The Environmental Rights Action / Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has queried Minister of Water Resources, Sarah Ochekpe on statements credited to her that about 70 per cent Nigerians have access to portable and safe water for drinking and domestic use.

Ochekpe was reported to have said that 70 per cent of Nigerians have access to water 24 hours daily and seven days a week at the sidelines the 24th World Water Week themed? Water and Energy? ?in Stockholm, Sweden.

The minister also said the nation was working towards 100 per cent access by Nigerians.

But ERA/FoEN, in a statement issued in Lagos, described the minister?s claims as puzzling and one that would contradict evidence on the ground which shows that figures are merely peddled while majority of Nigerians actually lack safe and portable water for drinking and domestic use.

?We are disturbed at the minister?s claims at a time that industrial pollution and other careless practices continue to harm the environment and water. Water pollution is rife in the entire Niger Delta as mirrored in communities like Ogoni in Rivers State where benzene and other carcinogens have made their waters totally unusable, portable and clean water remains elusive?, said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo.

?It is so worrisome that huge votes allocated to the Ministry of Water Resources yearly and a host of water projects across the country that have gulped billions of naira have not translated to taps gushing with water. Rather than make unverifiable claims, government should be telling us why they are now veering into the privatization of water to further deny Nigerians their fundamental human rights to water.”

Ojo insisted that it is highly regrettable that at a time other nations have made significant progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Nigeria is still entangled summersaults and privatization of water in partnership with the World Bank and other institutions that put money into projects that are billed to fail.

Nigeria?s MDG target was to supply 75 per cent of the population with safe drinking water and meet the sanitation needs of 69 per cent of the population respectively by 2015.

A recent joint report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children?s Fund (UNICEF) indicated that Nigeria is among countries leading from behind with more than 63 million Nigerians still lacking access to safe and clean water.

?We can adduce a lot of reasons for the failure of government meeting its statutory obligation to the Nigerian people but corruption stands out among these and we are demanding the government investigate and prosecute all those found culpable of criminally scamming the nation through the water sector. Water is a basic human right, a sustainer of life and must not be subject to the whims and caprices of profiteers. Instead of peddling unverifiable figures we should be talking of recovering diverted monies.

“The minister?s claim is a contradiction and does not recognize water as a basic human right that deserves priority attention.? Ojo added.

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