By Hassan Zaggi
Only deliberate and combine efforts by the governments at all levels, Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs), and all Nigerians can overcome the menace of open defecation in the country.
Coordinator, Community Health Research Initiative (CHR), Dr. Aminu Magashi, disclosed this in an exclusive interview with The AUTHORITY, in Abuja.
He, however, faulted the current campaign against open defecation by the federal government and other international agencies, insisting that it will not produce the desired result.
According to a United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expert, Nigeria will soon become the open defecation capital of the world.
Currently, Nigeria ranks second while India is at the top.
Speaking at a two-day media dialogue on Clean up Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign, at Calabar, the Cross River state capital, recently, Specialist on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH),at the UNICEF, Bioye Ogunjobi,, disclosed that over 47 million Nigerians practice open defecation with one in every four people engaging in the practice and that 37 million people used unimproved toilets.
The media dialogue was put together by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
While explaining what he believe is the best approach to ending open defecation in Nigeria, Dr. Magashi, said: “The campaign that is going to work is for us to condemn open defecation but the government needs to partner with the private sector and NGOs to build public conveniences all over the country by the road sides, public markets, shopping malls, hospitals and offices.
“That is the only way we will be able to see progress in stopping Nigerians from engaging in open defecation.”
While reiterating that stopping open defecation in the country is a collective effort, Dr. Magashi, said: “This means that this solution is not only for the government. We need to mobilize everybody. We need to collaborate with the Federal Road Safety Commission and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
“We have to work with all these stakeholders to provide the funding through NGOs, philanthropists, government corporate taxations and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of big companies to raise money to build toilets every one or two kilometers so that everywhere you are moving in the country you will find public convenience.
“If these public toilets are built, then the government can have a small committee that will manage the place. They can charge people small money like 10 or 20 naira for defecation and if you are going there to take a shower you can drop N50. This money can then be used to take care of the sanitation, hygiene and cleanliness of the public conveniences in Nigeria.
“This is the way to go. I want to call on everybody to be at the table to do this.”
He insisted that if public conveniences are not provided all over the country, ending open defecation will only be a mirage.
“However, we need to also interrogate that people have no option but do open defecation because there is no place around for people to enter.
“For example, you are travelling inside a bus on the highway, or you are in the market, hospital or in the school and you have an emergency either to urinate or defecate. Unfortunately, there is no public toilet around, what it means is that you are forced to do open defecation.”
“That is why we are saying that the current campaign is misplaced and is not working,” Dr. Magashi reiterated.