The plan by the Lagos State Government to eradicate defecation in open places in the state is a welcome development. The government intends to achieve this objective by promoting the construction of household latrines. The exercise is also informed by the need to promote healthy living among the populace. According to the Commissioner for Rural Development, Cornelius Ojelabi, the state government has adopted the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) to discourage and ultimately eradicate indiscriminate defecation in open places by some residents of the state.
The CLTS approach, Ojelabi explains, is used globally for scaling up sanitation and a pilot scheme tested in the country was found to be appropriate in improving sanitation in view of contributions by all stakeholders. To enhance the effectiveness of the scheme, the government will provide sanitation facilities in public places. The World Health Organisation/United Nations Children’s Fund (WHO/UNICEF) joint monitoring programme’s report for water and sanitation shows that about 1.1 billion people worldwide still defecate openly and 81 percent of them are said to be found in 10 countries including Nigeria.
The report also states that over 100 million Nigerians have no access to improved sanitation facilities such as latrines and toilets. Also, about 33 million Nigerians are said to defecate openly for lack of sanitation facilities in public places. The statistics should worry those in charge of public health in the country. In view of this, we welcome the policy provided the state government will match its words with action by providing enough toilets in public places. Although open defecation is considered primitive and unhealthy, sanitation facilities are virtually lacking in most public places in Lagos such as markets, shopping malls, filling stations, restaurants, events centers and others. Even the available few are not well maintained. The story is similar to what obtains in other Nigerian cities. For the success of this scheme, we enjoin the state government to provide public toilets in strategic places where people will have need for them.
The government can do this through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. It is our conviction that partnering with the private sector will make the programme feasible and sustainable. It will also enhance its effective management and maintenance. We commend the Lagos State government for coming up with the health-promoting initiative and urge all the states in the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, to embrace it. In fact, all local governments in the country should take part in the project in order to improve public health generally. Those in charge of public buildings should factor in the inclusion of adequate sanitation facilities as one of the conditions that should be met before such building plans are approved. Government should ensure that all public buildings without such facilities are encouraged to provide them immediately.
The project should be meticulously implemented and should be made to cover the entire state. There is also the need to embark on enlightenment and sensitisation of the public on the harmful effects of open defecation. Apart from being old-fashioned and aesthetically repulsive, open defecation is unhygienic and can lead to public health hazards. Since the population of Nigerians that indulge in open defecation is huge, let all tiers of government consider the provision of sanitation facilities in all parts of the country, especially in public places, as a top priority.