Water is life is a popular saying. And the people of Eruwa seem to understand this beyond many other communities. YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE reports that though Eruwa is a major town in Oyo State, access to potable water is a dream that seems to defy reality as residents suffer untold hardship annually in their search for this essential commodity while the presence of a water scheme is yet to alleviate their suffering.
Eruwa, a major town in Oyo state is a cardinal community in the Ibarapa region of the state, having a first class king and an institution of higher learning and is one of the ancient towns that the exists in the state. This pedigree gives the impression of a town that has evolved with the times and is on an upward trend but this is not the reality in the sleepy town surrounded by hills.
A visit to Eruwa quickly negates this impression especially for a first time visitor; getting to Eruwa from the major park on Ologuneru from Ibadan is an unforgettable experience. The park from morning till late afternoon gives the impression of a deserted neighbourhood space with a maximum of five cars at a stretch.
For a town with a big institution, traffic to Eruwa seems to be seasonal as it seems to be below average at present and travelers spend an average time of one hour waiting for the bus that is scheduled for the next trip to fill up as buses move on a turn by turn basis. And before the bus will take off, most passengers will already be groaning and whining of pains especially in the back and legs.
This is because there is no leg space due and people cannot stretch their legs as most buses had rearranged the sitting arrangements in their vehicles and had installed seats in the booth of their buses utilizing every available space to seat passengers.
The journey was one that forces every passenger to move their bodies and dance to the haphazard rhythm of the car as a result of the rough terrain. The journey was made more eventful when the bus decided to take a rest from the rigors of the rough road at Shangisha village and for 30 minutes that the driver fiddled with wires to coax the bus to cough to life, passengers baked in the scorching sun by the road side as they continued to get showers of dust.
Two hours later, the gogo shake dance movement stopped and relief acme in the form of smooth roads which signaled that the journey is almost over as the bus moves into New Eruwa and passengers a sigh of relief
Eruwa, a town surrounded by a chain of hills is the headquarters of Ibarapa East Local Government Area. It is an ancient town that predates colonization and has a rich cultural background and heritage, history states that in the pre colonial years, the Alaafin of Oyo, who was the head of other rulers, recognized Eruwa as the leading town in Ibarapa East district.
And according to history, Eruwa which is known for its many hills which includes Akolu, Obaseeku, Ojoko, Okele and Ijewu among many others; was founded by a prince known as Obaseeku, who married an Oyo princess named Oyinlola and today, one of the prominent hills in Eruwa is named after him.
Though a predominantly Christian community, Eruwa is a secular town known for agriculture, hunting and trading. The commercial life and activities in the town continues to receive a boost as a result of the influx of students attending The Polytechnic, Eruwa.
But this constant development has not touched every area of life in Eruwa community especially in terms of social amenities and infrastructure. Today, residents of the community are still without access to potable water, the greatest challenge they face especially during the dry season when gaining access to any type of water, whether clean or dirty, becomes a herculean task
This is due to the fact that the community not only lacks adequate infrastructure for provision of water but also because the topography of the area makes it difficult for many to dig deep wells that can produce water during every season.
“Getting water to do anything is a daily struggle here; it is a bit easier during the rainy season because wells in homes around the town produces water that we use but it become a rather serious problem during the dry season as the owners lock up their wells due to the fact that the water being produced then is not even enough for their household.
“Even at present, once it does not rain for like two weeks, we start feeling the impact because the water in the wells reduces drastically and getting access to clean water becomes more difficult for us then. I do not like being in this town at that time,” Sola Oyawole, a student told Nigerian Tribune.
Another student who identified herself as Sumbo stated that, “the way we struggle for water especially during the dry season is pathetic especially when you consider that this is supposed to be a town and not a village. It beats the imagination. Before I came here, my sister that passed out from this school in 1998 used to tell me that the water they drink is called ‘close your eyes and drink.’
“According to her, the water they drink is so bad that you can’t inhale or look into it else you will be unable to drink. I never believed her, but now, I can attest to the fact that I have continued to drink water I dare not drink when I was at home. Indeed, it is close your eyes and drink and it is quite unhealthy and dangerous for us,” she said.
Eruwa’s situation serves as a proof to the assertion of the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) during the World Water Day in March that an estimated 63 million Nigerians lack potable water.
Also, statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ranks Nigeria as number three after India and China among countries whose major population lacks access to potable water while the 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), revealed that over 39 per cent of households in Nigeria lack access to improved water sources, adding that 97,000 children die annually from diseases due to unsafe water and poor sanitation.
Year in, year out, residents of Eruwa continue to decry the continuous lack of potable water and water for other necessary for other aspects of living and consequently do not mind the source where the water comes from as long as it is available.
A resident told Nigerian Tribune that, “the dry season is the worst period. Once it stops raining for just few weeks, we start to feel the impact. The wells stop producing water and streams even dry up. Then, those who have wells with water start to sell and the fight to buy water gets serious. It is always survival of the fittest.’’
Many however argued that the situation in Eruwa raises a lot of questions based on the belief that there is a water scheme domiciled in the town and the continuous efforts by government to meet the Millennium Development Goals on water. This school of thought believes that there is indeed no reason for the people of the town to lack potable water based on the presence of the water works which is meant to produce quick access to potable water.
“We once heard that the water works here is being upgraded and we will have water but we only heard that, we have not seen the effects and the suffering is too much,” a canteen operator at the New Garage stated.
A retired Health Information Officer who didn’t want to be named stated that, “we actually heard sometimes ago that government is extending pipelines, replacing electro-mechanical components and upgrading water treatment facilities at some waterworks, Eruwa inclusive. What was cheering in the news than was that new rising mains are being laid from Eruwa to other communities around us. We were happy that we will be ahead and start enjoying water but that is not the case, our situation remains unchanged,” he stated.
Why is Eruwa having issues with potable water in spite of the rejuvenated water scheme? Nigerian Tribune tried to find the answer to this and different people had varying explanations and advice.
A trader at Towobowo market stated that even if the water works is functional, she is not sure that the town is prepared. “I don’t even know what the water works is about except that it is a government agency and people go there to get fetch water but you can only do this if you have a car because it is on the outskirt of town and not on the route of commercial vehicles.
“But even if there are people there and water is available, can they get water to town? How many houses have pipes installed to receive water from government source? Every house that has pipes here only connects it to their wells and most houses don’t even have that facility. How many homes have toilets, we only go to rocks to defecate,” Mama Kofo, as she wanted to be addressed said.
A commercial motorcycle rider who identified himself as Sunday (he refused to give his surname), stated that the water situation is an annual problem that has become a way of life and seems to have no solution. “We do not have water in this town, we have never had water and it is especially serious during the dry season because then, it reaches a crisis level and people fight themselves even over dirty water. At such period, you just make do with whatever you find and even that is expensive.
“For those that have vehicles, it is easier. They just load jerrycans and go to water works to fetch water and they get water. I am sure they drop some money but we can’t all do this because it is far. We also buy in town from people who are lucky to have wells that produce during the dry season and then, it is not easy to buy, we fight for it.
“At such periods, you don’t care where the water comes from, once it is water, you are satisfied. I can only appeal to government to ensure that potable water is available because it will save lives and prevent diseases. The suffering is so much on people,” Sunday concluded.
The allegations and speculations of the people were however put to rest by a staff of the Eruwa water scheme who was on site, Mr. Adebisi Morounfoye, he told Nigerian Tribune that the water works is indeed not moribund but functional and serving its purpose, adding that the problems being faced was less than 48 hours before the visit of Nigerian Tribune.
According to him, the water scheme is under the Water Corporation of Oyo state and is relevant to the people of the area in terms of service and making life easy.
“What we have at present is a minor problem that stemmed from a fault in the electrical panel, it started about 24 hours ago and it will be fixed under one week because we have made the reports and efforts are already on to rectify the situation,” he stated.
Speaking on the strength of the water works and challenges, he stated that the major challenge they have is that of power adding that in spite of challenges, they still make water available to the people.
“Before our service zone was bigger than this, the Eruwa water scheme was the one giving water to Eruwa, Igboora, Idere, Ayete and surrounding towns but about four years ago, the line going to Igboora stopped functioning and we had to cut it off but at present, the government is already working on changing those lines.
“For now, it is just a minor fault; first, it was the light, we were connected to Igoora for power but Igboora started having issues, so we were disconnected and put on Eruwa line which isn’t much better but the local government is trying to fix that, in fact, the present caretaker chairman is trying to make the light issue a forgotten problem. So once that is rectified, there will be no problem,” he said.
Mr Adebisi who explained that there is no time that the water works is abandoned as there are always five people from various fields of professionalism on duty, concluded that, “we are conscious of the difficulty people encounter, that is why we treat water and allow anyone that comes here fetch water as much as they want, we do not ration it and it is free because it is their right.”
And as the government tries to rectify the challenges of water supply, the people of Eruwa continue to groan under the hardship they encounter, reiterating the need for stakeholders to focus undivided attention on the importance of providing water as well as sustainable management of fresh water resources so the people of Eruwa can heave a sigh of relief.