Nigerians and dirty environment

IF anything illustrates Nigeria’s leadership problem, it is the consistent churning out of damning verdicts by statistical organs on various aspects of the Nigerian national life. The story that Nigeria is the world’s poverty capital is fairly stale; but the country is now battling with its consistent designation as the global capital of open defecation.  But when you throw into the mix the latest damning verdict on the Nigerian environment, you cannot but shudder at the tragedy being a Nigerian has now become. Only this week, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Clean-up Nigeria (CUN), in its 2021 report titled “The State of the Nigeria Environment Report”, said that over 172.7 million Nigerians now live in an unclean environment. The NGO produced the report in collaboration with international partners, including the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), Canada; Keep America Beautiful (KAB), USA; DSZ, Germany, SUEZ Foundation, France and Clean-Up the World, Australia. Performance indicators from the study showed that 170 million Nigerians lived in a dirty environment in 2020.

Nigeria has an estimated population of slightly over 200 million people, and to think that 172.7 million out of these are living in an unsanitary environment is simply mind-boggling. According to the report, only four states out of the 36 in the country, namely Lagos, Oyo, Abuja and Bauchi, have sanitary landfills: the remaining states operate open dumping. The report also indicates that Borno State is currently the dirtiest state in Nigeria, while Akwa Ibom State has retained its previous position as the cleanest state in the country. Presenting the report, the National Coordinator of the National Technical Study Group (NTSG) of the organisation, Prince Ene Owoh, said the cleanliness performance index rating of all states and towns of the federation was carried out for a full calendar year, namely from December 2020 to November, 2021. The 2021 study, he said, had the input of 80 per cent satellite monitoring, which applied the performance indicators score across board in the ratings of states/cities on their cleanliness performance.

While Akwa Ibom State emerged the cleanest state for the year 2021 with a cumulative score of 64 per cent, Ebonyi State emerged second with 55 per cent cumulative score and Bauchi State came third with 44 per cent cumulative score. The report also said that Abuja emerged the cleanest city in Nigeria for 2021 with 79 per cent rating, closely followed by Uyo with 63 per cent. According to the report, Borno emerged the dirtiest state with 12 per cent cumulative score, and Osun State the second dirtiest with 13 per cent cumulative score.

The study observed that two per cent improvement was recorded in the procurement of waste management equipment by some states and local councils in the country in 2021, and there was a significant drop in waste management equipment as most of the equipment previously on ground became unserviceable. Rather disturbingly, it also showed that funding by states and local government councils for waste management services reduced drastically when compared to the increased services offered. There can be no doubting the finding that inadequate sanitation/hygiene practices of people in over 35 states and the FCT calls for multiple strategies by all stakeholders given that the practice of open defecation in all the 36 states of the Federation and FCT increased from 27 per cent in 2020 to 34.6 per cent in 2021. Nigeria is the global capital of open defecation.

To say the very least, the report speaks to the grim realities of Nigeria as a dysfunctional  society. It may not be a fashionable thing to say but the reality is that nothing works here. Why? Because this is a society that is substantially bereft of rationality. State governors, ministers and commissioners leave environmental policies unimplemented while lamenting about the sorry state of the environment. If anything, it is a tragedy that a state governor can meander his way through mountains of filth on his way to the office and still feel comfortable as a Chief Executive. The situation is so bad as to suggest that politicians need people to live in subhuman environments in order to exercise power over them.

We are unimpressed by the chest-thumping of politicians at all levels because in nearly every measure of rational living, the country is becoming the worst on planet Earth. This is not a reflection of Nigerians being bad people; it is about the failure of leadership. If Nigeria is the worst in poverty, open defecation, etc, it means it has the worst leadership in the world. It is a fact that in this world, people follow their leaders. This is our impression of the issue.

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