Mr Suleiman Adamu, the Minister of Water Resources, says an executive order is needed to end open defecation in the country.
Adamu said this at a one-day Inter-Ministerial Dialogue on Sanitation in Abuja, aimed at gathering momentum and collaborative plans between line ministries toward ending open defecation.
According to him, the executive order from the president will mandate Nigerians to make efforts at ending open defecation.
“India, as the number one largest country practicing open defecation is on course to becoming open defecation-free by Oct. 2019.
“This will leave Nigeria as the number one open defecation prevalence country.
“Within the last four years, India has been able to provide toilets for 400 million persons, and is on track to meet the target of delivering toilets to an additional 150 million persons before October 2019.
“The India campaign to eliminate open defecation, under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), demonstrates that it is possible to change attitudes and facilitate access to sanitation facilities and hygienic practices.
“We are proposing an executive order to the president that will mandate all ministries to address all issues of sanitation and so this is a national issue.
“Our main focus is behaviour change; we want to people to know the need to have and use toilets for themselves.’’
He said that this step was necessary as there were overlapping of policies on scaling up sanitation, noting the inter-connectivity between Water, Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) and other sectors.
The minister expressed hope that with the meeting, the line ministers would support the endeavour toward ending open defecation practice in the country.
He said that the challenge of low support from state and local governments might be a hindrance, adding that it would not be business as usual.
“We have laid down key strategies like the Partnership for Expanded Water and Sanitation and the inauguration of the WASH Action Plan, and now to the Open Defecation-Free roadmap by 2025, to ensure that we carry everyone along.
“If there are vulnerable and poor people, part of our social investment activities will support such facilities to be constructed.’’
He stressed the need to harmonise all sanitation policies with the inclusion of the environment ministry as a key stakeholder, adding that the first lady had agreed to champion the ODF campaign to also carrying all governors’ wives on board.
The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, said that the relevance of WASH sector to the ministry, stressing the importance of having a harmonised sanitation policy.
She said that the ministry had commenced efforts to institutionalise menstrual hygiene management in its policies and programmes, adding that this was being included in the National Gender Policy.
She expressed worry over poor sanitation practice in schools, saying it was a matter for regret that toilets were poorly maintained and unavailable for school children, calling on the education ministry to do more to scale up sanitation in schools.
The minister also called for provision of incinerators in schools and public places, saying this would go a long way to promote safe disposal of sanitary pads.
Mr Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing noted that issues of sanitation and hygiene cuts across all parts of the society, saying poor WASH could affect productivity and Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product.
Fashola said that there was the need to seek out ways to dispose all kinds of wastes, noting that promoting access to water supply and managing waste effectively were pillars for inclusive development.
The minister said that there was the need to awaken national consciousness through behaviour change to promote wellness, calling for support from sub-national levels to address the challenges.
He said that plans were on to refurbish buildings with consideration to sanitation facilities, adding that this would in turn promote sanitation marketing and employment generation.
The Joint Monitoring Progress 2017 states that by October 2019, Nigeria may become the country with the highest number of persons practicing open defecation.
With approximately one in four persons, 47 million people will have nowhere to go to toilet, while the national access to basic sanitation stands at a low level of 33 per cent.
Data from the recently conducted WASH National Outcome Routine Monitoring (WASHNORM) in 2018 showed a marginal reduction in access to improved water supply to 67.9 per cent with only 3.7 per cent meeting safely managed criteria for sanitation.