Thursday, February 05, 2009

The high price of water in Nigeria

A story from the BBC today reveals that many in Nigeria pay more than is necessary for water. The United Nations Development Programme says that people in the under developed world pay more for water than those in New York or Tokyo.

Many blame the government in Nigeria for not providing water and sanitation to it's public, despite earning millions on oil revenues. The public often have to rely on wealthy individuals that will sell water from their tap for a profit.

The story introduces us to a water peddler who carts huge buckets of water from house to house, and sells them to make a living. BBC writer Andrew Walker introduces us to Isa.

Isa earns a hard living pushing a heavy water cart around the rutted streets of the suburbs of Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

He is one of tens of thousands of water vendors who deliver jerry cans full of water to houses built without any kind of sanitation.

"Kai! it is hard work, pushing my cart," the 20-year-old says.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, and according to analysts has made over $1.1 trillion in revenues from the oil industry over the last 30 years; but most Nigerians still rely on people like Isa for their water.

He and a dozen of his friends sleep in a makeshift shelter behind a small household goods shop.

They wake before dawn to queue up at a nearby borehole, where they fill 14 yellow 25-litre jerry cans on their handcarts before setting off around the streets looking for customers.

Heavy load

Fully loaded, the carts weigh at least 350kgs.

The roads they push them over are dirt tracks, rocky and pitted, with sewers running down the middle.

"In the future I want to get another job, but at least I make enough money to live doing this," Isa says.
The urban poor pay more for water than the urban rich

Prices for water from private boreholes vary in the suburbs.

Isa pays around 10 naira ($0.07, £0.05) per jerry can at the borehole and sells for double that.

He makes around 700 naira a day ($4.70, £3.20), to cover food and living costs.

A large Nigerian family may need around 10 of these jerry-cans every day, customers say.

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