Abia Today: There seem to be a change in the structure oi your organization from what it used to be. Whyisthisthe case? Before now, what we had was the Abia State Water Board but at the inception of Governor lkpeazu’s administration, he saw the need to restructure the Agency and upgrade to a more proactive outfit. Unlike what obtained in the past, we are now a corporation with the legal status to undertake transactions that give confidenceto all oarticipants. That was what led to our change of name from Abia Water Board to Abia and Sewage Corporation. Abia Today: So, what milage have you made since acquiring this status? Well, ﬁrst and foremost, we are now engaged with USAID E — WASH Project, Which is, the Effective Water and Sanitation Project, in Abia State ln Nigeria, only six states qualified for this robust water project of which Abia is one. This unique upgrade is not the usual water project. Now, we are getting it right in totality. Before now, we didn’t have a water policy. We didn’t have a regulatory framework to work on. We didn’tsee wateras an economic good. Water was regrettably being used as a mere political tool used for sloganeering during campaigns but now we have started from scratch to ® ABIATODAYJANUARY 2020 set up the proper framework for sustainable water supply to our urban and sub-urban centers. l’m assuring you that bythefall ofthis 2020, everybody in Abia State will feel the impact what the Abia State water and Sewage cooperation has been painstaikingly doing in the last several months. Abia today: What exactly do you mean? We are taking a two pronged approach. The first step is in taking a palliative measure to return production of portable drinking water to Umuahia, the State Capital. Dr. Okezie lkpeazu has graciously granted the establishment of a satellite water project at Ugbanankata Gravitational Tank which has gone 50% completion now and once that is completed, we will return the production of potable drinking water to Umuahia, albeit, palliatively. In Aba, we had an intractable challenge that rendered all efforts to provide water abortive. Happily, Dr. Okezie lkpeazu has disentangled us from the encumbrance. The problem was between us and one JDP Construction Company as it regards the Aba Water Project. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources came for what was supposed to be an intervention about 20years ago. They took over and mobilized JDP Contractors to the site. Aba, has four major water schemes — the Aba River Intake, CKC Pumping Station, Ogbor Hill Sation and Ariaria Pumping Station. The Federal Government took over the four sites simultaneously and disengaged thethen Abia Water After a short while, the federal contractor abandoned the site without formally being disengaged from that site thus leading us into a legal dilemma. We were not allowed to take back our water schemes to do even if was a palliative work while the people that came in do not have any serious intention. Several representations were made to successive Governments to no avail until God sent us Dr Okezie Victor lkpeazu. Our current Governor is exceptional in his deep understanding of critical development dynamics. We have never had it so good. He is always willing and ready to take any necessary step to move Abia forward. Immediately we briefed him on the conundrum involving the Aba Urban Water Project, he acted swiftly by contacting the institutions involved. Today, we are back and running with the most elaborate plan ever made in this State. What we are implementing is phenomenal. Governor Ikpeazu has moved us from stagnation to complete transformation. Abia Today: Tell us about the reforms; tell us the milestones you have achieved solar. The singular most basic reform is the upgrading of Abia Water B oard to Abia Water and Sewage Corporation. This strategic step has opened up a whole lotofopportunitiesforAbia.Asaresult, legal enties and investors generally can confidently do long term businesses with us – bearing ithat our commitments with them are secure and legally binding. As l speak to you, we are engaged in the Third National Urban Water Reform Sector Project sponsored by the World Bankthrough Federal Ministry of Water Resources, FPI Unit. Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has graciously paid the counterpart fund for this project and its ongoing.. You can see on my table here, the report of consultancy jobs. We’ve done the GIS mapping, the commercialization plan; we’ve done the palliative engineering works and all that. These are things we were not doing before now. It’s notjust awarding a contract but as I said, we are doing the things that will sustain this project. What we are looking at is sustainability. For instance, with this GIS mapping, we can comfortably stay here and monitor all our pipe networks throughout the city when we return to production. It’s no longer going to be analogue; we are going to meter all households if we return to production. In our warehouse, we have procured over 480 prepaid water metres. We have procured 25 motorcycles to monitor our pipe networks so, we are readyto go. Abia today: But all these you are doing is not known to the public. Why? Well, it’s because of the nature of our work. But, thank God you are here now. We want you to tell Abians everywhere that the overhauling of the Ugba na Nkata gravitational tank is now over sixty percentcompleted. We are not making noise because we’ve not had it like this before now. So, we want people to see that it’s not just a TV thing or mere words, it’s a factual thing. If you go to the Ugbanankata gravitational tank, we’ve gone over 60%. The contractors are still working and in next few weeks, we’ll introduce water into the gravitational tank which we’ll return the production ofwaterintoUmuahia. Abia Today: ls there any foreign investor prospect yet in the water project? Like I said, Government alone cannot do what is involved in the provision of portable water to every household. That is why we started with getting our water policy ready. This water policy is a robust one which has aided us to open our arms to getting private investors to partner with us so that this momentum can be sustained. The Water Sector anywhere in this country or in the world is not manned by government alone. That is the truth. You open arms for private investors, PPP arrangements; and so forth so that people will come into the sector and helpthe government. Abia today: Good drinking water is a major component of public health. How does this fact influence your planning moving forward? Let me tell you, it is because we failed in our ABIATODAYJANUARY 2020 SPECIAL FEATURE duties to give good waterto our citizen; that is the major reason why our hospitals are congested. Most illnesses are due to bad water intake, poor hygiene and poor sanitation. But with what the government is doing inthe sector, we are getting it correct. For instance, we are going to have three Fickle Waste Treatment Plants in the three senatorial zones of Abiia State – One in Ohafia, Umuahia and Obingwa. We don’t have a central sewage system in this part of the country. We have lots of sewage and septic tanks. What these plants will do is to pick these fickle wastes from various public yards, take it to the treatment plant and convert it to wealth. These treatment plants will give at least three hundred youths employment. We’ll use the fickle waste as fertilizer. We have both solid and liquid waste. Our main target is wealth and employment. Before now, you might be using about 30-40 thousand naira to evacuate your septic tank but now we’ll give you a stipend for evacuation, and then disinfect it. Some people do not know that disinfecting is very necessary every quarteroftheyear. What do I mean? You have a fortified house, just come out to your kitchen by 2am; you’ll see cockroaches and rats. They poison plates and all kitchen utensils. if plate washing is nottaken into consideration by people at home, they become infected. That is why we have typhoid, fever, cholera and other water borne diseases. This very important project is going to be complementary to health sector. l went to Japan to do this study and when l asked my professor why hospitals we visited had very little number of ill patients, he said; the water sanitation and health sector has to be in checkto reduce ill patients. We can replicate such here and that is the goal of our dear Governor. He wants to decongest our hospitals. It’s going to take time but with the World Bank engagement in this project, we will get it right. We are beginning to see the lightatthe end ofthetunnel.