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Environmentalists Propose Sanctions For Open Defecation, Poor Sanitary Practices

Environmentalists Propose Sanctions For Open Defecation, Poor Sanitary Practices
  • PublishedNovember 12, 2018

Following the Federal Government’s declaration of a state of emergency on the water supply, sanitation and hygiene sector, Environmentalists have called for sanctions on open defecation and poor sanitary practices in the country.

The environmentalists told our Correspondent that the sanctions would serve as a deterrent to the abuse of the environment.

They had recommended prosecution of arrested offenders among other sanctions while also calling for joint action by government at all levels to end the menace of abuse of the environment.

An environmental activist, Desmond Majekodunmi, said those who engaged in the unsanitary practice of open defecation should be arrested, fined or prosecuted. These, he said, should be effectively enforced.
According to him, “There have to be sanctions for any form of abuse of the environment, because people, sometimes, don’t take directives seriously, except there are sanctions.

“This is not a violation of rights. There is the need to have a clean environment and water or there will be a breakout of terrible diseases. When this happens, children are most vulnerable and at great risks.

“Some of these waterborne diseases can spread very quickly. A lot of people treat typhoid fever all the time; this is an after effect of unsanitary environmental conditions in water and food.

“Compliance will come with sanctions, we cannot have people defecating all over the place and fail to do something about it. It is unacceptable. In the days gone by, people did it in the villages, but presently it is unacceptable.”

President Muhammadu Buhari had last Thursday declared a state of emergency on the nation’s water supply, sanitation and hygiene sector.

The declaration is an endorsement on the decision of the Federal Executive Council to declare a state of emergency on the sector, in April this year.

The president said the declaration became imperative to reduce the prevalence of waterborne diseases in different parts of the country, which had caused preventable deaths.

He said government at all levels needed to redouble efforts and work towards meeting the nation’s water supply and sanitation needs.

The president added, “The Sustainable Development Goals targets 6.1 and 6.2 for WASH are even more demanding as they require WASH services to be provided in adequate quantity and quality on premises at affordable prices.

“This cannot be achieved if we continue with ‘a business as usual’ approach. It is on this premise that I fully endorse the decision taken at the meeting of the Federal Executive Council in April this year to declare ‘a State of Emergency on our WASH Sector.”

Describing the declaration as a good way to reduce the nation’s spending on health, an environmentalist and the Group Managing Director, Tellco Europe Nigeria Solar, Dr Victor Fodeke, suggested that the government should use the ‘carrot and stick approach’ to ensure compliance to environmental laws.

“The declaration should be backed by programmes and monitoring to ensure compliance and enforcement should be taken seriously. There are various punishments backed by law that could be employed to serve as a deterrent to people, using the carrot and stick policy of rewarding communities who are getting it right and punishing those who run afoul of the law,” he said.

Fodeke, who is also the Co-founder of African Environmental Action Network, said the declaration showed that the government placed value on the health of the citizenry.

He added that there should be laws backed by the federal, state and local governments as well as religious organisations to end open defecation and other unwholesome sanitary practices.

He explained that over 60 to 70 per cent of communicable diseases were from contaminated water, mostly caused by open defecation, indiscriminate dumping of refuse and other unhealthy sanitary practices.

“If we must grow the economy, there must be a healthy workforce. Nigeria needs a vibrant and healthy workforce to grow but if half of the citizens spend their time in and out of hospitals to cure waterborne diseases, it means only the remaining half will be left to drive the economy,” he said.

Fodeke urged the government to consider bringing back sanitation officers to monitor homes.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, open defecation and poor sanitation cost Nigeria $1bn annually.

The UNICEF said without toilets, people were forced to defecate in the open, leading to exposure to diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, viral hepatitis, typhoid, polio and dysentery.

UNICEF’s Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene, Mr Zaid Jurji, was quoted to have said recently, that Nigeria remained on the list of top five open defecation countries in the world for the past 15 years, and had moved from 5th place in 2003 to 2nd place in 2015.

“For Nigeria to achieve the global goal of providing access to safe water for every citizen by 2030, it needs to make water, together with sanitation and hygiene, a national priority. This goal is closely linked with three key results for the country – good health, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity,” Jurji said.

According to Majekodunmi, to address the problem of WASH, the government have to live up to the expectation of providing pipe-borne water as well as building more public toilets to discourage defecating in open places.

“It is difficult for the government to live up to their existence if they cannot be supplying potable water to the people. It is important they do that, so people don’t have to provide their own water through boreholes. The government should also supply good public toilets to discourage people from engaging in open defecation,” he said.

He also suggested that there should be a proper waste disposal system, especially in urban areas.

“Proper waste disposal is also very important in reducing diseases spread by water,” he added.

According to Fodeke, a similar declaration should be made on the power sector and other ailing sectors of the economy.

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