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How Nigerians can get clean, safe potable water at no cost – Jaja, US-based Environmentalist



•FG can make trillions annually from solid, liquid waste

From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Dr. Augustus Jaja, a Nigerian-based in the United States is the President of Augstrom Technologies, with over 30 years experience in the operation and management of water and wastewater treatment facilities.

He recently registered his discontent with the level of environmental abuse in Nigeria, as well as poor access to safe and clean water in several households. He also told Saturday Sun in an interview that he has the capacity to change the narrative and ensure that every home in Nigeria enjoys clean and safe water to at no cost, as well as generate trillions of Naira for the Federal Government through solid and liquid waste.

Some Nigerians will be shocked to hear you say it’s possible to have clean and safe water for all households in Nigeria, at no cost to the government and the people. How possible is that?

It’s not a thing to be surprised about, going by my experience and what I have done in the past across the world. These are things that have been effortlessly done at different countries of the world, an indication that it’s doable in Nigeria. I am a Nigerian but live in the United States. I serve as the President of Augstrom Technologies, Inc, with over 30 years experience in operation and management of water and wastewater treatment facilities, including surface and groundwater. I also have experience in industrial, potable and wastewater operations, operator training and certification, implementation of water and environmental safety programmes. I have also done several projects on environmental research, solid and industrial waste, wastewater treatment plants, in addition to works in all facets of drinking water treatment, including bench and pilot studies, regulatory compliance planning, surface water plant evaluations, facilities designs, and risk/vulnerability assessments.

Nigeria has huge water challenge which seems insurmountable despite several policies and programmes of previous administrations

You are right. But I can tell you that the challenge is very much surmountable contrary to the feeling of hopelessness among Nigerians on the possibility of providing safe and clean potable water for Nigerians. It only requires genuine commitment and support from government to provide Nigerians with clean and safe water for industrial and home use. So, I strongly believe that every person, no matter how small, needs potable drinking water for healthy living. Undoubtedly, clean and safe water will improve hygiene and total health of the people. My team and I have the capacity to unleash our expertise in this area, and I can assure you that clean and safe water would be provided for Nigerians at no cost, and I mean at no cost. All that we need is genuine commitment and political will of the government to enable us achieve this lofty task.

Have you heard about the controversial National Water Resources Bill?

Yes. I have heard about it, though I have not had deeper study of the bill. But from what I saw and read on the “surface level”, the bill will create more financial burden on the government. It will cost huge financial resources for government to implement the content of the bill and that’s not what Nigeria can afford now going by the state of its economy. First, there was a recommendation in the water resources bill for establishment of commissions. Political appointments would be made as well as Directors and other staff that would work there. That will, undoubtedly, contribute to high personnel cost. This is contrary to what our project wants to achieve. Our water project and programme for Nigeria would create more wealth and generate money for the government instead of taking from its purse.

Nigerians have obviously resorted to the option of boreholes and other means of getting water, some of which are unsafe. What are the dangers to the ecosystem?

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There’s an ongoing indiscriminate drilling of boreholes across the country which has a serious and long-time negative effect on the ecosystem. Unfortunately, government at all levels seem to be less concerned or have weak laws regarding borehole drilling in Nigeria. They are not considering the negative effects of indiscriminate drilling of boreholes on the ecosystem and the environment in general. First, there’s no accurate data register about boreholes in Nigeria. That’s the starting point for us. We are seriously concerned about the devastating effects of indiscriminate drilling of boreholes in Nigeria. We may not feel the negative impact now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come. It may be sooner than expected. We should also remember that climate change is hitting the world fast, thus altering the ecosystem, hence it’s expected of us to act fast to protect the environment. It’s a fact that there are specific amount of water in the earth, and the clean one for human consumption is about three per cent. So, water is an essential commodity that should get serious attention from individuals and governments. In few years to come, the water we use today on earth might need to be recycled for another people to use for healthy living.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 targeted global water access by 2030. Seven years to go and Nigeria seems to be lagging behind. What magic can be done on this?

It’s nether magic nor rocket science. Truly, Nigeria may be lagging behind but the trend can still be reversed to achieve the SDG target on access to clean and safe water. It’s doable if we can start now. I am happy we have a new government that is obviously committed to improving the health of Nigerians. It may look as if we are late but I can assure you that achieving SDG 6 is very much possible if government can be willing and committed to the cause of making it happen. Like I told you earlier, my team and I have done ‘magical’ things in the US and other locations across the world to provide clean and safe water for the people, and Nigeria cannot be an exception.

What will it cost government and Nigerians, financially, to get clean and safe water for healthy living?

Nothing. And I mean, nothing in terms of financial burden. All we need is the support and backing of the government to achieve that. When that is secured, we would start by having the data of what has been done in the past in order to know where to channel our efforts. In summary, achieving the SDG 6 is very much possible for Nigeria if government can provide the needed support for us to provide improved access to clean and safe water for Nigerians at no cost on government.

You are coming from US with these solutions. How will you get funds to pursue this target of making water accessible in every Nigerian?

Yes, I am glad you mentioned that. Like I told you, it won’t cost government a dime. Rather, we would contribute to the coffers of the government. There are lots of donor countries and agencies that are willing to key into the project because of our credibility and reputation, as well as their interest in promoting Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Nigeria, which is key to healthy living and longevity. We would source for funds for the projects independently. Some reputable international NGOs have already indicated interest to be part of the project. We would bring them on board, but that will be on case by case basis. We want to avoid situations that when the donor agencies pass the allocated funds to the NGOs, in most cases, it doesn’t trickle down as expected. The ultimate goal is to ensure that every household in Nigeria, irrespective of location and social status, have access to clean and potable drinking water. We would, at the same time, control waste being generated so that over the years they won’t cause health crisis.

You mentioned that your team can generate trillions of Naira annually for the federal government through solid and liquid waste. How?

Yes, I did say that, and that we would do if we are granted the necessary permissions. There won’t be financial burden on the citizens in doing that. These are solutions that we have provided in other locations across the world. So, it will be a disservice for our countrymen and women in Nigeria to be coming down with different water-borne diseases when we can make things better for them at no cost. On the issue of solid waste, we have designed measures to generate trillions of naira in revenue for the federal government through these solid wastes.

A new Minister of Water Resources assumed office few days ago. What are the expectations from him?

The new Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Joseph Utsev, is someone who has proven himself over the years in different areas, and that was what, perhaps, earned him the appointment. I wish him a very fruitful period as minister. But for him to succeed and leave a legacy in the ministry, he needs to engage the experts and technocrats that would help him succeed. I suggest that he engage politicians to do what they know how to do, while he surrounds himself with technocrats like us that would help him dissect the challenges and provide solutions to the problems of clean and safe water, as well as sanitation. But we must know that government alone cannot solve the problems for the masses. Even in the US, government doesn’t solve all the problems of the people. All it does is to provide the enabling environment and platform, and also guarantee funding opportunities for the private sector to provide solutions to the identified problems.

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