Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Nigerians have been called upon to unite to end the hazardous practice of open defecation in order to save the country the impending tag of the ‘’World’s Number-One in Open Defecation’’ in no distant future.
The call was made yesterday at a stakeholders workshop on the ‘’Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign’’ programme of the Federal Government, organised by UNICEF in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Water Resources, held in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
Participants at the workshop stressed the urgent need for government at all levels in the country to take up the challenge of leading all relevant sectors, including the private sector, in the campaign towards meeting the 2025 target set by the Federal Government to make Nigeria an Open Defecation-Free (ODF) country.
While noting that heads of government at national, state and local levels should become ambassadors of the Clean Nigeria Use Toilets Campaign, they noted that this call has become necessary in the light of the fact that Nigeria will soon take over the number-one spot as the country with the highest number of people who still defecate in the open in the 21st Century.
With 47 million people practising open defecation in the country today, according to statistics from recent studies, Nigeria ranks second behind India as the most notorious for open defecation globally.
Although, India is currently ranked as number-one and had about five years ago a total of 550 million people practising open defecation, the country has reduced that figure by about 450 million people in just four years.
Moreover, the Indian Government has set October 1st, 2019 as the date to celebrate Open Defecation Free (ODF) status for India, which is less than two months from from now.
Already, Bangladesh, which few years ago ranked alongside Nigeria and others as being among the world’s top 10 countries with the highest number of people practising open defecation, has attained the ODF status that Nigeria is hoping to attain by 2025.
The Federal Government has expressed concern about pervasive open defecation across the country with President Muhammadu Buhari last year declaring a state of emergency in the country’s sanitation with a vow to end open defecation (OD) in 2025.
Nonetheless, the Calabar UNICEF workshop expressed worry about the apparently slow pace of progress in the Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign, which is based on a 2015 policy of the federal government, and emphasized that government at the different levels must summon the political will required to push hard for the 2025 deadline for an ODF Nigeria.
Participants at the two-day event included resource persons drawn from UNICEF, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, the Media and