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‘Nigeria yet to tackle basic water, sanitation challenges at 59’

A Global Private Sector Representative of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), says Nigeria is yet to tackle basic water and sanitation challenges as it marks its 59th Independence the country.

WHO IDP camp
Internally Displaced Persons queuing up for water at Muna IDPs camp. Photo credit: WHO/CE.Onuekwe

Dr Igwe Nicholas, the Managing Director, Zenith Water Projects Ltd. said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday, September 30, 2019 in Abuja.

According to him, Nigeria currently faces immense challenges regarding water and sanitation accessibility. In tandem with clean water, is of course sanitation and hygiene.

“As a consequence of this inaccessibility, child mortality rates are on the increase, due to susceptibility to diseases related to unclean drinking water.

“Moreover, and arguably more concerning, is the practice of open defecation which stands at a staggering rate of 23.5 per cent.

“Although Nigeria stands to be commended on her economic growth since 1960, challenges in water and sanitation pose the imminent threat of economic regression, costing the country $1.3 billion in access time as of 2017.

“Approximately one third of this figure is said to be attributed to open defecation practices,” he said.

Nicholas noted that some academics, and professionals in the industry, have suggested that Nigeria’s infrastructure, particularly in populous cities such as Lagos, was the root-cause of the current ‘slow-resolve’.

He also noted that the post independent Nigeria’s Lagos was renowned for its water and sanitation facilities, adding that the end of the colonial period marked the beginning of mass urban migration.

He added that this of course burdened the city’s infrastructure which was subsequently never prioritised by municipal and national authorities, resulting in the issues of today.

“In rural areas, communities are subject to little to no safe sanitary facilities and water supplies, in its entirety, with access rates as low as 32 per cent.

“Fluctuations in political stability in Nigeria since 1960, is undoubtedly a key contributing factor to this neglect.

“Although some have suggested that the lack of political-will or adequate policy objectives are key to understanding why this problem has not been sufficiently addressed.

“The above examples make it clear that the two are not mutually exclusive, ‘’he said.

He also added that perhaps, political “agenda” or “will” would even be said to serve as an umbrella body, under which all such difficulties should be addressed.

Nicholas however, said that as Nigeria approaches her 59th year of Independence, efforts were being made to address the challenges in the sector.

He said that in Nov. 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari had declared a State of Emergency in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector.

He noted that this was in line with the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015.

According to him, SDGs six and 16 are particularly relevance here, which are clean water and sanitation and peaceful and inclusive societies, respectively.

“The latter is crucial due to the fact that the international community has thematically stipulated that ‘water for all’ is essential to peace and importantly, to inclusion.

“We cannot call a society in which part of the population cannot access water and sanitation facilities ‘inclusive’.

“With considerable international support from global partnerships such as Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), that includes important organisations such as UNICEF and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).

“There is hope that Nigeria may resolve her current sanitation problems by her 65th Independence Day in 2025.

“The national campaigns have already been launched by the Federal Government, with the core focus on an Open Defecation Free (ODF) Nigeria by 2025,” he said.

Nicholas therefore added that it must be observed that a ‘single-sector’ approach cannot effectively address Nigeria’s current water and sanitation problems, if we are to reach our 2025 target.

He also noted that there have been strong suggestions that a multisectoral approach provides the best framework under which to tackle the issues effectively.

He further said that Organised Private Sector in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (OPSWASH) was collaborating with government with its main focus was to achieve Nigeria’s ODF goals and other water and sanitation targets.

He also said this also includes the vision of achieving a 100 per cent water supply by 2030 in the country.

“Given that this is arguably the first time that political-will has been demonstrated with such vigor, it is suggested here.

“That a collaborative approach is possibly the only way to ensure that this political agenda is not short-lived or superficial, as has unfortunately, been the case in the past.

“This multisectoral approach provides a seamless transition between strategy and execution, which we believe will give us much more to celebrate, for our Independence Days to come,” he added.

By Joan Nwagwu

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