To every health conscious Nigerian, nothing could have been so nauseating and disparaging than Nigeria assuming the derogatory status of the rating of country as the world capital of open defecation after India.
Such practice may have been in existence from time immemorial in all parts of the country, especially among rural dwellers, but what should be most worrisome is that it has become a permanent habit for city dwellers including those in the seat of power and commercial nerve centres of the country.
Call it lack of planning or habit that has become part of our lives, resisting every appeal, the unfortunate thing is that the practice is assuming a disturbing trend which requires an urgent action plan and conscious efforts from both individuals and the government.
In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, for instance, there is no empty land, uncompleted building, culvert, gutter that excreta is not found in disturbing quantity including the roads leading to the old Federal Secretariat which accommodate the Ministry of Water Resources championing the course to stem the act. What you may not see, the disturbing stench oozing into the air will announce it to you.
According to government statistics, over 47 million Nigerians openly defecate. Such has become a disturbing statistics that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children and Education Funds (UNICEF) recently declared Nigeria the world capital of open defecation after India.
North Central geopolitical zone tops the list with a disturbing number of 53.9 per cent of the population defacing the environment. South West with 28 per cent, South East, 22.4 per cent and 21.8 for North East trailed each other in the latest statistics.
Records revealed that South-south and North West followed with 17.9 and 10.3 per cents respectively. It further disclosed that only 68 per cent, 42 and 21 per cents have access to water supply, sanitation and hygiene services respectively.
President Muhammadu Buhari launched a campaign entitled: “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet,” solidifying it by signing an executive order to criminalise the trend.
Represented by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, he said: “The World Bank reports on the economic impact of poor sanitation due to unsanitary problem or shared toilets and open defecation estimates that Nigeria losses over N450 billion annually, with open defecation accounting for one-third of this amount.
“This cost includes healthcare cost, loss of productivity, premature death and poor educational outcome amongst others. Or perhaps looking at the more dire cost of open defecation are those that cannot be quantified in monetary terms.
“The social cost, loss of dignity, lack of privacy, increased vulnerability to physical attacks and violence especially for women and girls. To this extent, state and federal government should consider common sense policy, measures so that enduring that construction sites are equipped with toilet facilities.”
Buhari directed: “property development control regulators to make it mandatory for buildings to include stable toilet facilities for staff such as security guards.
“To this extent, state and federal government should consider common sense policy, measures so that enduring that construction sites are equipped with toilet facilities.”
Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, explained that the campaign would be strategically and aggrievedly carried out across the country to encourage people to use toilets, which experts say are not available:
“The clean Nigeria campaign is a national transformative to mobilise the entire nation towards imbibing the culture of safe and sustainable sanitation. So households must be mobilized to provide their own sanitation facilities.
“Although we know that it is the responsibility of state governments to provide water sanitation and hygiene services, however, the federal government remains committed to supporting the states initiatives so that we can provide all services to the Nigerian people. We must all redouble our efforts and work together in order to meet the nation’s water supply, sanitation and hygiene needs.” he said.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State who is also Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), said he would encourage his colleagues to replicate the national action plan for the revitalization of the WASH sector in their respective states.
Represented by Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, he said: “I assure the Federal Government of the commitment of the state governments to train and engage personnel to tackle open defecation. On behalf of the governors’ forum, we will do our best and collaborate with you to eradicate open defecation.”
Chief Executive Officer, Mangrove and Partners Limited, Timeyin Uwejamomere, said: “Nigeria needs to build about two million toilets every year for the next five years which means about 10,000 toilets every day for improved sanitation and hygiene. In all, in the next five years, we need nothing less than 9.5 million toilets and about ten thousand sewage treatment plants across the country.”
For a retired civil servant, Michael Akpan, the campaign is a share waste of time: “We have seen such a campaign before which did not stand the test of time. The tenure of this administration will end 2023. What is the assurance that the next government would sustain the campaign? There is no continuity of projects and campaign in this country. To be frank, I am pessimistic about it.” he said.
Mariam Bala, however, pleaded: “Campaigns like this should go beyond Abuja. Government should take it to states and local governments where there is high rate of open defecation. Government should use all the media of communication; television, radio, newspaper, magazine, and hire town criers to help. The messages should be aired every day.”