The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, has recently disclosed President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to sign an executive order that will criminalize open defecation in Nigeria.

Mr Adamu stated that the proposed fine is associated with Nigeria’s national action plan to end open defecation-a condition where human faeces are disposed of in fields, forests, open bodies of water, beaches or other open spaces across the nation by 2025.

The Minister disclosed this plan of action in the country’s capital- Abuja over the weekend associating its ties with the national campaign- Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet which aims at encouraging the use of toilets across the country.

According to a 2018 national survey by Clean Nigeria, 1 in 4 Nigerians (24 percent) engage in open defecation while 1 in 2 persons in the North Central defecates in the open. As a result, over 47 Million Nigerians practice open defecation with 16 million of them living in the North Central part of the country.

Nevertheless, the establishment of public toilets across the country especially in rural areas presents itself as a crucial response to eliminating open defecation in Nigeria.

This construction of public toilets should be in strategic locations all over Nigeria such as markets, bus parks, airports, relaxation areas, etc. Essentially, these public toilets have to be accessible, clean and efficient enough for people to utilize. 

With Nigeria ranked second amongst countries that practice open defecation globally, most public toilets are not hygienic, poorly maintained and are not equipped with the fundamentals like a wash hand or a working closet system.

The Nigerian government should then see to it that all established public toilets are fully furnished and are well within the reach of locals at different points where they are required.

Sensitization on the importance of an open defecation-free (ODF) community cannot be overemphasized. Teachings on the harmful effects of open defecation on both human health and the environment should be carried out by the government at all local levels. There should also be more awareness programs on the lethal diseases caused by open defecation like diarrhoea and intestinal worm infections, alongside harmful pollutants emitted into the environment. 

In different countries around the world, human waste is turned into renewable energy. Once the human waste is gathered, it is turned into a dehydrated odourless compost-like material which through a microbial energy production system, is converted into biodiesel or heat energy. 

Kenya’s, Umande Trust Biocentre together with its partners have built over 57 bio centres (toilet facilities) in Nairobi, which have managed to collect at least 60,000 kg of human waste. Locals make use of these bio centres and their discharge is used to produce renewable energy.

The Nigerian government can leverage on this system of eradicating open defecation in the country by building bio-centres where people can dispose of their human slurry and get an incentive in return. A move that will inevitably discourage them from practising open defecation and at the same time help the government solve the issue of electricity while boosting revenue generation. 

This proposed criminalization plan by the Nigerian government was announced ahead of the annual World Toilet Day, which is celebrated all over the world today. 

By Treasure Nnabugwu.

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