Executive Order 009, titled ‘Open Defecation-Free Nigeria by 2025 and Other Related Matters Order’ is now in force. President Muhammadu Buhari signed it on Wednesday last week. Under this Order, which would ensure that Nigeria becomes open defecation free by 2025, all public places in Nigeria including schools, hotels, fuel stations, places of worship, market places, hospitals and offices must have accessible toilets and latrines within their premises.
Nigeria is ranked second in the world with the highest number of people practicing open defecation, estimated at over 46 million people. Only India ranked worse than Nigeria in open defecation, according to the Water Sanitation and Hygiene [WASH NORM] survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF] in conjunction with the Nigerian Ministry of Water Resources and National Bureau of Statistics.
The survey also found that only 11 out of the 774 Local Government Councils in Nigeria are free from the practice of open defecation.
President Buhari earlier described Nigeria’s statistics on open defecation and poor access to pipe-borne water service and sanitation as disturbing. He declared his commitment to implement the National Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene [WASH] Action Plan as a way of stopping open defecation. In proclaiming the Presidential Order, Buhari said that Nigeria has committed to end open defecation by 2025 in consonance with its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] and that activities towards this would be kicked off under the direction of a National Secretariat called “Clean Nigeria Campaign Secretariat” domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources. Specifically, the National Open Defecation Free [ODF] Roadmap developed by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources with support from other key sector players across Nigeria shall be put into effect, and that all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government shall cooperate with the Clean Nigeria Campaign Secretariat.
In addition, the Order declares that “the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly shall enact legislation on the practice of open defecation with appropriate sanctions and penalties; all development projects shall include construction of sanitation facilities as an integral part of the approval and implementation process; that the Secretariat shall terminate when Nigeria is declared Open Defecation Free; and that all enforcement authorities are hereby directed to diligently collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in implementing this Order.”
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s age-old culture of open defecation has stubbornly refused to go, even in urban areas. For example, it’s such a societal problem that teachers and pupils of Ibadan Municipal Primary School, Mokola, Ibadan, Oyo State, abandoned six out of the 13 buildings in the school because of incessant defecation by residents around the school who openly defecate in the classrooms after school hours.
The Presidential Order noted that open defecation has had a negative effect on the populace and has contributed to the country’s failure to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] as it has been aggravating Nigeria’s health challenges. This is because, through open defecation, especially during the rainy season, cholera and typhoid are spread as faeces finds its way into the water supply system.
This Presidential Order is therefore very much in order. What is needed now is sustained collaboration between the federal, state and local governments as well as businesses to provide toilet facilities through a Public Private Partnership (PPP). And in mobilizing all the tiers of government, traditional rulers and community leaders, all landlords must be made to provide toilet facilities commensurate with the number of rooms in their houses.
More importantly, the new Presidential Order should not be another jamboree by civil and public servants, other politically exposed persons and contractors to siphon government funds through indiscriminate award of contracts. This Order must be executed firmly and fully so that it doesn’t join the other Orders which were celebrated when they were signed, only to hit the headwinds in execution.