On Tuesday, October 6th, 2020, the UN Global Compact Nigeria Network launched the epochal UN CEO Water Mandate, in collaboration with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning.
Making his opening remarks, Mr. Nnanna Ude (co-chair of the Joint Planning committee of the 26th Nigerian Economic Summit and representative of Mr. Kunle Elebute – Board Member, NESG), outlined the background to, and basis for, the Launch. In his words:
Water poses one of the greatest sustainability challenges to the 21st century. Water scarcity and pollution threaten our ability to grow vibrant and stable economies, meet basic human needs, and protect healthy ecosystems, while also posing severe human health problems.
Head, CEO Water Mandate
On his part, Mr. Jason Morrison, Head of the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate and President of the Pacific Institute, USA, presented the imperative for companies to become more aware of, and, actively engaged in the drive towards water sustainability, more so in the face of increasing water threats posed by climate change.
Most importantly, he highlighted severe operational, regulatory and social/reputational risks companies are likely to face with respect to long-term water usage, if they choose to neglect the clear and present dangers, and continue operating as usual.
Presenting on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, the Honourable Minister, Engr. Suleiman Adamu observed a grave irony: the fact that although Nigeria’s surface and ground water resource is estimated at 250 billion cubic metres, Nigeria is ranked as an ‘economically water scarce’ country.
Speaking further, he highlighted key policies designed to enhance efficient water use, management and sustainability, such as the National Resources Masterplan, theNational Irrigation and Drainage Policy,the Water Sector Roadmap and the National Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Policy, collectively aimed at promoting the management of Nigeria’s water resources.
Painting a positive picture of the future, he disclosed:
Nigeria’s water sector has huge potentials for private sector investment.We currently have over 200 dams across the country.
In addition, we have 3.1 million hectares of irrigable land and a total of 55,000 hectares of irrigable land leased out to commercial farmers. The 2019 WASH national survey puts national access to potable water at 71 percent and 52 percent for water and sanitation respectively.
Food and beverage conglomerate, Nestle Nigeria Plc, expressed support for the Water Mandate. Speaking on behalf of the company, Christian Vousvouras, Nestle Public Affairs Manager, posited that water is a crucial national resource which can also be a fantastic carrier than connects people.
Validating this point, Mr. Jan-Willem Vosmeer (Global Manager Corporate Social Responsibility, Heineken International N.V.) shared key organizational water sustainability best practices. He revealed that the company, in recognition of the dangerous global water trends, had been consistently innovating their manufacturing processes and technologies, in order to significantly reduce water-dependency.
In addition, he disclosed that as much as 96% of wastewater generated by Heineken is treated and returned to the local communities, in a conscious effort to ensure long-term water sustainability.
While launching the CEO water mandate, Chairman of the NESG Board, Mr. Asue Ighodalo, noted with concern, that Nigeria’s ranking as an economic water-scarce country, is a sad consequence of inadequate investments in the development and management of available water resources for social, economic, and environmental needs. The 2015 estimate of 69% access to water, he stated, implies that at least 31% – translating to about 52.7 million Nigerians, do not have access to water supply.
In light of the above, Mr. Ighodalo reiterated the mission of the CEO Water Mandate, namely, to mobilize a critical mass of business leaders to advance water sustainability solutions, and address global water challenges through corporate water stewardship, by delivering on the Six Core Elements of the Mandate. His poignant final words:
“Water is the most important resource, next to air. We must respect, conserve and treat water with the respect it deserves.”
Responding on behalf of key water sustainability actor, WaterAid Nigeria, the Country Director, Ms. Evelyn Mere, highlighted her organization’s work in helping other organizations to develop their WASH policies, generate evidence to inform the private sector, develop wash risk maps, protecting water bodies, reducing water contamination. She further pledged the organization’s commitment to collaborate with the CEO Water Mandate by continuing to drive collaboration for effective water resource management, community engagement, and provision of technical support.
The Call to Action
Leading the discussion on the Water Mandate Action Points, Mr. ‘Laoye Jaiyeola (CEO, NESG), shared some distressing statistics. For instance, as of 1990, Nigeria had only 32% having access to pipe-borne water and an open defecation rate of 24%. In contrast, as of 2015, only an alarming 7% of Nigerians had access to pipe-borne water, with a 1% increase in the open defecation rate, to 25%.
On the basis of these alarming facts, Mr. Jaiyeola stressed the absolute necessity for collective engagement and effort, to thoroughly tackle the problems associated with water and hygiene.
Delivering the Call to Action for the Launch, Executive director UN Global Compact Network Nigeria, Ms. Naomi E. Nwokolo, drove the point of the Water Mandate home, with the case study of the Lake Chad. She noted that the Lake had decreased by over 90% in the last 50 years, due to deforestation, over-grazing, and unsustainable irrigation projects, with grave socioeconomic and sociocultural effects on the health, livelihoods, and social stability of the surrounding communities.
Drawing from this sad example, she encouraged companies to sign on to the CEO Water Mandate, pledging the full readiness and availability of the GCNN to actively support.
Drawing the Launch to an extremely satisfactory close, Ms. Mai-Lan Ha, Senior Advisor, CEO Water Mandate, UN Global Compact reminded participants there is no single solution to the global water problem; and that it is, therefore, all the more imperative to examine successful interventions across the globe, in order to to see how they can be applied into the Nigerian context, factoring in peculiar local variables.