The Federal Government is set to commence the enforcement of the sanitary law with the constitution of mobile courts to try offenders.
The Registrar of the Environmental Health Council of Nigeria (EHCON), Dr Yakubu Baba, disclosed this on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, when he visited the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
He said the enforcement exercise would commence in July, adding that mobile courts would ensure speedy resolution of cases.
Baba said most cases involving environmental health could not be adequately handled in the conventional courts due to the perculiaty of the sector.
“Since I assumed duty in August 2020, we have been adopting the carrot method; now we want to deploy the stick method which is go to the field and start enforcing the law.
“In our efforts to enforce the law, we have stages because we have the legislative record, guidelines and we also have the mobile courts.
“Most of our cases are not cases that can be taken to the conventional courts because such cases need not drag on for too long because this could be injurious to the health of Nigerians.
“So, we are ready with all that is required for us to hit the ground running,’’ he said.
The registrar said the enforcement activities were part of the council’s efforts to launch the rebranding of environmental health service in the country.
Baba said the amendment of the council’s law in 2022 gave it ”power to bite because we had teeth before but we could not bite.”
Describing NAN as a critical partner, he said the courtesy visit to the agency was to express its appreciation as well as rally support for its enforcement activities.
“We also deem it fit to visit you to let you know about the achievements we have recorded and give information on the roadmap we intend to embark on in bringing back the lost glory of environment health service in Nigeria.
”You are aware of the strategic roles sanitary inspectors played during the days of the colonial masters.
”There was a clarion call by distinguished Nigerians calling for the reintroduction of sanitary inspectors.
”But the dynamic nature of the job and the non recognition of their role at the local government level created a vacuum to make Nigerians feel that sanitary inspectors are not in place,” he said.
He said the council was embarking on sensitisation of Nigerians about its planned enforcement exercise, adding that NAN would provide the media support for the initiative.
The registrar also said the new branding methodology of the practice had been encapsulated in the specialisation initiative for the sector.
Baba, who decried the old practice where environmental officers were ”Jack of all trade and master of none”, adding that its personnel would now specialise in one field.
“With the 50,000 practitioners we have, we have created a platform where each and every single one will decide to specialise in an area of environmental health through the universities we have,’’ he said.
In his remarks, the Managing Director of NAN, Mr Buki Ponle, urged the council to ensure that the enforcement of the environmental law was not too punitive.
”Attitude is very difficult to change but when we preach to people, we tell them the dos, don’ts and what they stand to benefit by keeping hygienic surroundings.
“We also preach to them what they stand to benefit by doing certain things that will promote their health as well as the wellbeing of their family members and the environment.
”With the law and the people interpreting the law, I am sure we will be on the same page.
“In the News Agency of Nigeria, we are always willing and ever ready to support you anywhere any day,” he said.
He pledged that NAN would be in the forefront of advocacy ahead of the commencement of the exercise.
“We are here to do whatever it takes to enlarge the coast, to be at the forefront of advocacy and tell our people the right thing to do as well as focus more on water and environmental sanitation.
”We should also focus more on issues that will benefit the common good which the present administration is pursuing.”
By Felicia Imohimi