Globally around four billion people experience severe physical water scarcity for at least one month per year. In addition, there are vast water access inequalities, categorised as regional, spatial, income-based, wealth quintile-based, and social-based. A physical water shortage, the poor performance of water management utilities, and a lack of adequate water infrastructure have been blamed for the global water crisis (United Nations, 2018).
Lack of access increases the incidence of four preventable water-related diseases: Water-borne diseases; Water-washed infections; Water-based diseases; and Water-related vector-borne diseases (WHO, 1988). The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) aim to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water BY 2030 (Satterthwaite, 2016).
Challenges in water supply management are a particular issue in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) of South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria, the area of study for this thesis, experiences a range of water poverty issues. State Water Agencies (SWAs) oversee public water service delivery in thirty-six states. These SWAs operate public water supply facilities and service delivery to urban areas and, in some cases, small towns and rural areas.
However, a World Bank Group Report from 2017 reported that none of the country's thirty-six SWAs operates sustainably or provides reliable water service to consumers. Concluding that ‘Nigeria lacks an example of a well-performing urban State Water Agency (SWA) by regional or international standards’ (World Bank Group 2017, p.137).
Water reforms for improving public water utilities' operational efficiencies have become a global focus. Around thirty water reform programmes, financed by external development agencies and multilateral financing institutions, were implemented in Nigeria between 1979 and 2022.
However, evaluation studies on twenty-six of these programmes revealed they produced 'limited' (Olesen et al., 2010) and 'unsatisfactory' results (Rex and Sahle, 2007; World Bank, 2018; World Bank, 2021). A World Bank report stated that starting from the late 1970s, the World Bank had funded urban water projects in Nigeria with more than ‘US$ 700 million with unsatisfactory results’ (World Bank, 2018, p56).
An example of such a programme is the 2nd National Urban Water Reform Programme (2NUWSRP) in Lagos Water Corporation (LWC), which ran between 2005 and 2017 and was financed with a $170.3m loan from the World Bank and French Development Agency. The 2NUWSRP, like many water reform programmes in Nigeria, was not implemented as designed, leading to continuous poor water service delivery by the LWC.
This thesis investigated why the 2NUWSRP in LWC was not implemented as originally designed through two studies: 1) A systematic literature review on global barriers and facilitators to implementing urban water reform programmes; and 2) A single case study on the 2NUWSRP itself. These studies were used to answer the overall research question 'Why was the 2nd National Urban Water Sector Reform Programme (2NUWSRP) in Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) not implemented as originally designed?'
Study 1: Systematic Literature Review of water reform barriers and facilitators
A systematic review of existing literature was undertaken using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) , as a reporting tool to answer its research question: What were the reported barriers and facilitators to implementing urban water reform programmes globally? The review protocol was submitted to PROSPERO on May 5, 2021, with ID Number 253277. The Sample, Phenomenon of Interest, Design, Evaluation, and Research (SPIDER) tool (Cooke, Smith, & Booth, 2012) defined the study characteristics.
The systematic search produced 894 relevant results from three databases: Web of Science, International Bibliography of Social Sciences (IBSS), and Scopus. After a practical, methodological, and thematic screening, barriers and facilitators to water reform implementation were identified in 36 articles. The Critical Appraisal CASP Skills Programme (CASP, 2018) checklist was used to assess the risk of bias in these articles. The data were analysed using NVivo computer software.
Five facilitators of successful implementation of urban water sector reform programmes were identified from these 36 studies. These are: 1) Strong political will and good leadership, 2) Charismatic and skilled technical leadership, 3) Strong regulatory mechanism, 4) Strong accountability mechanisms, and 5) Water affordability.
Six barriers to the successful implementation of urban water sector reform programmes were also identified: 1) Poor stakeholders’ engagement, 2) Weak regulatory mechanism, 3) Poor accountability and transparency, 4) High water tariffs, 5) Defective reform design, and 6) Governance and Institutional constraints
In addition, the review found methodological shortcomings within the identified studies, revealing a limited focus on evaluating the implementation of water reform programmes, with no study examining the perceptions of implementation from the stakeholders involved and no study occurring within the Nigerian context. The literature review findings, therefore, established the need for further investigation of the implementation challenges of water reform programmes in Nigeria.
Study 2: The 2NUWSRP Case study
An evaluative case study design was selected with two qualitative data collection methods (document analysis and interviews) used to conduct two studies that provided secondary and primary data for the case study.
The Document Analysis qualitative study
The document analysis study investigated documented barriers that hindered the successful implementation of the 2NUWSRP in LWC. Its research question was: What documented barriers hindered the successful implementation of the World Bank/French Development Agency-financed urban water reform programme in Lagos Water Corporation (2005-2017)?
Using the purposeful sampling technique, a type of non-probability sampling (Huberman and Matthew, 2002), One hundred and sixty (160) documents were retrieved, out of which one hundred and forty-one (141) documents were analysed through Braun and Clarke's (2006)’s six phases of thematic analysis and synthesis approach.
Data retrieved from the 141 documents were coded based on their properties using the NVivo computer software. NVivo’s axial selective coding system generated 41 open codes categorised into four themes: 1) Project management challenges, 2) Stakeholder engagement challenges, 3) Corrupt practices, and 4) Miscellaneous.
The Interview qualitative study
A second qualitative study was conducted using the interview method to gather primary data for the case study. The Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research (COREQ) developed by Tong et al. (2007) was used as a reporting guide to present the interview study.
Its research question was: What were the perceptions of key players on barriers to the successful implementation of the World Bank/French Development Agency financed urban water reform programme in Lagos Water Corporation (2005-2017)?
The expert sampling technique (Huberman and Matthew, 2002), a non-probability purposeful sampling, was used to recruit participants from stakeholder groups identified through the document analysis described above. Thirty participants were interviewed.
Data were coded using NVivo computer software and analysed with Braun and Clarke's (2006) six-phase thematic analysis and synthesis approach. Forty-four open codes were generated and categorized into four themes through an axial selective coding system (Strauss and Corbin, 1990): 1) Political interference, 2) Corrupt practices and procurement lapses, 3) Project management challenges, and 4) Stakeholders’ management challenges.
Results from the document review and interviews were triangulated to present overall findings from the case study
Triangulated results from the 2NUWSRP case study
The findings of the interview study confirmed earlier findings of the document analysis study with three similar barriers in both studies: 1) Corrupt practices, 2) Project management challenges, and 3) Stakeholders’ management challenges (Nos 1-3 in Table 1).
The fourth barrier, Political interference (No 4 in Table 1), was the one additional barrier identified in the interview study.
Table 1: Synthesis and Triangulation of barriers identified through qualitative studies
S/N Document analysis barriers Interviews barriers
1 Corrupt practices Corrupt practices and procurement lapses
2 Project management challenges of the Project Implementation Unit Project management challenges
3 Stakeholder engagement challenges Stakeholders’ management challenges
4 Political interference
The four barriers identified are mutually inclusive, symbiotic, interdependent, and reinforcing. Political interference bred corrupt practices, leading to project management challenges and poor stakeholder management.
These findings also agree with the existing knowledge identified from the systematic literature review that political interference, project management challenges, and stakeholders' management challenges are barriers to successfully implementing water reform programmes worldwide, including in Nigeria.
A new key finding was that corrupt practices, not identified in previous literature, were an important barrier to implementing water reform programmes in the case study.
This study highlights that the failure of reform programmes to improve the poor operational performance of water utilities in Nigeria is a major issue in its urban water crisis. If Nigeria and other developing countries are to end such crises, reform programmes will need to succeed in turning around the water utilities to the path of sustainable water service supply. However, this study has shown that Nigeria's ongoing and future water sector reform programmes may not be implemented as designed until corrupt practices are minimised.
The research study ensured triangulation through the multi-methods approach to gathering secondary and primary data sources. Theory triangulation was ensured by using multiple theories as an analytical framework. Construct validity was ensured by interviewing actors from various sources: government, private, civil society, consumers, contractors, consultants, and financiers.
The study's limitations are that it was based on interpretivist paradigms (Table 2) using non-experimental methods, and like all qualitative studies, they were based on human perceptions and deductions rather than positivist paradigms, which are considered objectively verifiable.
Table 2: Research design
Ontology Critical realism and constructivism (Collier, 1994; Bryman, 2003).
Epistemology Interpretivism (Bryman, 2003).
Research Type Formative evaluation (Cook et al. 1979).
Approach Case study (Stake,1995; Yin, 2003)
Case study type Single, critical, descriptive, and explanatory (Yin 2009)
Unit of analysis/case being studied Water reform implementation in Lagos Water Corporation (2005-2017).
Methods/Data sources Document Analysis and Semi-structured Interviews
• Document analysis: Purposeful sampling technique/non-probability sampling (Huberman and Matthew, 2002)
• Interviews: Expert sampling technique (Huberman and Matthew, 2002), a type of non-probability purposeful sampling
• Systematic Literature Review: Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA, 2020).
• Document analysis: Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research (SRQR (Brien et al. 2014).
• Interviews: Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research (COREQ) (Tong et al. 2007).
Data synthesis Nvivo computer software
Analytical tool Thematic Analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006).
Theoretical framework Policy Triangle theory: Walt and Gilson (1994); Systems Management theory: (Seuil et al., 2009); Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) theory: (Rogers, 2003); Dependency theory: (Frank, 1967; Amin, 1977; Baran, 1957; and Vincent, 2008)
The role of corruption in hindering the implementation of water reforms needs to be further investigated. This study did not review financial documents and records such as cheques, invoices, receipts, financial memos, payment vouchers, and audited reports because the study objectives did not include investigating corruption. More in-depth research could focus on this barrier to understand how corruption hinders reform implementation and how this could be minimised.
This study highlights that the failure of reform programmes to improve water utilities' poor operational performance is a major barrier to solving Nigeria's urban water crisis. However, there has been a lack of literature explaining the reasons for this challenge.
Using the 2NUWSRP implemented in Lagos Water Corporation as a case study, this study shows that corrupt practices are a major factor for the failure to implement the water reform programme as designed. Olivieri et al. (2022) argue that sound water governance plays a key role in urban water management performance, yet the development of good water governance remains an important societal challenge (Liping et al., 2022).
Similarly, Van et el. (2019) said that in several rapidly urbanising regions, improved water management and governance capacity in cities are required to achieve SDG6. Nevertheless, good water governance remains the main bottleneck (Van et el., 2019). If Nigeria and other developing countries are to end the water crisis, reform programmes should succeed in turning around the water utilities to the path of sustainable water service supply.
This study has shown that ongoing and future water sector reform programmes in Nigeria may not be implemented as designed in Nigeria until corrupt practices are minimised.
It is therefore hoped that financing bodies, borrowing authorities, implementing agencies, and stakeholders will critically review and implement the recommendations in this study to improve the achievement of the expected result of water sector reform programmes in Nigeria and, by implication, access to safe drinking water for Nigerians.