The Federal Government says Nigeria now ranks number one in the world with people practicing open defecation.
Suleiman Adamu, the Minister, Ministry of Water Resources disclosed this while declaring open a two-day Private Sector Forum on Sanitation, on Monday in Abuja.
The forum was organised by Organised Private Sector on Sanitation with the theme: “Coordinating Indigenous Private Sector Initiatives to End Open Defecation in Nigeria”.
It would be recalled that on October 2 India exited as the world number one with the highest number of people practising open defecation in the world.
According to Mr Adamu, Nigeria currently ranks at number one, in terms of the number of people practicing open defecation in Africa.
“Moreover, we are on the brink of being ranked first globally, as approximately 47 million people do not have access to sanitation services in its most basic form.
“Understandably, this is a serious concern to all of us as it has immense economic consequences and also hinders the social development of the country,” he said.
He said that the Sustainable Development Goal, SDG six is aimed at ensuring availability of WASH services as well as the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.
He said that the SDGs, Target 6.2 also focused on achieving access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and to end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.
Adamu said that although the SDGs have stipulated these targets, they have also highlighted some hurdles that would require collaborative efforts to overcome them “which is our concern for the course of this workshop’’.
“Besides the exposure to diseases, there is a lack of dignity that is inherent in open defecation practices, particularly with regard to women and girls. As such, there is also a gender inequality issue which must be addressed with urgency.
“If effective solutions are not found, the non availability of sanitation facilities inadvertently further exposes women and girls to violence including rape, when they are forced to go out at night to defecate in the open.
“Again, I will emphasise that this problem has many layers in terms of the vast consequences.
“As part of the efforts to address this issue with particular reference to ending open defecation, a National Roadmap towards making Nigeria Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2025 was developed and launched in 2016.
“However, only minimal progress has been achieved in the implementation of the Roadmap with only 14 LGAs across the country so far being certified as open defecation free, according to the National ODF Protocol.
“However, it is comforting to note the positive efforts being made by my ministry in the WASH sector toward improving the living standards of our people both in the rural and urban areas.
“Access to Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene are part of the indices for socio-economic development of any nation and thus cannot be ignored,” Mr Adamu said.
The minister however, said that the role of the private sector in the revitalisation of the WASH sector would not be overlooked as the engine for economic growth and key players to creating innovative structures that pertains to the financing of WASH services.
He said that historically, the private sector had always been adept at coming up with new technologies and solutions relating to development.
“However, this is the first time that there is a call toward leveraging the capabilities of the private sector in a collaborative manner in light of dealing with inadequate WASH services globally.
“The SDGs have also reiterated this point that the eradication of inequality in water and sanitation cannot be achieved without greater emphasis on private sector engagement,” he said.
He said the essence of the forum was to identify areas of private sector involvement and collaboration on issues of WASH, and ultimately come up with innovative solutions on how the pressing challenges would be effectively addressed.
“This workshop will address the challenges of financing the WASH sector through the collaboration of all stakeholders including the private sector to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) WASH targets by 2030, ” he said.
Nicolas Igwe, the Managing Director, Zenith Project Ltd. said the two-day workshop was to create stronger private sector collaboration in the light of solving national WASH problems and also to meet international standard as the key.
Mr Igwe said that there was need to reinforce commitment to re-emphasising multi-sectoral solutions in WASH as part of the private sector culture in Nigeria.
Benson Attach, the National Coordinator, Society for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (NEWSAN) said it was committed to supporting the Federal Government, private sector and other partners in addressing the issues of WASH in the country.
“We want to call on all partners to ensure that we avoid those issues that will not keep us on track and let us also access the challenges and come up with strategies that will enable us achieve Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2025,” he said.