Open Defecation: FG, Stakeholders reject Bill to Establish Clean Nigeria Agency

The Federal Ministries of Finance, Environment and other critical stakeholders in the environment sector, on Monday, overwhelmingly rejected a Bill, which seeks to establish the Clean Nigeria Agency and prohibit open urination and defecation in the country.

The Bill titled: “A Bill for an Act to establish the Clean Nigeria Agency for the purpose, among others, to prohibit Open Urination/Open Defecation in order to keep Nigeria clean and disease free and other matters connected thereto, 2021” was sponsored by Senator Clifford Ordia (Edo Central).

The ministries and other critical stakeholders made their position known through their presentation during a one-day public hearing on the Bill organised by the Senate Committee on Water Resources.

They premised their opposition to the Bill on the need to prevent further proliferation of government agencies, paucity of funds and duplication of functions.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, represented by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, declared the session opened.

In his opening remarks, Chairman, Senate Committee on Water Resources, Senator Bello Mandiya, noted that there is urgent need to eradicate open urination and defecation in the country because of their adverse effect on the environment and health of the people.

Mandiya said: “This Bill seeks to create an agency to prohibit open urination/defecation in the country. This is very clear because we know what this causes.

“Unfortunately for this purpose, Nigeria is among the highest if not the highest country practicing open defecation. So there is a need to do everything possible to eradicate it.”

Read Also: Youth, Key Resource to Ending Open Defecation – Minister

While declaring the session opened, Lawan said continuity is necessary to ensure that all schemes and programmes aimed at ensuring a clean environment in the country are sustained.

Lawan said: “We are familiar with the issues on cleanliness and the environment we live in and how they can shape our wellbeing. The ills are becoming more prominent because of increased human activities and complexities therefrom.

“The implications of our surrounding is significant from the size of citizens and the environment. The public sector has also been very responsive through programmes and schemes.

“It is noteworthy that many of these programmes have been vetted and approved by the legislature.

“Regardless, continuity is necessary to ensure its meaningful impact on our bid to internalise cleanliness.”

Ordia said the bill seeks to make rules and issue guidelines and regulations for the construction and operations of public toilets.

He said the agency, when established, would certify public toilet facilities to be fit for use by members of the public.

He also said the agency would have powers to shut down any public place that does not meet the required standard of public toilet facility prescribed by the agency, among others.

However, kicking against the establishment of the agency, the Director of Legal Services, Ministry of Environment, Mrs Obayagbo Helen, said the ministry was opposed to the passage of the bill.

She said the Bill was trying to convert a fragment of the 15 components of sanitation into an agency.

Obayagbo said: “Creating an agency for a fragment of one component of sanitation would mean creating more than 15 agencies for sanitation issues alone.

“This would mean wastage of scarce government resources. Besides, there are too many federal government agencies in existence currently and most of them self-sustaining but depend on the already very thin resources of the Federal Government.”

The Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, represented by its Assistant Director, Legal, Mrs. Ate Amali, said there exists agencies of government already performing roles being envisaged for the proposed agency.

She said the establishment of the agency would mean further duplication of agencies of government.

She advised that programmes should be development to further eradicate issues of open defecation in the country.

The National President, Environmental Health Officers Association of Nigeria (EHOAN), Mr. Jamilu Shuaibu, said the bill was inconsistent with the provisions of the fourth schedule of the 1999 constitution as amended.

He said the constitution vested the local government councils with the role of maintenance and regulations of public convenience.

He said the 774 Local Governments Areas have been implementing the role through their Environmental Health Services Department and units.

He said the agency, if established, would be an additional liability and additional cost of governance.

He, however, recommended that the relevant Federal Government Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) responsible for environmental sanitation be empowered to produce a national policy with corresponding guidelines in toilet and urinals in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

He also recommended that existing agencies in the federal, states and local governments should be strengthened to perform their functions more effectively.

“The federal and state government should focus on the reintroduction of environmental sanitation and building of local capacity for enforcement of environmental sanitation.”

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