BACKLASH With Prisca Sam-Duru
I’m hoping for that blessed day when my country, Nigeria, will be missing on the list of every negative ranking across the globe. By God’s grace, it will happen in my time.
After disappointing and shameful descriptions/rankings; fantastically corrupt, World Headquarters of poverty, shit hole country, the poorest people in the world are found in Nigeria, etc, another award is loading- The Worst Open Defecating Country, WODC, in the world. My country is over taking India in this ugly race for the worst open defecator. What a shame!
With all the noise about being the giant of Africa, developing in science and technology and with her people scattered all over developed countries across the world, we are still talking about ending open defecation at this time and age. It’s baffling how some smaller African countries that we unconsciously look down upon, escape topping the list of these negative rankings. Why must Nigeria be mentioned always whenever it concerns negativity?
I remember those days when I was a child and we had to engage in serious additional environmental sanitation exercise around our compound to ensure neatness and to escape being fined by environmental sanitation officers. They were called Nwa’ole ala. They came from our local government area, and inspected the community once a month, particularly on Saturdays. Sometimes they announced their visits, sometimes they didn’t. The major thing those people checked was whether families had toilet facilities. There were many families who couldn’t afford the pit latrine which was in vogue at the time and they were fined after several warnings. The pressure mounted by the sanitation officers made many families to comply while those who had the pit latrines upgraded to water system as time went on. Why can’t there be similar inspection now? Check out shops and business outfits even in the cities, and you will be surprised to discover that many of them do not have toilet facilities. So how do the occupants relieve themselves when pressed? Nobody cares! The sanitation officers in Lagos State for instance are only concerned with collecting bribes from shop owners who fail to clean up their premises during Thursdays sanitation exercise.
There’s a lot of difference between yesteryears when the Nwa’ole ala operated and now. Even when modernisation hadn’t reached the villages the way it has now, the open defecation was done in the bush and in darkness. But what do we have now; pictures of adults and children defecating by the side of the roads, gutters, canals, under the bridges etc. This signifies that the open defecation is actually done in full glare. Too bad how fast People lose their sense of value!
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The statistics of the number of Nigerians who engage in open defecation is absolutely terrifying. Imagine recent reports on national dailies that say “About 50 percent of primary and secondary schools in the country need to be provided with toilet facilities in order to tackle the open defecation menace.” The Federal Capital Territory Water Board was quoted to have said that. 50 solid percent! In that same report, the board noted that “Ekiti, Plateau, Oyo, Nasarawa and Cross River States are endemic in the open defecation practice, putting children at risk of diarrhoea and other diseases.”
“The FCT board added that the toilets’ provision was necessary as around 87,000 children below five die in Nigeria annually from diarrhoea” and that “Water and sanitation facilities in schools contribute to 15 per cent increase in school attendance for girls.” That means open defecation has also been a hindering factor to girl child education. Did you know that? Hmnnn!
The report went further to state that, “Although significant progress was made in recent years, Nigeria may not reach 100 per cent open defecation-free status by 2025 without a change in strategy. Presently around 50 million defecate in the open and another 68 million are likely to be added between now and 2030.” Can you beat those outrageous figures as well as the likelihood of an increase in the number of people who engage in open defecation? Rather than the figures diminishing, it is increasing! We are truly in for a show.
The Board went further to maintain that both the national and state governments should brace up for the challenges ahead as “50 per cent of schools and 25 per cent of Primary Healthcare will need toilet facilities.” Those I would say, if adequately handled by the government, will solve the problem of open defecation by children. What about the adults?
In the community where I live, there is an uncompleted storey building owned by a former counsellor in a particular local government area in Lagos State. For six years and still counting, the uncompleted building has been housing not less than six families. I mean men with their wives and children. I beg tell me, where do they defecate? Each time we walk through a path, we are saluted by mounds of faeces here and there, with swarm of flies singing protest songs for being disturbed during meal. That is one uncompleted building among millions in Lagos state alone that house miscreants, armed robbers, kidnappers, homeless families among others. And you think this battle against open defecation will end any time soon?
There is no doubt, public toilets located at strategic places such as the markets. These help people to obey the call of nature when pressed outside their homes. But the toilets are not just enough.
I am going to try to beam the searchlight on certain people and or areas that may make the campaign against open defecation, a futile effort. Poverty! Yes, poverty is not a person but a monster undermining many Nigerians. The case of six families living in an uncompleted building is an example of what poverty can do. These people are homeless, with the heads of the families, jobless or labourers. When will they earn enough to rent an apartment with the level of abject poverty ravaging people these days? A lot of Nigerians are living under the bridges. Do you expect them to build toilets under the bridges as well? So, there must be open defecation except they are provided with houses. Considering how endowed with natural resources Nigeria is, providing low cost housing isn’t a tall task for the government. But no, the people in power prefer looting to catering for the masses.
Due to Boko Haram insurgents, Banditry and herdsmen attacks in the north, there’s been a huge influx of northerners in the cities outside the north. They are mostly labourers, okada riders, petty traders, gatemen etc. The bad thing is that almost all of them do not live in houses. When you look at some of them, from their hairs to their cloths and feet, you’ll know that they have not had their bath for more than two or three weeks. So where do they defecate? Look at the tankers occupying Apapa road from mile 2. The drivers and their assistants for a long time have turned that entire area into toilets. Be sure to increase the height of the sole of your foot wears with heavy mounds of faeces, while trying to cross the road. Where do we go from here?
I’m just thinking that the noise in form of campaign against open defecation which actually came up because of the commemoration of World Toilet Day, may end just like every other issue in the country; with people in authority making fortune out of it, news about the arrest of some defaulters and then we go to sleep while the problem persists. Until we learn to solve problems from their root cause (some have been identified here), all talks about ending open defecation by even 2095 will remain mere rhetoric.