Yes Fada, Open Defecation Is ‘Sinful’ By Emmanuel Onwubiko 

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Emmanuel Onwubiko
The suspended Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia who governs Benue State recently signed an executive order aimed at enhancing good Sanitation and checking the increasing trend of open defecation in his state.  Open defecation is a national problem which demands a national agenda to end it. There is therefore the urgency of the now for states to confront the environmental sanitary hydraheaded monster of open defecation.
This decision is salutary because open defecation is a very serious health issue all around the Country particularly now that more of Nigeria’s households have been pushed in multidimensional poverty.
There are about 133 million Households in Nigeria that are multidimensionally poor and all of these population of Nigerians are obviously lacking good environmental sanitation.
The troubling issue however is that not so much is being done in many of the 36 states to confront the environmental sanitary conditions and surely, not many of these states have effective and efficient steps to tackle and end the practice of open defecation.  Open defecation is a challenge in both the urban and rural areas in many parts of Nigeria. This is what makes this policy by the Benue state governor significant and attractive.
Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia made history by becoming the second Roman Catholic Priest to be elected as the governor of a state in Nigeria. He emerged victorious in the Benue State gubernatorial election held on March 18, 2023. He won a landslide victory over the ruling political party in his state.
From the website of the Nigerian governors forum, we are informed that Fr. Hyacinth Alia was born on May 14, 1966, in Mbangur, Mbadede, Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State, Nigeria.
His educational journey began at St. Francis Primary School, Agidi, Mbatiav in Gboko. He then attended St. James Minor Seminary in Makurdi, where he started his religious studies. Alia continued his education at St. Augustine’s Major Seminary in Jos, where he obtained a diploma in Religious Studies and later a Bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology.
Hyacinth pursued further studies at Fordham University in Bronx, New York, United States, and earned a Master’s degree in Religious Education with a specialization in Psychology and Counseling. He also obtained a Master’s degree and a doctorate in Biomedical Ethics from Duquesne University in Pennsylvania in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia was ordained a Catholic Priest on July 7, 1990, by Bishop Athanasius Atule Usuh of the Makurdi Catholic Diocese.
Prior to entering politics, Alia gained international experience in educational management and healthcare administration. He served as the Director of Pastoral Services at the Catholic Health Service, North Campus Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, United States of America. He is a member of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, the Catholic Health Service System Wide Ethics Committee, and the Broward Ethics Committee.
In March 2023, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia was declared the winner of the Benue State governorship election, securing 473,933 votes. He surpassed the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Titus Uba, who received 223,913 votes.
Back to that significant executive order against open defecation, we must commence this reflection by posing a big challenge to the 36 states and the FCT to be up and doing regarding implementation of initiatives to end open defecation which is a national nightmare. The Benue example is worth emulating.
This is because the executive order, Alia explained, was in according with section 14 (2) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, and section 10 of the Public Order Act (CAP 382) laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004.
A copy of the order with effect from the 28th day of February, 2024,  also said loitering about at late hours from 12:00 midnight to 5:00 A.M unless for emergency or very important matters, cross-usage of public lavatories by men and women, indiscriminate dumping of waste or garbage on road-dividers, gutters and other unauthorised places, have henceforth become punishable offences in the state.
Other listed offences include; indiscriminate throwing of empty water sachets and polythene bags in the public, excavation of roads and causing of any form of obstruction on the road, farming on empty unfenced plots of land or in front of any premises, or on the street, or by the roadside within urban areas, farming on undeveloped areas of government offices or quarters or reserved areas/lands building across water channels or drainages, building structures, kiosks, shanties, and others on the right of way, and hawking or selling of goods of any kind by the roadside or on the road.
From the commencement of the order, rallies, wakes and other forms of public gatherings beyond the hours of 10:00 PM in the state without first seeking a permit from the Department of Public Order at the Ministry of Justice and Public Order, Benue State, have also been banned.
“All businesses in the cities, towns and villages in Benue State shall close by midnight and shall not operate beyond the said hours in the night except health workers, security operatives and other essential services.
On July 3, 2023 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says Nigeria will need to build no fewer than 3.9 million toilets annually to meet the ending open defecation practice by 2025 target.
Jane Bevan, UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), said this on Monday at the opening of a two-day Maiden Toilet Business Owners Conference in Abuja.
Ms Bevan said that current toilet construction in the country stood between 180,000 – 200,000 toilets annually, describing it as inadequate.
She said the conference was timely as toilet business owners were key to ending open defecation challenges in Nigeria.
A report from the Bureau of statistics stated that the average household size is five persons; twelve per cent of household members are children under five years of age. Ten per cent of the households have at least one person living with disabilities while the proportion of household members living with disabilities is 5.2 per cent. This is about 10 million people in Nigeria living with disabilities. One in five households are headed by women and one-third of the households (29.8 per cent) are headed by individuals with no education.
Access to Improved Water Facilities: the households in Nigeria that use improved source of drinking water are 73.4 percent. South West Zone recorded the highest percentage of households with improved main source of drinking water (87.0 percent), closely followed by South East and South South with 82.9 and 77.0 percent respectively. The lowest was North West with 62.8 percent
Access to Improved Sanitation: Nationally, 57.4 percent of households have access to improved sanitation facility. On zonal basis, South East recorded the highest percentage of households with 70.8 followed by South West with 67.6 percent while North West recorded the least percentage of households with 39.4. However, 24.4 percent of household members in Nigeria still practice open defecation. North central recorded the highest percentage of household members involved in this practice with 53.9 percent followed by South West with 28.0 percent while North West had the least with 10.3 percent.
Access to Hygiene: The household heads that had knowledge of at least two critical times for hand washing in Nigeria is 91.4. South East and South West recorded 98.8 and 94.5 percent respectively, while North East recorded the least percentage of 82.4. On the other hand percentage figure of households with fixed place for hand washing with water and soap under running water nationally is 22.1. South East recorded the highest percentage of 32.1, followed by North East while North West recorded the least percentage of 18.4.
(Data source: National Bureau of Statistics & Federal Ministry of Water Resources).
Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA. 

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