Andy Essiet, Calabar
Huge debt of over N1. 2 billion from consumers owed to
Cross River Water Board limited has crippled the supply of water in the state.
The Managing Director, Cross River Water Board, Mr Victor Ekpo who disclosed this in an interview with some newsmen in calabar yesterday said activities of debtors is really affecting operations of the board as “my target is to raise the revenue of the board to the level where it will start paying the N29 million of the staff monthly wage bill”.
He stated that the debt which covered the period of January 2020 to March 2021, have made it impossible to replace broken down pipes, fix the generating sets and buy chemicals for water treatment but expressed regret that prominent citizens of the State, particularly politicians, formed the major people that are indebted to the board.
Ekpo stated that “as an average the water we send out in a moth is worth over N120 million and we sell our water at N150 per cubic metre and some times we get about N10 million as revenue per month and this makes it difficult for the board to survive.
With this situation, he said the way out to recover the huge debt since several persuasions have failed would be the option of publishing their names to compel them to pay so that water board can render effective services and pay its staff which the state is currently supporting.
However, Ekpo said the only way out of the huge debt and make water flow regularly is for the outright privatisation of the board as the revenue profile plummeted from about N50 million in 2007 to less than N1 million as at the time he took over in January 2020 and ” my first discovery here is the corruption in the board. Some of the staff turned the place to money making ventures for themselves.
“While some of the divert a means of collecting revenue to their personal account, others were vandalizing key components of the board generating sets and stealing pipes in some stations outside Calabar. In fact, many of the staff attitude to work was not something that will enhance efficiency and effectiveness of the board to service delivery.
“How do you explain the situation where a staff procure her own PoS and started collecting and channelling revenue of the board to her personal account”.
While noting that privatisation remains the best option for the Cross River water board, Ekpo said strategy has been put in place to ensure better service delivery to the people and “we are surely going to come out stronger in the next few weeks. All, but one, of our nine stations, will start pumping water to the people” .
He said that another major challenge the
Board is facing is the attitude of over 80 percent of consumers who bypass the Metre and get water free thus denying the board of vital revenue but added that in spite of the challenges he inherited, he has been able to raise the revenue to N9 million.
“I was able to achieve this from a near comatose state i met the water board.
More can be achieve if we get the cooperation of our customers and staff who have resorted to vandalism facilities of the board and some of our customers who bypass our metres. We also have challenges of huge electricity bill that amount to about N12 million monthly and the over N180 million electricity debt I inherited,”.
He said, ” 80 percent of our customers bypass the metre and we have made several arrests but to no avail so the only option now is that we introduced estimated billing of N3, 000 per month and that shut up our revenue to just N10 million and our staff in the field were not helping matters as they were extorting from customers”.