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Ministry Of Environment Takes Bold Steps To Curb Open Defecation

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Media Parley
The Minister for Environment, Balarabe Lawal (fourth from left) flanked by a cross section of ministry officials and journalists after the media parley at the ministry in Abuja.

In a media parley and familiarisation meeting with the press in Abuja, the Minister for Environment, Balarabe Lawal has announced the ministry’s determination to tackle the environmental hazards posed by open defecation across the country.

Lawal outlined the introduction of sanitary inspectors as a key strategy to eradicate this issue, drawing inspiration from the effective practices of sanitation inspectors in the 1960s.

Recalling the past, Lawal stated, “When we were young in the ’60s, we used to have powerful people called sanitation inspectors. They were the ones that went around and tackled the issues of open defecation. We all will agree to this style and see how we can revive this department of sanitary. These people will go round, monitor issues of open defecation, and see how we can handle it. As the doctor would say, prevention is better than cure, and I feel like this environment needs prevention. We need to engage our environment in good conditions”.

The minister emphasised the need for collective efforts to address factors challenging a healthy environment and productivity. He highlighted various environmental challenges, including deforestation, desert encroachment, land degradation, floods, gully erosion and climate change. Lawal stressed the urgency of implementing measures to reverse these trends.

Acknowledging the current administration’s vision for sustainable environmental use as an obligatory civic duty, Lawal stated, “We will be around the eight-point agenda of the president. If you look at the 8-point agenda of the president, you will find that the environment is almost everywhere. When you talk of security, you will find out that the environment is there because most of our forests, most of our coastal areas, need to be highly protected. So, the issue of the environment is there”.

Lawal highlighted the close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, recognising the intertwined nature of environmental factors and agriculture. He emphasised the significance of the environment in economic growth and affirmed the ministry’s commitment to contributing meaningfully to Nigeria’s economy.

The acting permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Environment, Mr. Charles Ikeah, shared efforts by the government to control open defecation. He mentioned investments in building public toilets, especially in communities lacking proper waste management. Ikeah stressed the need for collective action, involving lawyers, stakeholders, health professionals, and paramilitary personnel.

“We have the departments of coalition and health with environmental health officers. We have established sanitation desks in all the 36 states ministries of environment and FCT,” Ikeah explained. He detailed the efforts to establish a National Integrated Environmental Health and Surveillance System, emphasising the importance of surveillance for planning purposes.

Additionally, Ikeah outlined community-based solid waste management programmes across the six political zones of the country. He mentioned the construction of public toilets in markets and motor parks as part of the program, serving as demonstrations for private sector takeover for sustainability.

Efforts are underway to sensitise local communities on toilet construction and open defecation control. Ikeah emphasised the training of communities on constructing World Health Organisation-approved toilets, making them affordable and maintainable. He highlighted ongoing projects involving various public and private organisations in the fight against open defecation. 

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