Nigeria as the world’s first in open defecation

RECENTLY, Sam Adejo Okedi, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) resource person, revealed that Nigeria was in a crisis situation as it had maintained its unenviable position as the world’s number one country in the global Open Defecation (OD) index. In 2019, as acknowledged by the Federal Government, Nigeria ranked first globally in open defecation. Indeed, UNICEF reports show that open defecation has remained a recurring factor in Nigeria’s health sector challenges. Disclosing this at a workshop marking the 2021 World Toilet Day, organised by the UNICEF Field Office in Enugu, Enugu State, Okedi said that 46 million Nigerians still defecated openly. Earlier in her welcome address, the UNICEF Field Communication Officer, Mrs Ijeoma Onuoha Ogwe, had explained the value of toilets in the life of children, especially girl-children, saying it did not only give them privacy and dignity but also protected them from rape and other sexual offences.

According to a report, of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas, only 74 are OD-free, a figure which is miserably less than ten per cent. Sad and debasing as the report is, it can only be surprising for people willing to live in denial. To be sure, the act of defecation is natural; all living things are compelled to follow the natural law of waste disposal, whether they be solid, liquid or gas depending on the form of what was consumed. However, over the years, Nigeria has failed to put in place appropriate mechanisms for disposing of solid waste. Waste is consistently disposed of without respecting  the simplest rules of hygiene and modernity. Despite the fact that water technology had been with the human race for centuries, Nigeria has consistently failed to ensure its comprehensive supply and use, especially for toilet purposes. The availability and supply of pipe-borne water has always remained a challenge for successive administrations in the country and, by leading the pack in open defecation, it is further soiling its battered global image.

Even at the individual level, people hardly ever take the provision of adequate toilet facilities very seriously in their respective homes. The situation is so bad that even rented houses and apartments are routinely denied these facilities and since defecation is natural, people come under pressure to relieve their bowels in bushes and drainages whenever nature calls. Worse still, in places where lavatories are available at all, they are very rarely well maintained, and so people are still compelled to seek alternatives when they come under pressure.

In public places like hospitals, educational institutions, offices and motor parks, these facilities are often not properly maintained, endorsing the view that as a people, Nigerians are rather primitive. Elsewhere, it is common to enjoy these facilities in state-of-the-art forms in public places like airports, libraries and government offices without any hassles. But in Nigeria, there is a cynical, precipitously low level of self-esteem and this unfortunately has impacted negatively on the world outlook, self-presentation and perception of Nigerians. The situation has even deteriorated to such an extent that Nigerians are often unable to aspire to higher levels of humanity as a result of the various multidimensional denials experienced as a people.

India, which used to share opprobrium with Nigeria on open defecation, has since left that position because of the commitment of its leadership to public hygiene. Nigeria has to live down the current rating as a matter of urgency. As speakers at the workshop on the World’s Toilet Day noted, how the country will succeed in making the remaining 90 per cent of its local government areas to be against open defecation will depend on strong commitment by the government and other stakeholders, buoyed by material support and enhanced by the view that that an OD-free Nigeria is attainable by 2025.

 

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