INTERVIEW: Declare emergency on open defecation – Laurmann Ltd urges Nigeria
By Ben Atonko
Today is World Toilet Day. In commemoration of the day, the General Manager of Laurmann and Company Ltd., Dr. Austine Oluyori has called on Nigeria government to declare a national state of emergency on open defecation. Laurmann and Company Ltd provides professional cleaning and environmental management services. Speaking with NatureNews in Abuja, Oluyori who is environment protection campaigner, identified various factors for open defecation in Nigeria and enumerated ways this can be tackled.
NatureNews: As the world marks toilet day, what are your thoughts as Nigeria is notorious for open defecation?
Oluyori: The situation of open defecation is one of major concern to any discerning mind, especially when one considers the alarming data and statistics that surround this malady and the position Nigeria currently occupies as the No. 1 country in the League of Nations where open defecation is still practiced. This challenge cuts across both the rural and urban areas, formal and informal sectors of the Nigerian space.
NatureNews: From your observation, what might be responsible for the phenomenon?
Oluyori: The high rate of open defecation in Nigeria can be due to the following factors:
i. Poor level of water and sanitation hygiene facilities in the country especially in the vast rural areas.
ii. The high level of illiteracy again especially amongst the rural dwellers.
iii. The unavailability of toilet facilities in the rural and urban areas of the country.
iv. Inappropriate planning to take care of public toilet needs in urban areas and formal sectors like schools, markets.
For instance a recent survey in Nigeria shows that just about 20% of public schools in Nigeria have toilet facilities. This cuts across both the rural and urban areas. Markets both in urban and rural areas are not spared of this challenge.
v. Where toilet facilities are available, poor maintenance practices can also account for open defecation as can be observed in places as serious as our institutions of higher learning where the common slang of Shut Put is used to describe such despicable action.
vi. The unavailability of a strategic plan to cover existing gaps water and sanitation architecture of the country at all tiers of government on a progressive basis.
NatureNews: Has your organization considered working toward tacking open defecation in Nigeria?
Oluyori: Laurmann and Company Ltd. has identified and keyed into the need to upscale maintenance service delivery to existent toilet facilities in all areas and locations under her purview.
We commit to making the use of rest rooms a very pleasant and desired experience. This we have achieved by the training of our frontline staff of efficient and effective maintenance of rest rooms.
We also undertake advocacy on the proper use of public conveniences.
There is the likelihood of our company also providing toilet facilities in public areas as part of our corporate social responsibility to contribute to government’s efforts at ramping up strategies for reversing the negative trend which the menace has assumed.
NatureNews: Government is committed to end open defecation in Nigeria by 2025 which is in line with the revised global target set by the United Nations. Do you believe this dream is achievable considering the prevailing situation?
Oluyori: Quite frankly, looking at available data on the quantum of the challenge, it will require very strong will and committed hard work on the part of the government and other development partners to meet the revised goal.
Especially when one considers the reality of the economic downturn which hampers the ability of the inter-ministerial team to close out on the infrastructural, educational and cultural gaps.
NatureNews: What role should government, organisations and individuals play in ending open defecation?
Oluyori: i. Synergy of all at various levels.
ii. Adoption and implementation of policy framework to address the malady.
iii. Provision of requisite funding.
iv. Declare a national state of emergency on open defecation.
v. Strengthen surveillance and data gathering on subject matter across board.
vi. Provision of advocacy, education and access to the populace on subject.
NatureNews: How much can you say your advocacy has helped improve environmental situation in Nigeria?
Oluyori: It has greatly improved it especially in our areas of operations which cut through seven states of the federation. We are glad to do more and partner with all stakeholders to defeat the challenge.