Over 100 million Nigerians lack access to toilets, says sanitation minister Utsev

The federal government on Thursday called for collective action and partnerships to address the escalating challenge of open defecation, as 48 million Nigerians still practice it.

This was the thrust at a joint news conference between the ministries of water resources and sanitation and the environment to commemorate the 2023 World Toilet Day in Abuja.

Joseph Utsev, water resources and sanitation minister, underscored the urgency of collaborative efforts on the occasion of the day. He said the call to action aimed to curb this pressing issue and pave the way for a healthier, more sustainable future.

Mr Utsev, quoting the 2023 update report of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme, said an estimated 3.5 billion people still lack access to safe toilets, of which 419 million practise open defecation.

He said 40 per cent of wastewater was discharged into the environment without treatment.

The minister said some untreated wastewater was being used in irrigation farming, and the produce consumed with the attendant risks.

“In Nigeria, over 100 million persons lack access to basic sanitation while an estimated 48 million practise open defecation. This puts the country among the countries with the highest number of people involved in this practice,” stated the minister.

Mr Utsev said collaborative efforts have led to a notable reduction in people practising open defecation, citing interventions like Executive Order 009 and declaring a state of emergency in the sector.

This positive stride, he said, reflected the success of collective action and partnerships, bringing hope for a cleaner, healthier future for the nation.

He said meeting the country’s commitments to SDG 6 for sanitation required a sanitation value chain from containment to transport, treatment and disposal or reuse to be improved and strengthened for sustainability.

“On containment, there is a need to ensure that there is availability of toilet facilities for everyone at home and in public places. It is also important that the transportation, treatment and disposal or reuse component of the service chain is strengthened to ensure a safely managed sanitation service, which is the objective of the SDG sanitation target.

“This will require providing an enabling environment for private sector participation along the sanitation service chain. In line with the SDG definition of safely managed sanitation, households are not expected to share toilet facilities while human waste is either treated or disposed of on or off-site,” Mr Utsev explained.

The minister said his ministry had created an enabling environment through policy, regulations and frameworks to ensure that individual sanitation behaviour aligned with broader efforts to scale up sanitation everywhere.

He said everyone has a role to play, from breaking the taboo on toilets to fixing leaking water and waste pipes, emptying full septic tanks, reporting indiscriminate dumping of sludge, etc.

“We all can do our part in accelerating progress to safe toilets and sustainable sanitation for all,” he stressed.