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Nigeria's Water & Sanitation:Spaces Of Risk & The Challenges Of Data

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Emmanuel Akpabio (Uyo), Aniekan S. Brown, Iniubong E. Ansa, Ekerette S. Udom, Abasi-ifreke S. Etok, Eti-ido S. Udofia, Imoh E. Ukpong

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Uyo, Nigeria1, Department of Geography and Natural Resources Management, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeri2, Department of Geography, Akwa Ibom State College of Arts and Sciences, Nung Ukim, Ikono LGA, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria3

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 13: Non-conventional sources of water,

Global interest on 'safer' water and 'improved' sanitation coverage has long been sustained by their capacity to trigger public health problems (Curtis et. al 2011, Cairncross et. al 2010, White et. al 1972). Statistics have always offered opportunity to gauge progress and the effectiveness of policy and intervention programs in achieving universal coverage and access. Most processes for generating such statistics in developing countries use documented infrastructures in given settlements to estimate access without accounting for actual utilization, functionality, sustainability and potential for their long-term usability. There are also related problems of cultural and socio-economic circumstances which likely could lead to strong influence on attitudes and evaluation capabilities of the respondents/users and potential users regarding certain types, characteristics and quality of available infrastructures. This paper focuses on water and sanitation practices in critical spaces of urban, rural and coastal locations in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Some amounts of empirical data are discussed in relation to statistics held in official domain. This paper draws on data from a range of primary and secondary sources (Udom 2011 and Ansa 2013, Akpabio 2012a, Akpabio 2012b, Akpabio and Brown 2012). The diverse academic, research, consultancy and experiential backgrounds of the researcher have contributed to further shaping the focus of this paper. Though some quantitative data sets were extrapolated, the significant part of the discussion on these issues is largely qualitative as the greatest proportion of available data was estimated through discussions, interviews and observations. The paper found out that water and sanitation coverage for some critical areas of Akwa Ibom state remains significantly poorer than official statistics normally suggest. Claims of access are mediated by perceptions, local cultural knowledge, socio-economic conditions as well as long history of interaction with the ecosystem. A broad range of sub-concepts and themes are part of individual and group water and sanitation attitudes. Questions associated with access are most likely to be interpreted from the point of view of quantity than quality (for water) and available opportunities/facilities for human excreta disposal rather than concerns for the quality of such facilities (for sanitation). Most national governments work on the number of public water and sanitation infrastructures at given points and time to estimate coverage and access. The question of wider coverage in water and sanitation infrastructures hardly addresses the related questions of actual use or motivations for use. Official statistics that is anchored on available infrastructures hardly account for functionality, usability, long-term sustainability as well as who benefits from such facilities. On the other hand, researches and surveys depending on responses of individuals are more likely to be fraught with hypothetical and in some cases compliance biases especially if rigorous attention is not given to environmental, socio-economic and cultural contexts. Respondents are most likely to supply answers which depend on their diverse knowledge capacities, values, beliefs and practical experiences, among other factors. Official statistics on water and sanitation are often produced for diverse purposes and goals, some of which may have some political meanings and implications especially in developing countries. The means and methods of obtaining such statistics, in most cases, not only lack the necessary rigor, they are modeled on procedures often utilized for statistical data collection in industrial and developed economies with stable water and sanitation infrastructures and services that are easily predictable. This paper does not entirely condemn western-based methods of collecting statistics relating to water and sanitation services in developing countries. As this study has shown, several issues relating to socio-economic, environmental and cultural circumstances influence water and sanitation attitudes, behaviors and practices. Consequently, official assessment procedures hardly recognize these factors. Most methods use isolated cases to generalize for the entire population. The report that only Abuja and limited areas of Lagos have sewerage system, while 35 other States and hundreds of urban centers have none (FGN 2000) exposes the weaknesses and limitations of excessively depending on official statistics in estimating coverage and access to water and sanitation for Nigeria. Findings from this study reinforces the idea that statistical data collection methods for measuring progress in developing countries should go beyond simple structured models (e.g., simple questionnaires and 'yes' or 'no' interviews) and over-reliance on official statistics. More emphasis should be focused on deeper engagement with the local respondents to understand not only the reasons behind some responses, but also to have a first-hand assessment of project performance and quality of available facilities. In-depth discussion, focus-group interviews, village meetings, keen observations, elite discussions could serve as important channels at least in very highly complex societies with cultural, socio-economic and development challenges. References Akpabio E. M. (2012a). Water meanings, sanitation practices and hygiene behaviors in the cultural mirror: a perspective from Nigeria. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development 02(3): 168-181 Akpabio, E. M. (2012b). Water Supply and Sanitation Services Sector in Nigeria: The policy Trend and Practice Constraints. ZEF Working Paper Series 96. Zentrš¹m fš¹r Entwicklungsforschung, University of Bonn, Germany. Akpabio, E. M. and A. S. Brown (2012). The reality and tough choices about water and sanitation in Nigeria¡¯s coastal settlements: a preliminary discussion. Nordic Journal of African Studies 21 (4): 164-182 Ansa, I. E. (2013). Private Sector Involvement in Water Management in Nigeria: Analysis of Performance and Challenges in States of South-South. Doctoral Thesis. Department of geography and Regional Planning, University of Uyo, Nigeria Cairncross S., C. Hunt, K. Boisson, V. Curtis, I. Fung and W. P. Schmidt (2010). Water, sanitation and hygiene for the prevention of diarrhea. International Journal of Epidemiology 39 (Suppl 1): 193-205. Curtis V., W. Schmidt, S. Luby, R. Florez, O. Toure¡¯ and A. Biran (2011). Hygiene: new hopes, new horizons. The Lancet infectious diseases 11(4): 312-321. FGN (2000). National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy. Department of Water Supply and Quality Control, Federal Ministry of Water Resources. Federal Republic of Nigeria. Udom, E. S. (2011). Accessibility to potable water supply in Akwa Ibom State. Unpublished PhD thesis. Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Uyo, Nigeria. White, G., Bradley, D. and White, A. (1972). Drawers of Water. Chicago: Chicago University Press, pp. 162©176

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