L-R: Registrar, Environment Health Officers, Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON), Mr. Augustine Ebisike; Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, and Chairman of the event, Chief Anthony Ezekwesili, at the inauguration of Environmental Health Practice Monitoring Committee
The Federal Government at the weekend in Abuja charged the Environmental Health Officers otherwise called sanitary inspectors to be diligent, patriotic and dedicated to the service of the nation.
The Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, who gave the charge at the inauguration of 180 Environmental Health officers Practice Monitoring Committee, said despite the high level of technological and infrastructural development Nigeria has attained, “we are still faced with astonishingly rising figures of death and severe health challenges from preventable diseases.”
Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia tasked Environmental Health Officers to rededicate themselves to their work by inspecting at least fifty houses per day to remove environmental nuisance and reduce the incidences of communicable diseases, such as diarrhea, cholera, malaria, among others.
She told the Environmental Health Officers to “abate the nuisances consisting of business as usual, low work output, compromise of professional responsibility and integrity, corruption and loss of impact on the society to ensure that they impacted positively and perceptibly in their operational areas.”
She disclosed that president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, was determined to reverse the ugly trend in Environmental Health Management through the recruitment and proper training of a formidable sanitation workforce and the promotion of their relevance and impact.
She appealed to various employers of environmental health officers at state and local governments, and large private establishments and industries to consider as a matter of urgent priority the increase of Environmental Health workforce through recruitment and training, and also equipping them for greater performance.
She also appealed to the office of the Head of Service of the Federation to grant needed waivers to the Federal Civil Service Commission and other relevant Ministries to employ more environmental health officers to maintain the minimum required number of the cadre to support environmental health practice.
She lamented that the workforce of 7,000 registered Environmental Health Officers was far from the World Health Organization (WHO), recommendation of one Environmental Health Officer to eight thousand people, as this has left the country with a shortfall of 23,000 personnel, according to the WHO figures.
The Minister observed that Environmental Health Officers had a crucial role to play in maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment and assured that the Ministry would continue to give them every necessary support.
She recalled with nostalgia the sanitary inspectors of old who were well respected in the service of the country, adding that their activities greatly impacted on the lives and health as well as on the consciousness of the citizenry, both educated and none educated alike.
According to her, this was the reason the elders and community people who appreciated the quality of environmental sanitation services offered in the past were crying out, “where are the sanitary inspectors.”
Hadiza Mailafia however, advised the environmental health officers who are available to strive to effectively impact on their operational areas as government would not relent in its bid to tackle various environmental and public health challenges facing the nation, especially the recurrent epidemic of sanitation related diseases.
The Registrar of the Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria, Mr. Augustine Ebisike commended the Federal Government for the huge efforts already made to enhance Environmental Health Profession in the country. He stated that the inauguration of the practice monitoring committee would further improve the standard of practice in the country.
While given an insight to the calibre of the members of the committee, the Registrar of the Council, Mr. Augustine Ebisike, said the men and women selected were of proven integrity, adding that the committees would receive information from practitioners in each state on those issues that could or likely bring the profession and its practitioners to disrepute.
He advised the committee to remain the conscience of the profession while carrying out its assignment, saying the council’s commitment through the unflinching support of the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, by ensuring qualitative environmental health services across the country for the improvement of Nigeria’s quality of life and the wellbeing of the populace.
A former Council member, an industrialist, Chief Anthony Ezekwesilli who was the chairman of the occasion stated that “many of our cities are fast becoming congested, polluted filthy and dirty.”
He said solid wastes, posed serious health problems and that “our air is becoming unfit to breathe because of pollution and water bodies are increasingly being contaminated with industrial chemicals and all manner of urban wastes.”
According to him, “our drainages are clogged with wastes which block drainage channels and further inhibit flow of runoff water from the rain and this, has in no small way contributed to flooding in some parts of our urban areas, also urban wastes, faecal matters and hosts of other pollutants are disposed indiscriminately in our environment resulting in sources of diseases spread.”
Ezekwesili, however, appealed to the Minister of Environment to provide the Environmental Health Practitioners with 37 buses to enable them move into the field and obtain results and “promote the health of Nigerians, which will in turn promote the transformation agenda of the present administration.”