Environmental Experts Tasks Govs on Open Defecation

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Environmental health experts have commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his timely issuance of Executive Order 009, aimed at putting an end to open defecation in 2025.

The experts under the auspices of the Environmental Health Officers Association of Nigeria (EHOAN), stated this recently in a communique issued at the end of its 51st National Scientific Workshop which held at the Government House, Kano.

The event which coincided with an international conference yearly organised by the association, drew notable health professionals to the ancient city, including participants from 28 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Speaking on the theme, ‘Open Defecation-Free Community: A Key to Achieving Sustainable Health, Social and Environmental SDGs in Nigeria’, speakers drew the attention of the public on the need to put an end to the scourge of open defecation, adding that its health hazards far outweighed the convenience it offers those who indulged in the practice.

The Conference-in-Session observed among others that “The appalling sanitation indices in Nigeria are worrisome and embarrassing to the country.

“The declaration of emergency on sanitation by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria culminating in the preparation of a national road map on ending open defecation, the issuance of Executive Order 009 on ending open defecation by the year 2025 is a welcome development.

“The reduction of the time target of the United Nations on stoppage of open defecation by 2030 by Mr. President in the Executive Order is commendable.

“Environmental Health workforce nationwide have been grossly depleted over time leaving the number currently at 8,526 to serve the nation of a population of about 200 million as at 2019 which is a ratio of about one Environmental Health Officer (EHO) to 24,500 population, a far cry from the World Health Organisation, WHO’s recommendation of 1 EHO to 8,000 population.”

The association while also lauding the efforts of the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje and the Emir of Kano, Muhammed Sanusi II, called for the immediate constitution of a National Implementation Committee to

“Facilitate the President’s Executive Order 009 in all the States of the Federation and at all level of practice.”

Other recommendations in the communiqué jointly signed by Dr. Samuel Akingbehin and Jamilu Mohammed, National President and General Secretary of the association respectively, include the “urgent need for the re-constitution of the Board of the Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON) by the Federal Government, which will assist in the prompt execution of the Executive Order 009.

“Government at all levels are urged to embark on deliberate and urgent mass recruitment of workforce (Environmental Health Officers (EHOs), Environmental Health Technologist (EHTs), Environmental Health Technicians (EVTs), Environmental Health Assistants (EHAs) for the overall improvement of Environmental Health Services in Nigeria.

“Establishment of a National Environmental Sanitation Development Agency (NESDA) to be headed by a licensed Environmental Health Officer to coordinate the effective prosecution of environmental sanitation activities at all levels of government.

“Federal, States and Local Governments should as a matter of urgency, make provision of water and toilet facilities availability, a core responsibility in schools, markets, highways and other public places such as parks.

“Corporate Organisations should also do this as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility to their localities to put an end to open defecation.

“The Nigerian Governors’ Forum and Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) should implement without delay, the Executive Order 009 of Mr. President for early attainment of Open Defecation free status.

“The Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMFC) should amend the revenue sharing formula in order to increase the Local Government share so as to enhance their financial capacity in the implementation of the Executive Order 009 and other environmental health related programmes and activities.

“The federal government should attach a handsome reward for States and Local Governments in the country that attain ODF status on or before 2025 and sanction any state that performs poorly.

“States are enjoined to hasten the establishment of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) departments under the unified Local Government service and to be specifically headed by a Licensed Environmental Health Officer.”

The association also stressed the need for the Federal Ministry of Environment “to re-launch the reviewed National Environmental Sanitation Policy for implementation,” even as it called on state governments to “strengthen the newly inaugurated Sanitation Desk Officers in their Ministries of Environment as resolved by the National Council on Environment in 2017 by providing enabling offices and logistics to function effectively.

“The federal and state governments should fortify the workforce of the Ministries of Water Resources by employing and deploying Environmental Health Officers and Technologists for the effective execution of Executive Order 009.”

Kano, Gombe, Kebbi, Rivers, Jigawa and Kaduna States participated in the conference. Others included Edo, Plateau, Zamfara, Yobe, Taraba, Delta, Ondo and Nasarawa states among others.