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“Water is God’s”: Commonality View and the Challenges of State Institutions in Nigeria

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Emmanuel M. Akpabio
Emmanuel Akpabio, PhD is a lecturer in the Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Uyo, Nigeria. His research interest is on environment and natural resources management with emphasis on water resources management. His recent publicat
Article: Poster:
AbstractThe search for responsible and accountable water management practices has generally overlooked belief systems, perception, reality and attitudes. Yet these all play a part in sustainable water management most especially in the Third World Countries. The aim of this paper is to see how such cultural and indigenous issues contend with the formal State initiatives for efficient water resources management in Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria. The study used key contending State water management principles, namely water rights, cost recovery and environmental sustainability and compared with local practice to see commonalities and differences. Meetings, interviews, observations and focus group discussions were used to collect the data. The ideal points for such data collection were the Cross River Basin Development Authority (CRBDA) projects which served as intersection points between formal, state-based institutions and the informal community-based practices. In the result, it was observed that the key water management principles adopted by the State could not fit well with the prevailing local practices and contexts. Expectedly, the needed cooperation from the locals for those projects was weak and lacking. A number of factors lent explanations and these bordered on the perception and attitudes to water by the locals and compounded by the hydrological characteristics of the study areas. For instance, the notion of linking water with the supernatural agency stultifies any formal efforts at cost recovery. This is likely going to be so in the nearest future given sufficient water supplies from the natural sources. Since the “scarcity value” has not been appreciated, it is likely that the locals will continue to perceive any formal water management initiatives as financially taxing rather than improving their overall conditions. Consistent with the above local impression, the study further observed that current state policies and programmes on water carry no elements intended for the improvements of the lives of people but meaningless projects, which is of meaningless impacts on the lives of the intended beneficiaries. A number of recommendations proffered include inclusive governance that takes on the views of the locals, incentive practices and cost effective project targeting.
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