Recently, the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, flagged off the construction of 10,000 public toilets to be scattered all of the six area councils. At the groundbreaking ceremony, the minister disclosed that the development was in tandem with the federal government’s agenda to end open defecation by building millions of toilets all over the country to curb the practice among Nigerians. She disclosed that the mission to end the open defecation by the government was initially conceived in 2014 and was to be achieved within five years.
Dr. Ramatu Aliyu further revealed that one in every three persons practises open defecation in the FCT, representing 37 per cent of the population. She urged the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RUWASSA) and all the stakeholders to accelerate actions and efforts aimed at achieving the objective.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Olusade Adesola, represented by a director in his office, Mr. Prospect Ibe, revealed that the Federal Territory Capital administration (FCTA) had drawn up a roadmap to end open defecation by 2025 in line with the national target.
In his remarks, the Executive Director of RUWASSA, Dr. Mohammed Dan-Hassan, said that clean and safe toilets would ensure fundamental human dignity for millions of residents in the territory, noting that open defecation spread diseases, threaten the security of women and girls.
We recall a June, 2018 survey carried out by the FCT, indicating that 46 per cent of the public Junior Secondary Schools in the FCT lacked public toilets, a situation capable of exposing pupils and students to avoidable health risks.
According to the survey, out of the 161 junior secondary schools in the Territory, more than 98 of them are without water facilities, while a total of 49 are without toilets.
A breakdown of the number of schools and facilities available in each of the six Area Councils in the FCT shows that Abaji Area Council has the highest number of schools without water facilities like boreholes. Findings also revealed that only three out of the 16 junior secondary schools in the area with a population of 5,644 students have functional boreholes and fitted with 42 toilets.
Bwari Area Council with a total enrolment of 27,754 students in 23 junior secondary who have access to 121 toilets and 15 boreholes.
Gwagwalada Area Council has 19,808 students using 149 toilets and eight boreholes. The most pathetic situation subsists at the Kuje Area Council where there are 11,682 students have no access to water and toilet facilities.
Abuja Municipal Council boasts of the highest number of student enrolments, and has 62 junior secondary schools. Sixty-four per cent of the institutions have no boreholes, while 16 schools are without toilets.
The scenario in the FCT schools signposted what obtained in most public and even private schools all over the country, and the larger society. It is also common to see students urinating against the school fence or classroom walls, or disappearing to adjacent bush to defecate because of lack of necessary facilities. Even where such facilities are available, they are often inadequate to serve the population or they lack water to flush the toilets. As a result, most of them take to the bush to answer the call of nature. Female students forced to defecate in the open not only lose their dignity and honour but sometimes also fall victim of sexual assault by fellow students.
These poor sanitation habits run a ring of dangerous germs around the schools, thus making teaching and learning unpleasant because the environments stink to high heavens. Consequently, students and their teachers are exposed to airborne diseases. Such surroundings are also breeding grounds for deadly ailments such as cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid fever and even hepatitis contracted through unsafe water and poor sanitation habit.
It is curious to note that this kind of life threatening situation in most of the FCT schools still persists all over the country. The annual commemoration of the World Toilet Day has made no impact especially on the relevant authorities. No school structures are complete without provision of facilities such as water and toilets. They are an important component critical to teaching and learning.
We commend the FCT in its toilet revolution efforts and urge other states to borrow a leaf from it. Ending open defecation across the country by 2025 which is three years away is an achievable target and it should be pursued with vigour. It should not go the way of 2019 goal which was pursued desultorily resulting in woeful failure.