Conflicts of interest due to cultural, political, and social oversights have threatened effective and efficient corporate water governance in Nigeria. This has affected the inclusive participation of stakeholders, policy makers and the relevant agencies of the water resources management, thus hampering good water governance. Assessing the water governance impacts based on frameworks proposed for effective, efficient and inclusive governance was aimed. Information contributing to the governance input was highlighted by analyzing hydrological units that characterized Nigerian watersheds. Toxicological index (Ti) values were presented as a practical guideline to assessing water policy outcomes. The (Ti) ≥ 1.0 dominated; signifying the water resources exposed to toxic environments. High pollutant loads associated with public health deterioration across Nigeria are considered as impacts indicating lagged water governance. While the lagged governance output manifested in some diseases relating to deficient access to potable water supply/poor sanitation services like Blue Baby syndrome, Renal/liver/lung diseases and blood cancer, the outcome showed an absence of health and social wellbeing. These indicators demonstrate the need for incorporating Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Principles on Water Governance in the Nigerian water governance system. Notably, flexibility across all governance levels can enable shared responsibility to balance economic activities and the ecological wellbeing.

  • Mineral exploitations are the major means of economy in Nigeria.

  • Even as water resources sustain both population and the economy.

  • Contrast which exists in the development of the water and mineral resources created conflicts of interests.

  • The conflicts affected the management of water supply with a negative impact on the ecosystem.

  • So, policy reform is necessary, particularly based on the OECD Principles on water governance.

Graphical Abstract

Graphical Abstract
Graphical Abstract
OECD

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

GWP

Global Water Partnership

IWRM

Integrated Water Resource Management

HAs

Hydrological Areas

HA

Hydrological Area

RBDA

River Basin Development Authority

RBDAs

River Basin Development Authorities

Ti

Toxicological index

FMWR

Federal Ministry of Water Resources

JICA

Japan International Co-operation Agency

NiMet

Nigerian Meteorological agency

PET

Potential Evapotranspiration

BBS

Blue Baby Syndrome

RLLD

Renal, Lung and Liver Diseases

TBAs

Transboundary Aquifers

MAR

Managed Aquifer Recharge

IWP

Integrated Water Planning

Protection of human health and ecosystems is much more challenging today (National Research Council, NRC, 2003) than in the early 21st century. The challenge has been persistent, especially as several means of economic development often account for contaminants released to water resources. Wei et al. (2022) revealed that the reduction of the water benefits due to land-use (economic) activities reduces ecological benefit in the same trend. Consequently, relevant authorities are faced with various difficulties in tackling the water supply challenges (Rahmasary et al., 2019). One of such challenges in the water management nowadays is how to allocate water adequately among competing uses, largely in [hydropower] energy production and e­flow (Kuriqi et al., 2019a), which constitute a complex interaction and at times affect the ecosystem adversely (Kuriqi et al., 2019b), especially in areas including Nigeria where climate change is shifting some rivers to ephemeral condition (Ukpai, 2020). For this reason, various relevant decision-making agencies regulate the management policies to guarantee sustainable water supply (Ukpai et al., 2021). Thus, water resources management is characterized by the involvement of multiple stakeholders with competing interests and objectives (Smith & Clausen, 2015). Even when Global Water Partnership (GWP) was introduced to reconcile the competing interest (GWP, 2000) through Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), the implementation has not been satisfactory, perhaps due to a lack of inspiration in water governance. At this point, a set of practices and principle frameworks that provide conditions for effective, efficient, and inclusive water policies (Figure 1) were rationalized as a framework for good water governance by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), hence, the OECD Principles on Water Governance.
Fig. 1

Role allocation amongst different cadres/levels of water governance from the bottom level through the middle to the top: a reflection of the 12 point framework of the OECD Principles on water governance.

Fig. 1

Role allocation amongst different cadres/levels of water governance from the bottom level through the middle to the top: a reflection of the 12 point framework of the OECD Principles on water governance.

Close modal

The Principles were adopted in 2015 by the Regional Development Policy Committee of the OECD as a framework to fathom public policy responses: a strategy to foster good water governance as a means to an end. It was earlier observed that water crises are often primarily ‘governance’ crises, especially as the water sector is a fragmented type, with a gloomy outlook, ‘which requires doing better with less’ (OECD, 2015). Based on these observations, the governance framework initiative was developed to encourage the relevant stakeholders (OECD, 2018) from the bottom to the top for dialogue as a process to the policy responses and implementation. The implementations reflect enhanced water security, improved sanitation services, and access to a potable water supply. According to Keller & Hartmann (2020), the initiative was projected to enhance the governance process from policy design to implementation. Meanwhile, the gap between the water policy design and the implementation can be bridged through the public policy responses, which will only be viable if the policies are consistent, with adequate information, well-designed regulatory frameworks, and if the stakeholders are properly engaged, with integrity and capacities. These conditions center mainly on applying the OECD [Principle 11] on water governance, aiming to encourage water governance frameworks that help manage trade-offs across generations, from rural to urban areas, hence, the development of the multi-stakeholder (bottom-up) dialogue approach. Although this aim intends to possibly promote coordinated development and management of water [as detailed in Principle 2] and related resources, the impacts of declining water security on food, energy, and the entire ecosystem have not been considered adequately (Scott et al., 2018). Therefore, problem in the water governance accumulates more than it is resolved: a gap that needs innovative framework directives to fill. The directives can be furnished with the multi-stakeholder engagement for general acceptance ‘even as voluntary roles’ when shared among the relevant authorities, levels of government, responsible stakeholders, and local communities. The general acceptance of this [novelty] practice can provide good water governance indicators that will be adopted and implemented [Principle 8]. Such indicators are conceived as a self-assessment framework for the government and the stakeholders to carry out the dialogue on the water governance system, track timely progress and map out actions required to bridge the identified gaps (Akhmouch et al., 2018): an implementation strategy developed in the OECD [principle 1] based on clear roles and responsibilities across all levels of government. Although defining the roles/responsibilities for each level of water governance is very important, the present study emphasized on shared roles/responsibilities: an improvement proposed to pervade the bottom-up and multi-stakeholder process.

Yet, at the bottom level/local scale where the communities/municipalities dominate, the principles are not applicable due to the theoretical nature of the water governance principles (Keller & Hartmann, 2020). From this review, the OECD Principles on Water Governance have not been well known at the grassroots, and seemingly hanging at that level, hence, appears the bottom-up dialogue process will be difficult to work out if the local municipalities ‘at the bottom corridor’ are not familiar with terms in the principles framework. So, it behoves the responsible [governance] authorities to further extend the exposure of the OECD principles to the public by interpreting via publications (in regional conferences) of local practical examples from data acquired at River Basins. The River Basins are the unit of water supplies (FMWR/JICA, 2014) at [or nearest to] the local scale. Therefore, for purpose of the adequate knowledge of the OECD Principles to properly engage and share with the stakeholders at the local scale, the acquisition of data at the precinct of the River Basins and correlation of interpreted results with impact indicators of water governance is the scope of the present study.

In the study, the evaluation of water governance in Nigeria commenced with the acquisition of underlying data that reveals the water supply potentials of the Nigerian River Basins. Information in the data can boost collaboration and engagements of governance institutions (i.e., the public-stakeholder-government) for outcome-oriented contributions to water policy design and implementation [Principle 10]. Therefore, a proposal was made for regular evaluation of the relevant governance institutions [who] design/or incorporate [what] could provide the best policy frameworks, and [how] existing instruments for the implementation (like dialogue, shared responsibility, even flexibility) is working. Emphasis was made on flexibility as an innovative formula produced from self-assessment and adjusting where the need arises [Principle 12]) across the institutions. While this adjustment defines progress in the bottom-up dialogue process, the process can facilitate the identification of risk sources at locations of potential economic deposits within the Watersheds (River Basins); especially by means of effective cross-sectoral co-ordination between policies for water and various land uses [Principle 3]. Identifying highly polluting areas can provide a valuable system for more cost-effective watershed management (Badrzadeh et al., 2022). Thus, the water governance system in Nigeria must be fortified with adherence to the OECD Principles on Water Governance to provide novel input indicators that monitor actions that contribute to good outcomes, including budgeting/planning for risk assessment, regulatory, and preventive predictive measures. These actions are means to ecological wellbeing, the overall impact indicator of good water governance. This indicator was determined by evaluating the health status of humans as the end user in food chains.

Interpretatively, little or no health hazards should have represented good governance output, signifying improved sanitation or reduction/total clean-up of contaminants from loading sources. But then, the reverse was the case as the literature review and opinion poll aspects of the study correlated the deterioration of health of people living around environments vulnerable to effects of natural and anthropogenic processes in Nigeria to the declining water security. The lack of water security reflected governance outcomes indicated by the high health risks as impacts of failing water governance. Governance failure of this nature must be abated through the endorsement of the twelve (12) Principles on Water Governance by governments as steering tools to design and implement effective, efficient, and inclusive water policies (OECD, 2015). The fact that the tools are the first concrete achievement that can significantly contribute to the development of better water policies (OECD, 2018), the general aim of this research was designed therefore to harness input-oriented data into the governance system with recourse to OECD Principles on Water Governance. Then, the specific objective was to evaluate the water governance condition in Nigeria and release relevant data as a backdrop on which the present governance status can be improved for good water governance as a means to an end [public and economic wellbeing].

Nigeria: a case study

The geology of Nigeria, located in West Africa (Figure 2) sandwiches earth materials that vary from bulk/industrial minerals to economic-laden deposits like fossil fuels, metallic ores, and water resources. Exploitation of these minerals have created environmental risks greater than the economic gains earlier accrued (Ukpai et al., 2021), with most of the risks exposed through the water supply. Thus, as the water supply is the major source of food for all biomes, the humans at the peak of food chains are the end receptor of the risk effects. This necessitates improved water governance in Nigeria, hence the demarcation of the region into eight (8) Hydrological Areas (HAs) shown in Figure 3, which advanced to twelve (12) River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) as presented in Supplementary Material, Appendix 2. Each River Basin Development Authority (RBDA) or Hydrological Area (HA) is a unit of water resources administration (Federal Ministry of Water Resources [FMWR] & Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA], 2014). So, land-use and climatic factors operating in these HAs can be measured to determine the hydrological characteristics (Offodile, 2014) for information on Basins’ total water yield.
Fig. 2

Generalized geological map of Nigeria (Obaje, 2013) with an outset map (reduced from Supplementary Material, Appendix 1) showing the location in West Africa.

Fig. 2

Generalized geological map of Nigeria (Obaje, 2013) with an outset map (reduced from Supplementary Material, Appendix 1) showing the location in West Africa.

Close modal
Fig. 3

The comprehensive (hydro) geological map of Nigeria showing hydrological (catchment) areas (modified from FMWR/JICA, 2014).

Fig. 3

The comprehensive (hydro) geological map of Nigeria showing hydrological (catchment) areas (modified from FMWR/JICA, 2014).

Close modal

Methodology

The investigations commenced with a qualitative analysis of the hydrological parameters of the HAs to estimate the water budget (Equation (1)) for the information about Basins’ water yields, thus:
formula
(1)
where P is the Precipitation (Rainfall) and ET is the Evapo-Transpiration; both data are secondary sourced meteorological data acquired from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Abuja and internally reported by FMWR/JICA (2014). These data covered a period of 40 years (between 1960 and 2000). Then, I is the infiltration, while, Runoff (R) was estimated by rational method (Equation (2)), as follows (Alibardi & Cossu, 2018), as follows:
formula
(2)
where C represents runoff coefficient (Table 1). However, the rational method is limited for use in watersheds of moderate areal extent where rainfall intensity can be uniform across the affected River Basin; hence, it is assumed that the runoff was directly proportional to the rainfall intensity.
Table 1

Physiogeographic summary and the corresponding runoff coefficients.

Land useVegetationRainfall intensityGeology
Topography (Slope)
Flat
Rolling
Hilly
S/NoType of terrainPermeability0–4%4–10%>10%
Cultivated Bare Low Arid sand High 0.1 0.2 0.15 0.6 0.2 
Grass Medium II Gravel/laterite Medium 0.30 0.50.35 0.4 
III Secondary porosity Low 0.50 0.3  0.55 0.6 
IV Clay Very low 0.7 0.5 0.75 0.8 
Uncultivated Forest High Alluvial/plain sand High 0.2 0.25 0.3 
VI Sandy loam Medium 0.4 0.45 0.5 
VII Silty clay Low 0.6 0.65 0.7 
Land useVegetationRainfall intensityGeology
Topography (Slope)
Flat
Rolling
Hilly
S/NoType of terrainPermeability0–4%4–10%>10%
Cultivated Bare Low Arid sand High 0.1 0.2 0.15 0.6 0.2 
Grass Medium II Gravel/laterite Medium 0.30 0.50.35 0.4 
III Secondary porosity Low 0.50 0.3  0.55 0.6 
IV Clay Very low 0.7 0.5 0.75 0.8 
Uncultivated Forest High Alluvial/plain sand High 0.2 0.25 0.3 
VI Sandy loam Medium 0.4 0.45 0.5 
VII Silty clay Low 0.6 0.65 0.7 

Note: These criteria are based on the climate of typical sub-Sahara African Region. Mean runoff coefficient values in rows I and II under Flat topography = 0.20 was estimated for Lake Chad; Mean values in rows III, VI, V under Flat topography = 0.30 was estimated for Niger North, Niger Central and Western Littoral; whereas 0.5 being the mean of values in rows IV, V, VI and VII under flat topography was estimated for Niger South; 0.5 was estimated under rolling topography for Eastern Littoral from mean values in rows II, III, IV and V; while the runoff coefficient for each Upper Niger and Central Niger is 0.6 from the mean values in rows II, III and IV estimated between rolling and hilly topography.

Water resources qualities were used to assess water governance output via reviews of previously analyzed water samples. This is because water is the major means of direct human exposure to environmental degradation. Laboratory data representing samples from 17 locations, comprising groundwater, river/stream, and seepage points around the upstream axis of Eastern littoral HA, as well as 15 representative mean values of analyzed groundwater samples from some Nigerian states were reviewed as typical cases. The analytical laboratory data were subjected to toxicological index (Itoxic) or [Ti] evaluation (Equation (3)) (Hiscock, 2005) thus:
formula
(3)
where:
  • i = 1…n: each contaminant constituents

  • Ci: Concentration of each contaminant as obtained from laboratory analysis of water samples.

  • SAL: Specified standard limit of contaminants

  • SALi: standard admissible limit of chemicals relative to an individual contaminant (i).

The impact of water governance was estimated by means of transcription of oral questionnaires from interviewees (Supplementary Material, Appendix 3) living around water resources adjoining environments vulnerable to dangers relating to anthropogenic and natural processes. The interview was aimed at determining the health status of humans as the major ecological receptor. About 735 adults who are natives of the concerned areas and locally familiar with the nooks and crannies were chosen and interviewed; however, the number (n) of the chosen interviewees depends on the available respondents (see Supplementary Material, Appendix 3). Analysis of results was by manual comparison of the number of affected persons (nP) for a particular disease with a locally estimated number of people (NP) living in the area. Ratios of nP to NP for each disease were evaluated and the mean of modes selected and generalized as a trending outcome (in %).

Water governance in Nigeria: the challenging input and output indicators

Basins’ water yields relatively presented (Table 2) showed that HAs 1 and 8 and other northern Nigerian HAs are affected by low annual rainfalls; resulting in high infiltration requirements. It is pertinent to note that the higher the rainfall, the less the infiltration requirements for base-flow. Thus, it appears that base-flow recession, trending from extreme hydrologic events, like drought arising from global warming affects the yields of rivers in Nigeria. Most of these rivers are around the northern part where they are characterized by rainfall deficit at P/PET<1.0 (see Table 2). Consequently, rain-fed agriculture has gradually become more unrealistic than ever in the region, such that farmers resorted to indiscriminate exploitation of groundwater, and building dams across major rivers for irrigation purposes. This excessive use of water supplies was carried out without information about the natural water yield of the basins, which could support in planning water governance frameworks that help manage trade-offs across water users, rural and urban areas, and generations [principle 11]. The farmers’ attitude leads to a gross change in aquifer storage (ΔS) at the affected Has, hence threatening the quantity and quality of water resources, resulting in the water supply shortage and pollution respectively. The impact of the water shortages and pollution on the ecosystem is pathetic, especially, with the ecological havoc that defines output indicators of poor water governance exacerbated by climate change. To mend this governance output and guarantee the outcome of good water governance, the natural basins’ water yields like the amount of infiltration, base-flow, and other related information must be produced, updated, and shared timely as consistent and comparable policy-relevant data that can guide, assess and improve water policy [principle 5]. This is because improving water policy prior to water development and utilization minimizes conflicts.

Table 2

Meteorological data/empirical estimation of infiltration from basin hydrological budgeting.

S/NoCatchment areaAnnual mean temp. (°)Annual mean PET (mm/year)Annual mean P (mm/year)CR (mm/year)IP/PET
HA1 Niger North 27.4 1,419 767 0.30 230 882 0.54 
HA2 Niger Central 16.5 1,318 1,170 0.30 351 499 0.89 
HA3 Upper Benue 26.0 1,290 1,055 0.60 633 868 0.82 
HA4 Lower Benue 26.8 1,338 1,341 0.60 805 802 1.00 
HA5 Niger South 26.7 1,325 2,132 0.50 1,066 259 1.60 
HA6 Western Littoral 26.5 1,314 1,541 0.30 462 235 1.20 
HA7 Eastern Littoral 26.9 1,338 2,106 0.50 1,053 285 1.60 
HA8 Lake Chad 26.5 1,347 610 0.20 122 859 0.50 
S/NoCatchment areaAnnual mean temp. (°)Annual mean PET (mm/year)Annual mean P (mm/year)CR (mm/year)IP/PET
HA1 Niger North 27.4 1,419 767 0.30 230 882 0.54 
HA2 Niger Central 16.5 1,318 1,170 0.30 351 499 0.89 
HA3 Upper Benue 26.0 1,290 1,055 0.60 633 868 0.82 
HA4 Lower Benue 26.8 1,338 1,341 0.60 805 802 1.00 
HA5 Niger South 26.7 1,325 2,132 0.50 1,066 259 1.60 
HA6 Western Littoral 26.5 1,314 1,541 0.30 462 235 1.20 
HA7 Eastern Littoral 26.9 1,338 2,106 0.50 1,053 285 1.60 
HA8 Lake Chad 26.5 1,347 610 0.20 122 859 0.50 

Note: T, PET and P are Temperature, Potential evapo-transpiration and Precipitation, respectively, as acquired by JICA team from NIMET from 1960 to 2000; C, R, I and ΔS for the respective runoff coefficient, Runoff, Infiltration and change in storage.

In the southern axis (mainly, Niger Delta), frequency and density of rainfall cause steady saturation of soil; hence, the little infiltration requirements, and any event of rain even when little, triggers heavy runoff, and flooding. Devastating effects of incessant floods even across other Nigerian flood plains, mainly on water supply qualities, are yet to receive attention from relevant advisory agencies through predictive awareness as input indicating efficient water governance. Furthermore, the amount of rainfall at HA5, HA7, and HA6; all in southern Nigeria (compare Table 2 and Figure 3) is enough to formulate and implement policies that can control acid rain-induced gas flaring from fossil fuels, mostly those from oil and gas production in the south–south region. But such a decision has been hampered by little or no acknowledgement of rainwater as a resource, and the much credit accrued to oil and gas as an economic mainstay in Nigeria. This lopsided assessment is motivated by the conflict of interests due to cross-sectoral politics, induced by a lack of coherence of water policy in other sectors. Then, the government should ensure effective cross-sectoral co-ordination for policy coherence between water and related land uses [Principle 3] as also demonstrated by academic authors (Tortajada, 2010).

So, by applying those input and output-oriented effective, efficient, and inclusive governance principles 3, 5, and 11 respectively, the OECD Principles on Water Governance will ameliorate the water shortage and pollution-induced poor water governance, worsened by climate change in Nigeria. However, focusing on the right-holding has generally reduced the focus on the clear principles (roles) by the stakeholders (Camkin & Neto, 2016), in addition to the fact that the OECD Principles on Water Governance have not been well known at the local (Nigerian Basin) scales. These gaps have possibly affected the implementation of water policies (if formulated), resulting in challenging impacts on water governance. Nevertheless, this study strongly aligns with the idea strengthened in Keller & Hartmann (2020) that the OECD Principles on Water Governance are a useful framework to hold on for water policy implementation. Thus, the challenging impact indicators will be addressed by continuous improvements on the OECD Principles; because, the framework remains an antidote to incoherent units of measuring impacts of water governance globally. Already, the Principles have been used and diagnose and bridge policy, funding, and information gaps, as well as other governance gaps (OECD, 2015) across the world. It holds the key to unlocking the identified policy puzzles (OECD, 2018), hence an agent of good governance of water resources.

The impacts assessment

Laboratory data for representative water samples were reviewed (Tables 3 and 4). Except for Electrical conductivity [EC] at samples 4, 5, and 6, Na at samples 5 and 6 and Fe at samples 5, 9, and 16 where the concentrations (Ci) exceeded the standard limit (see Table 3) as stipulated by WHO (2011), the analyzed parameters are at the nutritional limit. The polluted water samples represented potential toxic sources, like the level of EC signifying high salinity and consequent crop poisoning (Ukpai et al. 2020). Furthermore, the extent of the toxicity was evaluated by subjecting the concentrations, Ci to analysis of toxicological index (Itoxic). The results showed that samples 3, 7, 11, and 13 (Table 3) were within the toxicological index limit (Itoxic<1.0), whereas others have Itoxic>1.0 (see Table 3) including all representative samples from other Nigerian RBDA (Table 4). Those samples with Itoxic>1.0 portend ecological risk sources. Interpretatively, Ci/SALi = 0 for individual analyzed parameters without SAL, like Ca, and if the case affects more than a few parameters, actual Itoxic cannot be reflected. However, a few parameters were affected, for which the error level was low.

Table 3

Laboratory results and toxicological index for risk assessment.

i = 1.nEC (μS/m)
pH
SO4 (mg/l)
Cl (mg/l)
Ca (mg/l)
Na+ (mg/l)
Fe (mg/l)
Itoxic or Ti
CiCi/SALCiCi/SALCiCi/SALCiCi/SALiCiCi/SALiCiCi/SALCiCi/SAL
1. 274 0.55 7.03 Weak acidic/weak alkaline water 40 0.16 40.26 0.16 52 37.63 0.50 0.00 0.0 1.37 
297 0.60 7.06 36 0.14 42.15 0.17 61 12.00 0.16 0.00 0.0 1.07 
89 0.18 7.00 26 0.10 7.18 0.03 29 10.00 0.13 0.00 0.0 0.44 
1,265 2.5 6.95 78 0.31 95.96 0.38 136. 36.79 0.50 0.13 0.4 4.10 
5. 1,046 2.1 6.78 80 0.32 89.11 0.36 126 77.78 1.04 0.54 1.8 5.6 
1,186 2.4 6.97 86 0.34 93.45 0.37 132 87.92 1.17 0.02 0.07 4.35 
198 0.40 7.03 22 0.10 8.96 0.04 40 12.00 0.16 0.00 0.0 0.70 
8. 362 0.72 7.05 36 0.14 41.22 0.17 67 16.00 0.21 0.00 0.0 1.24 
434 0.87 7.05 38 0.15 44.56 0.18 80 38.77 0.52 0.32 1.1 2.82 
10. 209 0.42 7.04 34 0.14 28.98 0.12 58 29.16 0.40 0.00 0.0 1.10 
11. 127 0.25 7.00 26 0.10 17.79 0.10 54 16.19 0.26 0.00 0.0 0.71 
12. 215 0.43 7.01 30 0.12 21.68 0.09 73 15.11 0.20 0.00 0.0 0.84 
13 74 0.15 7.00 16 0.10 16.78 0.10 40 10.00 0.13 0.02 0.07 0.55 
14. 278 0.56 7.02 20 0.10 32.15 0.13 59 17.15 0.23 0.00 0.0 1.02 
15. 289 0.58 7.03 22 0.10 34.25 0.14 60 21.82 0.29 0.00 0.0 1.11 
16 200 0.40 7.03 34 0.14 49.96 0.20 80. 21 0.28 7.46 24.8 25.82 
17 50 0.10 7.05 20 0.10 39.17 0.16 51 12 0.16 0.11 0.37 0.89 
SALi 500*  7.0 250  250    75  0.30  1.0* 
i = 1.nEC (μS/m)
pH
SO4 (mg/l)
Cl (mg/l)
Ca (mg/l)
Na+ (mg/l)
Fe (mg/l)
Itoxic or Ti
CiCi/SALCiCi/SALCiCi/SALCiCi/SALiCiCi/SALiCiCi/SALCiCi/SAL
1. 274 0.55 7.03 Weak acidic/weak alkaline water 40 0.16 40.26 0.16 52 37.63 0.50 0.00 0.0 1.37 
297 0.60 7.06 36 0.14 42.15 0.17 61 12.00 0.16 0.00 0.0 1.07 
89 0.18 7.00 26 0.10 7.18 0.03 29 10.00 0.13 0.00 0.0 0.44 
1,265 2.5 6.95 78 0.31 95.96 0.38 136. 36.79 0.50 0.13 0.4 4.10 
5. 1,046 2.1 6.78 80 0.32 89.11 0.36 126 77.78 1.04 0.54 1.8 5.6 
1,186 2.4 6.97 86 0.34 93.45 0.37 132 87.92 1.17 0.02 0.07 4.35 
198 0.40 7.03 22 0.10 8.96 0.04 40 12.00 0.16 0.00 0.0 0.70 
8. 362 0.72 7.05 36 0.14 41.22 0.17 67 16.00 0.21 0.00 0.0 1.24 
434 0.87 7.05 38 0.15 44.56 0.18 80 38.77 0.52 0.32 1.1 2.82 
10. 209 0.42 7.04 34 0.14 28.98 0.12 58 29.16 0.40 0.00 0.0 1.10 
11. 127 0.25 7.00 26 0.10 17.79 0.10 54 16.19 0.26 0.00 0.0 0.71 
12. 215 0.43 7.01 30 0.12 21.68 0.09 73 15.11 0.20 0.00 0.0 0.84 
13 74 0.15 7.00 16 0.10 16.78 0.10 40 10.00 0.13 0.02 0.07 0.55 
14. 278 0.56 7.02 20 0.10 32.15 0.13 59 17.15 0.23 0.00 0.0 1.02 
15. 289 0.58 7.03 22 0.10 34.25 0.14 60 21.82 0.29 0.00 0.0 1.11 
16 200 0.40 7.03 34 0.14 49.96 0.20 80. 21 0.28 7.46 24.8 25.82 
17 50 0.10 7.05 20 0.10 39.17 0.16 51 12 0.16 0.11 0.37 0.89 
SALi 500*  7.0 250  250    75  0.30  1.0* 

The SALi is according to the standard specified by WHO (2011) while those with asterisks (*) were specified in Hiscock (2005). Note: Ci/SALi is approximated to 1 decimal place. The laboratory results or Ci was sourced from Ukpai et al. (2021).

Table 4

Results of toxicological index for nitrates, iron & manganese across some Nigerian States.

iSome states covered & affected RBDApH
NO3 (mg/l)
Fe (mg/l)
Mn (mg/l)
Itoxic or [Ti]
i = 1.nCiCi/SALCiCi/SALCiCi/SALiCiCi/SAL
Niger Delta & Part of Ogun–Osun RBDA Akwa Ibom 6.1 Relatively acidic in general 2.41 0.8 0.51 1.7 0.18 1.8 4.3 
Bayelsa 6.6 0.57 0.2 2.54 0.4 0.17 1.7 2.3 
Cross river 6.4 27.2 9.0 – – – – D/N 
Delta 5.3 1.14 0.4 0.32 1.0 0.07 0.7 2.1 
Lagos 5.5 1.78 0.6 12.0 40.0 0.12 1.2 41.8 
Rivers 6.2 0.17 0.1 1.37 4.6 0.15 1.5 6.2 
Imo 5.6 0.94 0.3 0.33 1.1 0.05 0.5 1.9 
Mean 6.0   1.6   6.7   0.90   
Benin Ogun 5.6 18.9 6.3 0.04 0.13 – – 6.5 
Ogun 6.8 4.78 1.6 2.43 8.26 – – 9.9 
Mean 6.2   3.9   4.2      
10 Benue Basin Anambra 5.5 2.10 0.7 0.18 0.6 0.35 3.5 4.8 
11 Enugu 5.3 27.5 9.2 – – – – D/N 
12 Benue 6.6 17.5 5.8 0.25 0.83 0.58 5.8 12.45 
13 Ebonyi 6.5 40.3 13.4 0.29 0.96 – – 14.36 
Mean 6.0   7.3   0.60   4.70   
14 Sokoto Sokoto 5.9 70.7 23.5 0.14 0.47 – – 24.0 
15 Sokoto 7.1 97.2 32.4 – – – – D/N 
Mean 6.3   28.0   0.23      
SALi (WHO, (2011)6.5–8.5 3 as NO2− 0.3 0.1 1.0* 
iSome states covered & affected RBDApH
NO3 (mg/l)
Fe (mg/l)
Mn (mg/l)
Itoxic or [Ti]
i = 1.nCiCi/SALCiCi/SALCiCi/SALiCiCi/SAL
Niger Delta & Part of Ogun–Osun RBDA Akwa Ibom 6.1 Relatively acidic in general 2.41 0.8 0.51 1.7 0.18 1.8 4.3 
Bayelsa 6.6 0.57 0.2 2.54 0.4 0.17 1.7 2.3 
Cross river 6.4 27.2 9.0 – – – – D/N 
Delta 5.3 1.14 0.4 0.32 1.0 0.07 0.7 2.1 
Lagos 5.5 1.78 0.6 12.0 40.0 0.12 1.2 41.8 
Rivers 6.2 0.17 0.1 1.37 4.6 0.15 1.5 6.2 
Imo 5.6 0.94 0.3 0.33 1.1 0.05 0.5 1.9 
Mean 6.0   1.6   6.7   0.90   
Benin Ogun 5.6 18.9 6.3 0.04 0.13 – – 6.5 
Ogun 6.8 4.78 1.6 2.43 8.26 – – 9.9 
Mean 6.2   3.9   4.2      
10 Benue Basin Anambra 5.5 2.10 0.7 0.18 0.6 0.35 3.5 4.8 
11 Enugu 5.3 27.5 9.2 – – – – D/N 
12 Benue 6.6 17.5 5.8 0.25 0.83 0.58 5.8 12.45 
13 Ebonyi 6.5 40.3 13.4 0.29 0.96 – – 14.36 
Mean 6.0   7.3   0.60   4.70   
14 Sokoto Sokoto 5.9 70.7 23.5 0.14 0.47 – – 24.0 
15 Sokoto 7.1 97.2 32.4 – – – – D/N 
Mean 6.3   28.0   0.23      
SALi (WHO, (2011)6.5–8.5 3 as NO2− 0.3 0.1 1.0* 

Note: the laboratory results (or Ci) for each state are seemingly the average value from wide spread sampling & analysis originally reported by Edet et al. (2011) across the affected state. D/N = Data not enough for estimation of Ttoxic. (*) = Hiscock (2005).

The outcome of water governance was measured by evaluating the impact level of the ecological risks in humans via oral interviews. The fact that major processes which often deteriorate the ecosystem in Nigeria include agricultural activities, minerals/oil and gas exploitations, urban and domestic sewage/refuse, the impact levels on the biomasses were checked through the effects on humans at the peak of food chains. The most common health risks associated with these processes were analyzed. It was narrowed to determining the spread of Blue Baby Syndrome (BBS), Renal, Lung, and Liver Diseases (RLLD). This is because the risk of liver (hepatitis A) infection can be associated with a lack of safe water and poor sanitation (WHO, 2021), even as BBS was correlated to pollution of nitrate, NO3 (Ward et al., 2018), which disperse mainly through the agricultural activities (Ukpai et al., 2017). Although renal (kidney dysfunction) can be caused by exposure to water polluted with heavy metals (Bernhoft, 2012; Balali-Mood et al., 2021), there is particularly strong evidence of increased risk of bladder, skin, and lung cancers following consumption of water polluted with arsenic (Boffetta & Nyberg, 2003) and iron (Ukpai et al., 2017). These trace metals are mainly disseminated from mining activities (Okogbue & Ukpai, 2013b). The result of the interview was summarized (see Supplementary Material, Appendix 3) thus; from 1 in every 10 to 4 in every 10 children had BBS (i.e., between 10 and 40%, at a mean of 30%); and from 1 out of 10 to 3 out of 10 adults have been diagnosed of either lung, liver or renal diseases (i.e., between 10 and 30% at a mean of about 20%; while about 1 in every 20 persons (or 5%) suffered blood cancer (anemia). Although few out of the largely populated locations of Nigeria were surveyed, the mean of these results was rated and generalized via quantitative analysis, as the overall trend. Totally, about 55% of the surveyed population signified impact indicating utilization of water supplies compromised with nitrate, heavy metals, and benzenes; each was traced to loading sources (Figure 4) and pathways of human exposure (Figure 5). Comparatively, Edet et al. (2011), as well as Okogbue & Ukpai (2013a), reported pollution of Nigerian water resources with nitrates. Okogbue & Ukpai (2013b) also revealed heavy metal poison among people living around an ore mining province in Nigeria. Similarly, Kponee et al. (2015) confirmed oil and gas-related benzene pollution of water resources in a part of the Niger Delta. These dilapidated water supplies need a robust improvement en-routing the agent of good water governance to a good outcome and eventual public wellbeing.
Fig. 4

From outside to inside; four cardinal potential pollutant sources in Nigeria (1st circle); various means of exposure (2nd circle); released pollutant in water supplies (3rd circle); and degree of various health damage (4th circle) in human as the target/receptor (5th circle).

Fig. 4

From outside to inside; four cardinal potential pollutant sources in Nigeria (1st circle); various means of exposure (2nd circle); released pollutant in water supplies (3rd circle); and degree of various health damage (4th circle) in human as the target/receptor (5th circle).

Close modal
Fig. 5

Source–pathway–target plan depicted in cyclic interplay from human activities to rehabilitative services. Note: ecological services for water governance are specified in the dash enclosure.

Fig. 5

Source–pathway–target plan depicted in cyclic interplay from human activities to rehabilitative services. Note: ecological services for water governance are specified in the dash enclosure.

Close modal

Bridging the gaps

The infiltration requirements due to the deficiency of rainfall have induced reduced runoff and base-flow recessions across northern Nigeria. Consequently, the most affected prolific Lake Chad aquifers (comprising Hadejia and Lake Chad River Basins) were recharged from transboundary Lake Chad Basin shared by Nigeria with African nations, including Chad, Cameroon, and Niger Republics; while the adjoining Niger North HA is recharged through Iullumeden Basin which encroaches Nigeria from the Niger Republic as Sokoto-Rima River Basin. Such hydrological histories are some background information for the water management at appropriate scales within an integrated Basin governance system to reflect local conditions and foster co-ordination between the various scales [principle 2]. For instance, as the Nigerian axes of the Basins are recharged with quantities of groundwater from the wider Basins’ spectrum covered in other countries, possible environmental and economic actions/activities/processes affecting the quantity and quality at any of the nations sharing the Transboundary Aquifers (TBAs) can affect the aquifers across length and breadth. More so, if overpumping which results in a negative change in storage (−ΔS) exists in any of the nations, and perhaps not controlled or managed well by the governments of those nations, it will initiate water pollution in response to induced quantity shortage. All these factors contribute to trade-off among nations, rural and urban areas and generations. Here, implementing principle 11 is needful, which may be preceded by multi-stakeholder policy dialogue as provided in [principle 8] to protect the ecosystem and maximize the groundwater towards positive change in storage (+ΔS) by means of managed aquifer recharge (MAR) through the policy framework like Integrated Water Planning (IWP) among the governments. The benefits of MAR were correlated to potable water qualities and ecological safety by Ajjur & Baalousha (2021). Ecological wellbeing is the end ‘outcome indicator’ that water governance aims to secure. But then, Nigeria is a multi-ethnic nation (Edewor et al., 2014) with most of the representatives forming governments, where diverse ‘political, cultural, and other’ interests set water governance apart, because of policy debates which arise often, and sometimes end in deadlock. Even so, the stakeholders neglect their own roles because of rights claims. Consequently, the public resorted to unwholesome artisanship practices (Okoli & Uhembe, 2015) and disagrees to respond to policies. Impacts of these scenarios on the water governance system in Nigeria have been assessed from the state of the water governance indicator framework, understood from the perspective of OECD (2022) as the policy frameworks (What), institutions involved (Who), and instruments for improvement (How). Thus; the reviewed Nigeria governance scenarios hamper responsibilities of the governance institutions ‘the Who’: a major source of conflicts that may threaten the implementation of the useful water governance principles, ‘the What’. So, this research reinforces the idea of an instrument like flexibility at all levels of water governance as a way forward on ‘How’ [self] assessed public, stakeholder and government can easily make a change when necessary. Appraisal results of this kind can facilitate the evaluation of the governance system over time.

The objectives of the OECD Water Governance Indicator Framework are enormous, but the end is to secure safe water environments for economic and human wellbeing. To achieve this task, there must be proper routine ecological services (Figure 5), which must be inspired by the water governance enablers outlined by the OECD Water Governance Initiative (WGI) steering Committee as follows, effective stakeholder engagement, sufficient and stable financing, as well as strong political will (OECD, 2018). For the purpose of this research, it is immensely believed that the enablers are rooted in the dimensions of the OECD Governance principles (see Figure 1), to function as follows: enhancing the effectiveness of water governance [Principles 1, 2, 3, 4], enhancing the efficiency [Principles 5, 6, 7, 8] and enhancing the trust and engaging all ‘key players’ [Principles 9, 10, 11, 12]. How to improve on the implementation of these principles over time could be resolved with the ‘flexibility formula’ as an enabler of effective IWP. Typically, the integrated approach is a design developed in water governance (Tropp, 2007) so that the governance concept (that is, the IWP) is seen by the public that such policy was fairly formulated (Ahkmouch & Correia, 2006). However, the creation of the impression may not have removed the lack of trust in the public attitudes (at the bottom cadre) where the policies were intended because of the governance impediments; particularly, the conflict of interests seen among water managers and water owners at middle and top cadres, respectively, including the public at the bottom. Exposing these governance levels to the OECD Principles on Water Governance is a reliable means of eradicating the impediments and building trust. This is because the dimensions of governance mainly that of the trust and engagement explain how the water governance impediments are resolved (Neto & Camkin, 2022). Even though there is no unique way ‘proposed in the OECD principles’ to capture the variety of water governance dimensions, a collective assessment might be a way of progress (OECD, 2018). But, there is a slow and uneven water policy response due to the global water challenge (Hope & Rouse, 2013) arising from several factors that introduce governance gap comprising cultural, climatic, geographic, economic, legal, and institutional diversities. While assessing the impacts of these factors reveals trade-off among other governance gaps (OECD, 2015), flexibility as an assessment enabler at all levels of water governance can close the gaps. Then, with this ‘enabler’, shared responsibilities can work as a means of improving the water governance. The rationales of the principles have assisted in bridging the governance gaps across the globe (OECD, 2022) by encouraging consistency and adaptability of water policies to lure public responses and implementations, among other practices towards good water governance.

Resolving water policy issues in Nigeria

Currently, natural resources in Nigeria are owned by the government and the exploitations are regulated by its relevant agencies (Ukpai et al., 2021), but that of water resources was deregulated with the aim of enhancing access to water supply as a human right: a claim that tends to meet water needs of the increasing population. The deregulation should have been equipped with a water policy that ensures sound water management regulatory frameworks are effectively implemented and enforced for public interest [Principle 7], but it seems to be problematic, especially as water managers encompassing experts are no longer consulted before water development. So, artisanal workers who render services at cheaper rate than experts have taken charge of the most private business of water infrastructural development, including some contracts from the government, resulting in indiscriminate water exploitation, even in borehole drilling without considering ecological risks, especially, some tendencies of over-abstraction. Then, stakeholders developed aloofness towards water supply planning, which appeared to threaten water security and sanitation services, especially the lack of interest to analyze environments vulnerable to the natural and land-use-related menaces. For this reason, the public is vulnerable to the problematic health conditions relating to the environmental activities, mostly BBS, Renal/liver/lung diseases, and blood cancer (see Figure 4). These health issues represent an impact indicating water governance failure. In a similar case, Nath (2021) attributed the scenario to a cross-purpose attitude arising from a conflict of interests in the governance hierarchy. For the resolution of conflicts of this nature in Nigeria, there should be bottom-up and multi-stakeholder alignment in the governance system relative to (Principles 2, 5, 7, and 10), in order to garner appropriate information about potential hazardous sources within the ecological setting of the River Basins. This research has revealed an outline across ecological source–pathway–target for restorative routine environmental and sanitation services (see Figure 5). The governments should equip these services with the implementation of all the 12 OECD Principles on Water Governance, particularly those principles 5, 7, and 10 which Neto et al. (2018) specifically related to implementation as the major criteria, just as those for the alignment were correlated. The present research highlighted these major criteria relating to the governance principles in order to guide the government to balance economic activities with ecological wellbeing, as well as balance the rights and responsibilities of all ‘key players’. At this end, the responsibility framework (see Figure 1) should not only be seen as a reading template that guilds in the water policy decisions, but as a tool that can be used to evaluate the performance (impact) of the water governance system on the ground via [principles 3, 4, 5, 10, and 12] and balance up where any ‘discrepancy’ need arises. Equity ‘in these balances’ reflects water policy responses: an output indicator of good water governance which viability anchors on [principles 3, 4, 5, 7 and 10] to meet such conditions like the water security, economic wellbeing, and ecological safety as the overall outcome indicators.

Nigeria is a nation with high potentials of water and other natural resources. Northern and Southern parts have various hydrological characteristics influenced by climatic conditions and geological settings, mainly mineralization, all resulted in diverse land uses. The land uses, mostly agricultural activities in the north and mineral exploitations in the south, both compromised the ecosystem and are majorly exposed to humans via the water supply. Yet, loose governance input exists in terms of ecological conservation services due to cross-sectoral conflict of interests; causing attitudes amounting to public negligence of water policies. Even on the natural (flooding) processes, experts are yet to put needful attention. So some water resources if used for irrigation can cause crop poisoning due to high salinity. Other output indicators manifested in water security challenges and poor access to potable water, while the outcome was observed in public health hazards via BBS, Renal/liver/lung diseases, and blood cancer: the impact of managerial lag. Such lag could be eliminated by water governance driven with cross-sectoral engagement, even to instill trust among the public and competing stakeholders for effective and efficient output, the rationale of OECD Principles on Water Governance. The Principles clearly allocated roles or responsibilities; which governments should incorporate in the water governance systems for good governance impacts, denoted at an ‘end’ by the ecological and public wellbeing.

The author is very grateful to the interviewers, especially those serving as National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members across Nigeria, even those who responded. Contributions of the editorial crew of Water Policy and the erudite reviewers are very huge; the author appreciates them.

All relevant data are included in the paper or its Supplementary Information.

The authors declare there is no conflict.

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