By Peter Okolie
Nnewi (Anambra), Sept. 8, 2020 The Organised Private Sector on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (OPS-WASH) says it is mobilising two million diaspora Nigerians to intervene in tackling the challenges of open defecation, water and sanitation in the country.
The National Coordinator of OPS-WASH, Dr Nicholas Igwe, said this at the inauguration of three pilot VIP toilets at Uli and Nnewi in Anambra on Tuesday.
Igwe said that Nigeria ranked number one in open defecation in the world, hence the intervention by OPS-WASH to end the unhealthy phenomenon in the country.
According to him, government, development partners and non-governmental organisations alone cannot solve the problem.
He said that the Federal Government made several attempts between 2016 and 2019 to make the country open-defecation free.
Igwe listed federal government’s initiatives to include P-WASH, bringing private sectors and government stakeholders together, declaration of state of emergency in water, sanitation and hygiene and the signing of Executive Order 009.
He said: “In May this year, the president inaugurated a 24-member committee as part of the efforts to combat open defecation and water sanitation challenges.
“Based on the political will of the government, OPS-WASH went into partnership with the Diaspora Commission to mobilise two million diaspora Nigerians to adopt at least a toilet each in schools, markets, motor parks and other public places.
“What you are seeing here is a pilot project to show the Nigerians in diaspora the type of toilet and sanitation facility that meets the Sustainable Development Goals’ standard.”
Igwe expressed concern that 221,000 Nigerians, which included 87,000 children below five years, die yearly from gastroenteritis viruses and other related diseases.
He said the OPS-WASH was willing to assist households that could afford their own toilets but needed water.
Igwe, who called on state governments to provide a list of projects they would want the body to support, urged the nation’s private sector to key into the project.
“We have four pillar projects this year, including water, N400 billion blue bond project and the industrial adoption project for strategic places,” he said.
At Obiofia in Nnewi, where he inaugurated two toilets at Migrant Farmers’ School for over 400 pupils, he promised that the group would fence the school and provide water to ensure proper sanitation.
In a remark, the Project Coordinator of OPS-WASH, Dr Evans Ohaji, said that the body was collaborating with LICEN Research Institute at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Univeristy, Uli (COOU) on the project.
Ohaji said the facility was designed to showcase what a VIP toilet should look like, adding that the essence was “to reduce open defecation.”
“Behind the facility is a bio-digester and soak pit, called Anaerobic Digestive System, designed to eliminate the burden of treating waste.
“Anaerobic bacteria, which acts on human faeces, produces methane gas and water that flows to the soak pit and can remain like that for over 20 to 30 years without sucking it.
“If the beneficiaries of the facility have the wherewithal or technology to connect the gas to the kitchen for cooking or electricity, it can be done but for now, we sealed up the pit,” Ohaji said.
Also, Dr Chika Eneh, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, COOU, expressed the confidence that open defecation could end in the country by 2025, given the ongoing researches and political will of the government.
Eneh said the models would be replicated across the country.
Responding, Mrs Bridget Onyedike, a 70-year old basket weaver, who benefited from the pilot toilet at Umubazu Village, Uli in Ihiala Local Government Area of the state, expressed happiness over the project.
She said she had no choice then to resort to the bush to defecate because of the absence of toilet in the locality.
“With this facility now, I have no other reason to bath or defecate in the bush anymore,” Onyedike, a mother of eight said.
The Headteacher of Migrants Farmers’ School, Mrs Uju Onwuagba, thanked the organisation for identifying with the school.
Onwuagba said that the facility had alleviated the plight of teachers and pupils who had no such facility since the school was established in 2016.