At midnight in this Taraba community, the village well is opened for people with no other water source to fetch. Daily Trust reports on the reason for the nightly ritual.
Every day from 6:00 p.m., the scenario is the same in Bajumba community in Taraba State. Women in the village, some along with their grown-up children, would start lining up at the well in the village. They are orderly as each one puts down her container in a single line. This is all in preparation for fetching water from a well. However, the wait is long as fetching water from the well only starts at 12 midnight and ends at 6:00 a.m. the following day.
The well is the only source of drinking water in Bajumba community and was reconstructed by late Danbaba Suntai in 1992 when he was the chairman of Bali Local Government Council in the defunct Gongola State.
The nightly water fetching ritual has become a routine for many of the residents of this community especially during the dry season when all other water sources around dry out.
Daily Trust reporter, who spent a night in the village, observed that the people were orderly throughout the exercise as each person waits his turn at the well.
“It is a matter of first come first get,” one of the women at the well said. “And the process is always orderly. We are all related to each other. We are from the same tribe, Wurkum, and that is the uniting factor among us.”
Daily Trust learnt that the timing for fetching water from the well was fixed when the community realised they needed to allow the water to collect in the well before they could all fetch. And after those six hours, the well is closed to allow the water to collect during the day and up until midnight.
The village head Mr. Philip Daniel said the community had always experienced water shortages.
When the well, first dug 43 years ago, collapsed, Mr Daniel said, women and children trekked a long distance to a stream to fetch water. The situation nearly forced them to relocate until Suntai renovated the well.
“Late Suntai, after a visit to our community, despatched some men from the Works Department, who reconstructed this well and since then, it has been the only source of drinking water for the entire community,” he said.
But water shortage is just one of the problems facing Bajumba residents. There is also not a single school or health facility to serve them. This is in addition to the bad roads that lead to the village.
Many school-aged children in Bajumba have to attend school in neighbouring Shagarda, Nareji, Mayo Renewo and Mutumbiyu. This was the case as far back as Mr Jabda Daniel, a retired civil servant, could remember.
He attended primary school in Shagarda town and later government science secondary school Jalingo from 1972 to 1984.
Mrs Murna Adamu, a mother of three, laments that no single public project has ever been sited in the area.
“We don’t have a school, we also don’t have potable water and there is also no clinic and the road leading to our community is not tarred,” she said.
“Our children trek daily to go to school in neighbouring villages while pregnant women also trek a long distance to get medical services. I can remember during my first and second delivery, l was taken on a motorcycle to Shagarda Maternity Clinic where l was delivered of a baby boy,” she said.
Another woman, Madam Paulina James said in some instances, midwives are invited from Shagarda and Namne to attend to women who were in labour.
She said the clinic, which members of the community built through communal efforts and handed over to Gassol Local Government Council, was destroyed by a windstorm and has remained abandoned.
Appeals to the local government authorities to rehabilitate the clinic have all gone unanswered.
Our reporter learnt that Gassol Local Government Council used to send health workers to attend to the members of the community but that has stopped for a while.
“In this area, quack medical personnel are the ones providing medical services to unsuspecting residents. It has always been a problem for us and other communities to access medical services,” a resident, who did not give her name, said.
Another resident, Mallam Muhammed Adamu, said that due to bad roads, accessing the community during the rainy season becomes more difficult, which means that farmers find it difficult to get to their farms or to move produce.
“We are appealing to Gassol Local Government Council and Taraba State government to address our problems by providing basic amenities especially potable water, school, health facility and road,” he said.
Daily Trust finding further revealed that, one can only access the community by motorcycle even during the best time of the year.
Yet, despite the challenges of living in Bajumba, an elderly member of the community, Mr Nathaniel Yakubu, said being farmers and surrounded by fertile land, they can’t imagine themselves leaving and would rather continue to toil.
The member representing Gassol ll constituency, Alhaji Suleiman Abbas told Daily Trust that he once repaired the only borehole in the village and was not aware that it is not functioning. He promised to have it fixed.
However, the state commissioner for information, Mr. Danjuma Adamu, declined to comment and referred our reporter to the chairman of Gassol Local Government Council.
Alhaji Tanko Sansani, the chairman, when contacted said his council is facing financial difficulties and could not do anything to address the plight of the community.
He, however, promised to repair the borehole as soon as the financial situation of the council improves.
Until these promises are fulfilled, the nightly queue by the village well and the days of toil will continue for the foreseeable future for the people of this backwater community.