Posted by: Wasrag | October 6, 2011

Nigeria 3 – post by William Stumbaugh PPP Team member

Beautiful children

Today, we flew from Warri to Port Harcourt on the south side of the Niger River Delta.  We spent the previous two days traveling by boat to eight different village communities to assess their water and sanitation situations.  Uniformly, we have witnessed many problems for the WASH and the communities.  Generally, there are four serious challenges:

1.     While we saw lots of boreholes, power and treatment systems, almost all were not functioning.  No system had a responsible, trained individual to maintain and operate the systems. Some villages reported that someone had been trained and had worked for a while, but then had left the village.  No one was trained to followup.  Many people in these villages blamed Chevron for not helping the villages.
2.    While there were district regional committees elected by representatives of the villages to act as managers of the funding and to direct and organize the water projects, it was evident in many villages that there was a disconnect between these leaders and the communities.  While many of the leaders were born and raised in the villages, they now did not live there and apparently had not communicated adequately with villagers to maintain their legitimacy as leaders.
3.    Primary sanitation facilities were multiple toilets in community-shard facilities build over the river water.  People were not concerned about getting sanitation improvements because they reasoned that the river flow and outgoing tides washed away the human waste.  They didn’t see a problem with bathing in the river near the toilet facilities and also fished, harvested crawfish and mollusks in the same river locations.  We also witnessed many males defecating into the river from shorelines, the sides of boats and leaning over piers.  Nevertheless, we did not observe any human defecation on the ground in the villages. Open urination virtually anywhere in the village was regularly observed of males.  This was also the case in the cities of Warri and earlier Abuja.
4.    There was scant evidence of proper hygiene practices.  We witnessed no hand washing with or without soap.  We did see men bathing with soap in the rivers.

Building near river - note power lines from generator

All of the villages can be reached only by boat, and most were at or just barely above the water table.  Many wooden homes were built on stilts and standing water was evident in many villages.  Many people had managed to build stronger houses made of block, but because of the high water tables, they were sinking.  The people claimed that the land was sinking due to Chevron removing the petroleum from underneath.
Petroleum extraction was evident throughout the delta areas we visited.  Pipelines in the river, well heads surrounded by the river, tanker ships and other indicators were extensive. Occasionally, we saw flame-out stacks where byproduct gases of refineries was being released.  Nigeria reported produces 20% of the released by product gases of refineries in the world. Acid rain is reportedly a local problem.
During these two days we were accompanied by armed soldiers and police. With the guards, ourselves and the representatives of the councils, we were a flotilla of five boats.  We also passed police checkpoints along the river.  In some cases they were stationed on piers, and on two occasions we encountered old gunboats and large barges with barracks.  In one village we encountered a lot of angry men who were upset with the Chevron and the council members.  The military escorts remained cool and stationed themselves around the perimeter.  This probably served as a deterrent to the angry men.  We left eventually without violence occurring.

The second  evening, we met with the RDC members and reviewed some of our findings.  We discussed extensively the need to refurbish the old systems and establish new water systems, according to each villages history and needs.  The people in the villages have no history of paying for water and many believed that it was Chevron’s responsibility.  The council leaders shared the difficulty of gaining trust with villagers so that they would be willing to pay for the water and trust the council to save the revenue for future maintenance and capital improvements to the water systems.

In addition to the water and sanitation issues, we saw relatively new large buildings in each community that either the government, or the councils had funded and built.  The most common were schools, residences for teachers, clinic/hospitals, and community halls.  However, there were not staff for the schools or clinics.  This was federal or state governments’ responsibility, and villagers had been told that there were not enough professionals available.  Some teachers had come in the past, but they didn’t remain because of the isolation, lack of health care and low pay.



  1. Great article. Just tweeted this:
    Rotary Wasrag report on Nigeria. Why hardware-based water solutions fail without software. @WilliamStumbaugh

    It’s great to read such an actual field report, and to learn how Wasrag regional teams and PPP’s are working .

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