Okwe Obi, Abuja
Nigeria is now the world capital in open defecation. In simple language, Nigeria has become the country with the highest number of citizens defecating in the open.
Until Wednesday, October 2, Nigeria ranked second after India. But India officially handed the baton over to Nigeria on October 2, according to the World Health Organisation and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (WHO/UNICEF) Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation.
But Peter Ochie, Chief Executive Officer of Aqua Limited, has discarded the ignoble ranking. “It is a mere international politics to discredit Nigeria,” he noted.
Currently, over 47 million Nigerians practise open defecation, a problem that could be attributed to lack of public toilets, water unavailability and attitudinal snag.
Out of the number, 16 million live in the North Central including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), while one in every four Nigerians (24.4) defecate in the open.
A breakdown shows that people openly defecating in Kogi, Kwara and Nasarawa States are put at 65.8, 59.9 and 44.9 percentages respectively. Niger, Plateau, Benue, and the FCT are 52.6, 61.2, 50 and 39.4 percentages.
Only 13 local government areas out of 774 are currently certified as having achieved open defecation-free status. And Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu said the current status “is grossly inadequate, if the date of 2025 is to be met.”
In addition, statistics from the WHO and UNICEF, show that sanitation coverage in Nigeria dropped from 36 per cent in 2000 to 33 in 2015.
Adamu said: “The act contributes to the spread of diseases through faecal-oral transmission of pathogens. More so, 88 per cent of diarrhoea cases could be attributed to poor environmental factors, essentially originating from poor excreta management.”
Even before the ranking, the minister had said: “Curtailing indiscriminate defecation is a pride for a state or nation that markets opportunities, with health benefits, increased productivity, dignity as a people, with socioeconomic gains and improved political and educational outcome.”
The reporter gathered that Nigeria was not prepared to stem the tide of open defecation in the shortest period of time, as it consistently projected 2025 as the year to end the practice.
But in tackling the problem, the Federal Government, recently adopted a tactics applied by India called Swachh Bharat Mission. It was initiated in 2014, and it is an intensive behaviour change campaign. It worked in India, and saw a drastic reduction in the number of people that practised open defecation from 550 million in 2014 to fewer than 100 million in 2019 with over 92 million toilets constructed.
After adopting it, government, through the Ministry of Water Resources, carried out a survey which estimated that the adoption of Swachh Bharat Mission would cost Nigeria over N959 billion.
According to the survey, the cost covers the hardware component of construction of household, institution and public sanitation facilities, as well as the software component of mobilisation, advocacy and campaign.
Households are expected to bear most of the cost, which has been estimated at N720 million. Construction of facilities in institutions and public places is estimated to cost N74 million while cost of implementing a national transformative campaign to end open defecation by 2025 is estimated at N159 billion, and is to be funded by the federal and state governments.
It further stated that the Federal Government would make a contribution of N6 billion annually from 2020 till 2025, which is expected to be sourced from budgetary allocations and development partners that have shown keen interest and have been involved in shaping the Clean Nigeria programme. The campaign, it was gathered, would also leverage on donations, corporate social responsibility funds and business promotions.
The Federal Government, it was gathered, has commenced intense lobbying of state governors to key into the project by declaring a state of emergency in their various states. This is being done by the Water Resources Minister, Adamu.
A statement signed by the Director, Press, Kenechuwu Offie said: “While expressing fears that Nigeria would become number one in the world as the country with the highest number of people practising open defecation if India, which is 99.9% away from the behaviour eventually becomes open defecation free in October this year, the Minister disclosed that he is in the process of starting an advocacy visit to all the states of the federation to discuss the implementation of the National Action Plan.”
The statement further quoted the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, as saying that it was ready to partner with the Federal Government and the Water Resources Ministry to improve access to clean water and sanitation for the people of Kaduna State.
“You have found a willing partner in Kaduna State Government,” the governor told the minister.
Currently, over five governors and ministers have been visited. But even at that, the World Bank has said that 30 per cent of the country’s water projects only function one year after commissioning, which should have helped in reducing the problem.
The World Bank Senior Programme Officer, Luis Andres, had said in 2017 “Nearly 30 per cent of water points and water schemes fail within their first year of operation and 15 per cent of complemented works are considered to be of unsatisfactory quality.
“Nigeria is lagging behind most other sub-Sahara African countries in the overall human capital indices, as well as in all of its five components. Given the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector’s significant impact on all of these components, Nigeria’s ability to increase access to safely-managed and sustainable WASH services will prove critical to ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity in Africa’s largest and most populous economy.
“Forty-seven per cent of households have access to limited hygiene, yet 30 per cent lacked hygiene facilities.
“In Nigeria, efforts to address access to sustainable WASH services have historically focused on policy reforms with limited effect at the local — where most programmes and projects are implemented, particularly in the sanitation and hygiene subsector.”