulnerable to waterborne and other communicable diseases here.

“We sometimes spend hours around a dry well to get water. Herders struggle with us as they also have to care for their cattle. The competition for every drop is usually stiff.

”For years now, we have been suffering in Sabongida; it has lingered for long without any meaningful help.

”As you can see, we spend hours here just to fetch this dirty water. We try to purify it with chemicals before drinking.

”Our hospitals, schools, and other public places don’t have water and this is affecting our personal hygiene and environmental sanitation.

”As a community, we have made efforts toward addressing this challenge, but it has not yielded much result; sometimes we dig the grounds in search of water,” she lamented.

Miss Jennifer Nimfa, a 16-year-old student, is equally saddened by the situation.

She says the acute water shortage is affecting the education of children in the community.

“Very often, children spend school hours in search of water.

”I have been around this well since 4 a.m. and it is 10 a.m. already.

“I haven’t fetched water yet. I am no where any close. It means I can’t go to school today again because school time has past.

”Water is life; we need it to take our bath, cook and carry out other domestic activities before going to school.

”But majority of children can’t go to school because we spend hours in search of water. Sometimes we go to school without taking our bath and brushing our teeth, but for how long can we keep doing this?

”We call on government and concerned individuals to come to our aid, particularly to safeguard our future as young people because if this continues, our educational journey is already bleak,” she fumed.

Another resident, Fabong Miri, decried the effect of the situation on farming and other agricultural activities.

He said that the absence of potable water is a general problem in the locality, adding that all the communities in Langtang South were suffering acute water shortage.

”We are basically farmers; we need water for irrigation and other use in the farms, but we don’t have.

”This dirty water you see people struggling with animals to fetch, is here because of the rain that fell few days ago. Without the rain, all the wells and dams would get completely dried.

”This is why we are calling on government to come to our aid by dredging some of the dams here so that they can retain water for longer period and ameliorate our sufferings.

”We heard that the dredging of this dam has been captured in the budget, so we are appealing to government to expand and make them deeper.

“We want to say bye bye to water scarcity in Sabongida and environs,” he said.

Mr Goyil Maikarfi, another resident, decried the alarming water scarcity problem in the entire locality, opining that the situation calls for a national emergency.

“The situation in Sabongida is scary; people here struggle with animals over the untreated water from the Mabudi and other dams.

”The rural dwellers urgently need an intervention that will provide good water in the area.

”The problem of water scarcity in the entire Langtang South needs a holistic approach; it requires government intervention with good political will to address the hardship faced by our people.

”We call on the new governments at the state and federal levels to address our plight by finding a lasting solution to the perennial water scarcity in our community,” he said.

Durfa, the community leader, agrees with Maikarfi that there is the urgent need to assist Sabongida and the entire Langtang South.

“Langtang South is the most backward and underdeveloped local government area in Plateau.

Aside the absence of potable water, all critical social amenities are lacking.

“Successive administrations have only paid lip service to the provision of the amenities.

”This community and, indeed, the entire local government area, produce varieties of agricultural products in large quantity.

“Our people are basically farmers. We produce yam, maize, cassava, groundnuts, among other crops, in commercial quantities.

”Unfortunately, the local government area doesn’t have any source of good water. It lacks other basic amenities like road network, electricity, healthcare facilities, among others,” he lamented.

Worried by the hardship people are passing through, Mr Timkat Peter, the National Coordinator, Economic Freedom Fighters-Nigeria, recently petitioned the state and federal government to urgently address the problem.

Peter copied his petition to Sen. Nora Daduut who represents Plateau South Senatorial District, and Dame Pauline Tallen, the immediate past Minister of Women Affairs.

Other notable government functionaries who reveived the letter included Idris Wase, the current Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Beni Lar who represents Langtang South/Langtang North in the House of Representatives.

Dr Nandul Durfa, a medical practitioner and former Chief Medical Director, Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital, Abuja, has equally taken several steps to help the community out of the water shortage.

“We have made strenuous efforts and approached both the federal and states governments for assistance.

“At several points, contracts were awarded, but the execution has always been the problem.

“We want the whole world to come to our rescue. We want government and other corporate bodies to assist us.

“We also want the media to tell the world what is happening to us. We have a particularly bad case and want all hands on deck toward tackling the water shortage in Sabongida,” he said recently.

Like Dr Durfa, visitors to Sabongida say that the water shortage there is threatening to bring the community to its knees.

They have persistently emphasised the need for stakeholders to step in to assist so that the community can have a sense of belonging.