Heat, no water, no light: The many odds against Lokoja


Richard Elesho

It is not for nothing that Kogi prides itself as the Confluence State. Its capital, Lokoja, is the rendezvous of two of Africa’s large water bodies, Rivers Niger and Benue. From there together, they continue their calm flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Lokoja is also a potpourri of cultures and a city of history that once served as the capital of colonial Nigeria. The country was christened by the British journalist Flora Louise Shaw (later Flora Lugard) from the top of Mount Patti, a 1503-foot-high mountainous range that elbows the city.

Today, Kogi has gained a new notoriety for the absurd. The state has stabilised as the most expensive to live (and ironically one of the poorest) among the 36 states of the Federation. The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, reported an all-items inflation rate of 35.6%, rising from 33.3% in November. Furthermore, the food inflation rate surged to 44.7%, marking a significant increase from the previous month’s 41.3%.

Per time, inflation has been taking an enormous toll on living conditions in the state. Things got to a new low in Lokoja during the week when water vendors began a new price regime of about a 100 per cent increase. A bag of packaged water popularly called pure water increased from N250.00 to N450.00 or N500.00 depending on who is selling. Subsequently, one satchet is sold for N50.00 or 3 for N100.00. It used to be N20.00 per satchet or N50.00 for 3.

It is a case of staying so close to large water bodies and having none to drink. At the peak of the rainy season, the rivers effortlessly overflow their banks to cause massive floods that regularly sack people from their abodes. Today, the exact reverse is the case. it is the search for potable water that now drives people to the streets.

To compound the problem, the public water facility in the town has since been out of order. The ambitious 60,000 tons per day greater Lokoja Water Scheme, popularly called Ibro water, has at best been epileptic in recent times. The situation has forced residents to endure poor living conditions trekking long distances for water or patronising hawkish vendors who sell at cutthroat prices. Those who are lucky may get water from the boreholes of their more affluent neighbours.

Adverse weather manifesting in the absence of rains, suffocating heat waves and sectional power outages have multiplied the woes of Lokoja residents. Thus far, the sky has not opened to pour out rain to the city. Instead, residents emit large volumes of sweat from their bodies because of the heat. Daytime temperature can peak at 40 degrees (actually like 44 degrees) while at night it hovers around 27 degrees these days.

Irregular power supply from the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC completes the trauma. The electricity supplier polarises the residents by its operations. The News findings show that the city has two types of transformers, 33 kva and 11 kva. Those on 33 kva enjoy stable power while the majority on 11 kva regularly suffer days of outages.

Last week Thursday, following days of outages on the 11 kva transformers, not a few electricity consumers mobilized for a grand protest at AEDC offices in the state capital. The well-coordinated protesters blocked the entrance of the AEDC office, demanding to see the Area Manager for him to respond to questions of why the city had been in total blackout without any explanations from any quarters.

Pa Gabriel Odemegu did hide his feelings. “This heat nawa o. Rain has refused to fall. The situation is frustrating. It is even better in the afternoon like this. At least you can go and stay under a tree for fresh air. But at night when there is no light and you cannot stay under a tree for fear of reptiles and mosquitoes…The heat is killing.”

John Musa, a middle-aged analyst brought a spiritual and somehow jocular dimension to the matter. “The heat may not be ordinary. Someone likened the heat in Lokoja to hell fire and that anyone who has lived here need not fear going to hell. But seriously speaking, I recommend urgent and massive planting of trees as a long-term solution to the heat.”

Another resident expressed worries about the high cost of living. “Pure water for N50. Without light, you will be sweating profusely and you can not just buy pure water to drink. Even there is no Ibro water to cook. This Lokoja don tire me.”

To reverse the trend, a civil society group, Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, CHRCR, has called for the declaration of a state of emergency on water and sanitation in the state. Idris Abdul, the executive director of CHRCR, in a statement, advised the new government in the state to attach priority to the water situation.

“It is condemnable that a state capital like Lokoja will stay without water; open defecation has become alarming in Lokoja town and across the state.

Refuse is scattered across the town, without evacuation as and when due; worst of all, the refuse dump sites have remained unkempt without proper management.

“We call for a state of emergency on water and sanitation in Kogi state without further delay,” he said.

The government says the water challenges will soon be over as efforts are ongoing to resolve them. As a temporary measure, however, the government began the distribution of free water as a palliative to selected communities pending the restoration of normal supplies. Last week water tankers gave free water to residents of Angwan Yashi, Ward ‘C’ in Lokoja.

Commissioner for Water Resources, Yahaya Danladi Farouk assured that the situation will soon improve.