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Controversial water bill delays release of $700 million World Bank loan to Nigeria 

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Nigeria Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Program-for-Results (SURWASH Programme), underpinned by a $700 million loan from the World Bank, faces significant delays due to legislative gridlock.

The heart of the issue lies in the stalled passage of the contentious water bill, essential for unlocking further funds from the loan aimed at enhancing water, sanitation, and hygiene services across the country. 

So far, only about 12% of the loan amounting to $80.35 million has been disbursed to Nigeria, with a remaining $577.33 million awaiting the fulfilment of certain conditions tied to the loan project. 

The SURWASH Programme was initiated with a development objective to expand access to water and sanitation services while fortifying sector institutions. 

Despite the project’s forward movement, with Programme Year 2 results submitted on January 13, 2024, and currently under review by an Independent Verification Agent, the delay in legislative action is a stumbling block.  

The execution of the SURWASH Program, which saw approval on May 25, 2021, and is expected to close by June 30, 2027, is notably contingent on specific Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs). 

A pivotal DLI is the establishment of the National WASH Fund (DLI1), envisioned within the water bill introduced during Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency. 

The failure to pass this bill before the political transition in May 2023 threatens to delay the establishment of the National WASH Fund, consequently impacting the release of the World Bank’s loan. 

A document from the World Bank read: 

The National Water Resources Bill, initially introduced in April 2017 during former president Muhammadu Buhari’s first term, aimed to centralize the control of water resources under the federal government.

Despite passing in the House of Representatives, the bill met its first major hurdle in the Senate.

Referred to the Senate Committee on Water Resources, it faltered as the 8th Assembly concluded in June 2019 without a report on the bill, amidst widespread controversy. 

In a renewed effort, the bill resurfaced on July 7, 2020, re-gazetted and reintroduced in the 9th House of Representatives by Hon. Sada Soli (APC: Katsina).

It successfully passed the House and was sent to the Senate for concurrence. However, the Senate’s rejection led to another attempt to pass the bill in the House. 

The bill’s proposition to shift control of water resources from states to the federal level sparked significant backlash from governors, stakeholders, and the media. Some of the controversial aspects of the bill included: 

These clauses, among others, led to a national uproar, with many calling for a thorough review of the bill. 

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