Weeks after Governor Nasir el-Rufa’i of Kaduna State commissioned the Zaria water project, the taps are still dry. As a result of this, the excitement that greeted the ceremony is gradually waning.

In an elaborate ceremony, the Kaduna State Government, on Saturday, May 27, 2017, commissioned the Zaria water project, which has been ongoing for many decades. Many residents believed that the perennial water scarcity that has been bedevilling the ancient city would come to an end from that day. This is largely due to the fact that long before the formal commissioning, water pipes that covered several kilometres were laid in almost all parts of the ancient city.

What further boosted the enthusiasm of the residents was the declaration of the governor in Hausa that, “Ranar 27 ga watan May zamu yanka bakan gizon dake shanye ruwan Zaria,” which is literally translated as, “On May 27, we are going to slaughter the ‘rainbow’ that has been sipping the Zaria water.”

The Governor’s declaration was a metaphorical reference to the alleged corruption that was said to have shrouded the Zaria water project. Some politicians were said to have been siphoning money from government coffers in the name of funding the water project. This was said to be one of the factors that forced the project to linger for decades.

Similarly, the vigour the el-Rufa’i administration gave the project made residents to nickname it ‘el-Rufa’i water.’

However, weeks after the commissioning ceremony, taps in most areas of Zaria and Sabon Gari local governments have remained dry. Areas that are worse hit by the perennial water scarcity, particularly communities inside the ancient walls, Tudun Jukun and other areas of Sabon Gari local government, are still without tap water.

This development made residents to voice their concern, saying the government shouldn’t have been in a hurry to carry out an elaborate commissioning ceremony, being aware that taps would not run afterward.

Malam Sani Sanusi, a resident of Zaria, said: “My opinion is that since this water project was one of the campaign promises of the governor, he should have delayed the commissioning until when the taps have started running. For me, to come out and tell people that you have killed a ‘rainbow’ and the taps have remained dry can kill peoples’ excitement. This can even create distrust.

“However, we are waiting for the time when the taps will start running. I want to say that if in the long run this government succeeds in addressing this water crisis in Zaria, it would be a great landmark. It would earn for itself the reputation of a performing government.”

Investigations, however, shows that residents’ anxiety over the non-availability of the ‘el-Rufa’i water’ has been doused by the heavy downpour the city experienced in recent days.

“Before the beginning of the rains, I used to buy N600 worth of water almost every day. Because of that and other inconveniences caused by the water scarcity, we looked forward to the ‘el-Rufa’i water’ seriously. Honestly, we were disappointed when the project was commissioned but the taps were not running. In fact, those of us who defend this government are being mocked.

“Opposition figures used to say to us, ‘your gajimare/bakan gizo (rainbow) was slaughtered from behind; this is why water is still eluding us.’ We appreciate the efforts of the government, but we need this water. You can imagine what I have been going through as a low-income earner buying N600 worth of water every day,” Isa Dalladi said.

Our correspondent observed that contractors handling the project are still moving from one part of the city to another, fixing the pipes they buried. For example, almost on a daily basis, trucks of the contractors can be seen moving into different areas of the city, either correcting the connection of the pipes or casting concretes at different junctions where the pipes pass.

However, linking households with the main pipes is yet to commence. This is why many residents believe that it may take months for residents to start enjoying the ‘el-Rufa’i water.’

“As a layman, I think after the completion of the treatment plant, construction of reservoirs and burying of the main pipes, households would be connected. Meters would also be mounted to account for the volume of water used by each house. I know this would take time because they have not started it, at least in my area, Tudun Jukun and other neighbouring towns,” Dalladi added.

When contacted, the Commissioner for Water Resources in Kaduna State, Engineer Suleiman Aliyu Lere said the Zaria water project has many phases. He said the commissioning of the treatment plant was one of the phases.

“The event of May 27 was the commissioning of the treatment plant, which is the major component of the project. Pipes have been laid. We are now constructing the reservoirs, where the water would be stored before it is pumped to users. Very soon, connection to households would commence, where residents would be linked with the new pipes and meters mounted. This would allow residents to get water immediately distribution commences.

“We have to understand all these processes. The people that were on the old pipes have started seeing improvement because the plant has started pumping water at one-third of its capacity. It is after the commissioning of the new lines that most areas would start getting the water. We understand the concern of residents. However, the most important thing is the commitment to complete this project 100 per cent, and we would achieve that, Insha Allah by October this year,” Lere said.

During the commissioning ceremony, Governor el-Rufa’i recalled that the completion of the Zaria water project was one of his major campaign promises.

“This is because the project is very important to the people of Zaria. When fully operational, the plant would be supplying 150 million litres of water every day.”

The Zaria water plant is expected to serve seven local government areas: Zaria, Sabon Gari; Giwa; Ikara; Makarfi; Kubau and Kudan.

Zaria residents keep their fingers crossed as they await completion of the project.