The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, while speaking at a meeting with the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) team from Geneva urged the governments of Benue and Cross River states to make their payments.
The Federal Government has frowned at the governments of Benue and Cross River for not releasing their counterpart funds for sanitation programmes in their states.
It should be noted that WSSCC is funding the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN). The programme runs in three local government areas in each of the two states.
Mr Suleiman Adamu said that it was saddening to note that the two states had not been able to pay up counterpart funds for the upgrade of the programme, adding that lack of water and sanitation impacted negatively on the economy, health and productivity.
Continuing, he said the payment of the funds will give the programme a boast and also an opportunity to scale up sanitation and hygiene in the states, while reducing disease prevalence there.
“The Federal Government is committed to improving the lives of Nigerians by scaling up sanitation and hygiene, while increasing their access to potable water.
“This commitment led to the inauguration of the Partnership for Extended Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) as a collaborative programme towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal Six on water and sanitation.
“The RUSHPIN programme is a good target towards commitment to reduce the statistics of 46 million people practising open defecation and 71 per cent of them lacking basic sanitation,’’ Adamu said.
Mr Chris Williams, Executive Director, WSSCC, said that nations could not quantify the benefits of investing in water and sanitation projects, adding that with the commitment of all stakeholders, the goals of RUSHPIN would be met.
He noted that the progress which Nigeria had made in the two states indicated that with strengthened collaboration and payment of counterpart funds, open defecation would cease to be seen within these area.
“It has been proved that massive investment in water and sanitation reduces health costs, while increasing girls’ school attendance and women empowerment,’’ he said.
Also speaking, Mr Nanpet Chuktu, the RUSHPIN Programme Manager, said within four years of programme implementation, 1,859 communities had been reached with hygiene messages.
Chuktu said that 600,000 people now lived in open defecation-free communities in the six local government areas.
He said that the agency used Community Led-Total Sanitation (CLTS) model to encourage the communities to build and use toilets, while adopting behavioural change as a means of promoting hygienic habits.
The Deputy Governor of Benue, Mr Benson Abounu, attributed the delay in the payment of the counterpart funds to undue government bureaucracy and delay in funds allocation, amongst others.
He gave an assurance that there was no controversy concerning the issue of counterpart funding for development projects in the state.