Mrs Clementina Chinwe Ativie, the National President of Association of Table Water Producers of Nigeria (ATWAP), is a notable name in the table water production business in Nigeria.
Mrs Ativie is leading the fight against producers of poor and sub standard products through her association which recently introduced self regulation.
In this interview with Journalists on the sidelines of the World Water Day Celebration in Lagos recently, Mrs Ativie emphasised on the need for the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, to carry the association along so as to help rid the industry of quacks producing substandard products.
She maintained that whatever NAFDAC is doing without carrying ATWAP along is as good as doing nothing as the association is well structured at the federal, state, local government levels with units, sub-units and has been in existence for the past 22 years.
Franklin Ihejirika who was at the event reports
As water producers, what is the link between the World Water Day and your association?
Today is World Water Day. As the Association that produces water, we are being involved. The theme for this year is Valuing Water and you know that, we are the only people that add value to life. We add value to make it drinkable. We make sure we take it to the doorsteps of the people. We bridge the gap and we are always there.
What efforts are you making to ensure that your water products reach every nook and crannies of the country?
Already our products are everywhere. There is no place you go in Nigeria and you don’t see sachet or bottled water. Which means someone has taken them to that point. They are products that are not scarce anywhere. That is where we are playing a major role, ensuring that the people get quality water.
What contributed to the increase in Table Water price?
The increase in the price of Table Water is caused by many factors. I can tell you that, if we put the price, considering what it takes us to produce water, 99 per cent of Nigerians wouldn’t be able to to afford it. The same water that we are increasing the price is still N10. Table water is N70 but the materials we use cost about N480, 000 to produce a tonne before. As I am talking to you now, we buy it N1, 500,000. So tell me why we cannot increase the price. And if you watch, for over 12 years, the price of water has remained stable. Every other thing has increased. We have been bridging the gap and making sure we produce. In fact, we have been subsidising the cost. If we sell it according to our producing costs, I don’t think anybody can afford water in this country. This is because it is a humanitarian product.
Does it mean you are not making profit?
We are not making profit at all, let alone much profit. Unfortunately the business is additive. Once you are into it, it is difficult for you to leave it. We bring in money from other sources to be able to fund the water business. A lot of us in the business are pulling in money from other businesses to sustain it. Apart from the quacks because they are not adding value. And that is why we are insisting that the regulatory agencies, such as the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) , to carry ATWAP along, so as to help them rid the quacks in the industry.
What is the scope of water producers nationwide?
ATWAP is an association that has national coverage. We are at the national level, geo-political zones, we are in all the states and local government areas. We are even in units. There is no state in this country that don’t have ATWAP. There are no office, that I will tell you that they are not dealing with ATWAP in their various states. ATWAP has a structure. We are well structured at the federal, state and local government levels. We have the units and sub-units. ATWAP has been in existence for the past 22 years.
What would you like the federal government to do for your association?
What we are asking the government is to put a regulatory framework that will take in the cooperation of the Association. So that we will be able to tell the regulators what and what that is being done at the back. We can’t do much because we are neither the government nor the regulator. NAFDAC is supervising, but how many people are they supervising. The number of staff NAFDAC has is not up to 10 per cent of water producers in Nigeria. They are however, trying their best actually but the truth is what happens when they are not there. They are only there in the day or night. So whatever they are doing without carrying us along is as good as doing nothing. This is because, when they leave, the activities they are trying to control continue. If they put us as surveillance and as checks of those people, we will be able to keep them under check and whenever they have any issue with them, we make sure that that thing is complied with. And I can tell you that we have over 30,000 water producers in Nigeria which ATWAP has about 24,000 members. Even NAFDAC cannot tell you how many people they have registered because people come in and go out. Sometimes, when they get to a factory, they will discover it has been converted to a residential building. It is we that know who is closing, who is coming up, who has gone to NAFDAC and who has not gone to NAFDAC. And it is only we can say hey, you can’t be in this industry if you can’t do the right thing. But if we don’t have the cooperation of the regulators, what do we do.
How can you, as an association check the excesses of quack producers in the industry?
We can checkmate our members but what do we do to those that say they are not ATWAP members. There are people that when they open their factories, NAFDAC does not refer them to join us as an association. They tell you that it voluntary and not mandatory. We have structure that government can use to monitor them because we are in all the states. Why can’t government use this people that is in the nook and crannies of the country. For example, a local government can have about 4 to 5 units of ATWAP. And they reporting back because we have our taskforce teams. A lot of things we see but we can’t do much because we don’t have the cooperation and backing of the government. The structure we have built in the past 24 years should be used by the government to check the activities of water producers. Remember, water is life and water can also lead to death.
Do you have mechanisms to check the frivolous activities of non members?
Of course, we do because we produce water 24 hours. We work 24 hours but the government agencies work 8 hours a day. If you give us the backing, we will be able to be there for you. We will be your security guard, we will be your watchdog. So we make sure that whatever you want to be done are complied with. And you know Nigerians, we always look for the cheapest way to cut corners.
Tell us about your own company?
I am the producer of the Robin Water. It is located at 45,CVD Ojo. I produce between 5,000 to 6,000 bags a day.