Urban open defecation persists despite FG’s 2025 goal

The problem of open defecation persists as a serious issue in Nigeria. Despite the best efforts of governments and NGOs, this remains a problem.

The Nigerian Institution of Environmental Engineers (NIEE) voiced similar concerns about the prevalence of open defecation at a recent gathering.

The memorial lecture was held in Lagos in honor of Chief Samuel Fadahunsi, and during it the organization demanded that the Federal Government supply portable toilets in public markets.

The national chairman of NIEE, Odukoya Moses, expressed disappointment that the WASH sector lacks the infrastructure to combat open defecation, as just 20% of states have contemporary toilet facilities in place.

WASH-NORM reported last year that over 48 million Nigerians still use open defecation, and the NIEE’s call lent validity to that number.

The research, which was published in June of 2016, once again highlighted the threats posed by the practice in Nigeria, and more specifically in Lagos State, where it is rapidly becoming the standard.

About 48 million Nigerians still engage in open defecation, according to the WASH-NORM, a yearly national evaluation on the status of water, sanitation, and hygiene services, which published its 2021 Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH-NORM) III Report.

Despite the passage of Executive Order 009, “The Open Defecation-Free Nigeria by 2025 and Other Related Matters Order,” by former President Muhammadu Buhari, the practice of open defecation persists.

The WASNORM research showing 48 million Nigerians engage in open defecation places Nigeria in second place globally among countries with such a hazardous behavior, making the executive order all the more timely.

Miscreants, deviants, and the stranded and destitute have swarmed the country’s largest cities, especially Lagos, urinating and defecating everywhere they can find a place to do so.

There are numerous environmental health risks that the development has put residents in the path of. This is the fate of many places in Nigeria, including the country’s undisputed cultural capital, Lagos State.

From the get-go

People used to frequently urinate on the shoulder or at the corner of busy thoroughfares like expressways and motorways, and even in the gutters themselves. People defecating along the sides of highways and expressways was another familiar sight.

While doing so, however, they would constantly seek cover among the sparse grasses and bushes available to them. They similarly made sure to do it no more than fifty meters from the road.

The situation has evolved since then. People no longer feel the least bit of embarrassment or anxiety when they urinate or defecate in public. Instead, bystanders avert their gaze and quickly leave the scene when they see such gruesome scenes.

Open defecation advocates have launched a full-scale assault on the city of Lagos, as seen by the presence of human waste along the city’s train lines and key roadways (especially those that are currently under construction). The waterways are included, and people of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and occupations participate. This offensive and disgraceful behavior is progressively transforming the epicenter into a hub for open defecation, with all the health problems that entails.

Such curiosities abound on the new 10-lane Lagos-Seme expressway, which is still under construction. Able-bodied young males can be observed urinating and defecating on the new road from Mile 2 to Agboju at any time of day, but especially in the morning and evening.

Both sexes partake, although men are more often the ones who commit the crimes. They soil and deface the road with human waste, releasing a foul odor that can damage people’s sense of smell and lead to health issues for those in the area.

The bravery and flair shown by those engaged in this ignominious crime makes one question whether they are otherwise mentally stable. In some cases, three, four, or even five of them can be observed smoking cigarettes and defecating in close proximity to one another.

Some individuals, though, like to take their bowl down to the river or lagoon shore.

Under duress, they will slink over to the lagoon’s edge and relieve themselves there. They are brave and proud to do it, just like the ones that do it on the road. They sometimes do it in small groups of two or three, smoking cigarettes or marijuana like their colleagues on the streets.

The two groups have something in common: they both have the unusual confidence to stare menacingly into the eyes of the passers-by, who are usually forced to avert their gaze and quicken their stride in order to escape the area.

DAILY POST probes found that persons with housing issues were disproportionately represented among those partaking in the act. People in places like Lagos often resort to living in less than ideal conditions, such as in garages, makeshift stores, or even abandoned vehicles.

It was also discovered that persons residing in homes without access to indoor plumbing play the game regularly. They’re the ones who routinely use black nylon bags to defecate in and then carelessly discard in the street.

Buraimoh John, a self-described roadside auto mechanic in Lagos, commented on the situation, saying that the government was to fault because it had refused to care for its residents.

Mr. John claimed that it is wrong to build public restrooms and charge people N20 to N50 to use them, as the vast majority of persons who engage in this behavior have no means of paying even this small sum.

He argued that these facilities should be abundant and free of charge because some people are so poor that they would rather spend N20 on urination than on other, more pressing needs, especially since they can urinate in the gutter or on the side of the road without fear of being harassed or arrested.

He said, “What a great city. Numerous events take place. In “face me-I face you” type houses, some landlords do not supply tenants with bathrooms. Where then do you propose that these squatters relieve themselves?

The solution is plain to see. They’d do it wherever it was most convenient for them. There are also hundreds of thousands of individuals who are without shelter in major urban centers like Lagos. Some of them don’t even have a safe place to sleep. And so they sleep in garages and by the roads.

For instance, many Lagosians make their homes along the still-under-construction 10-lane motorway connecting Lagos with Badagry and Seme. The amount of people braving the elements and traffic to sleep on the side of the road after 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. is much higher than you might expect.

The government is to fault for all of these problems. Shelter is one of man’s three fundamental needs, and the government should be able to provide it. Men value shelter as much as they do food and clothing.

“A decent government ought to be able to give that to its people. In addition, free, easily accessible, and conveniently located public restrooms should be made available to all residents of a major metropolis like Lagos.

However, it is not the case in this location. People have to pay a lot of money to use one of the few public restrooms that aren’t clean. That is the height of evil, and it’s why so many people turn to wreaking havoc on nature. Please, have the government start taking care of its duties.

Mrs. Chinyere Anokwuru, president and founder of the SelfWorth Organisation for Women Development, sees this as a potential threat to public health.

‘I don’t think it’s right,’ she added sincerely. This is a terrible idea. In reality, it’s a time bomb for people’s health. It’s not something to promote.

She has a theory that many of the homeless people living in garages and under bridges in Lagos are responsible for similar crimes.

“In my opinion, the majority of individuals responsible are homeless persons who spend their nights under the bridge in Lagos. “We shouldn’t be giving them any hope,” she argued.

She believes the government should have a significant role in finding a solution.

I believe the government should put more portable toilets in public places. Communities and governments near the sites of such incidents can pitch in to offer mobile toilets in exchange for a small donation.

The individuals concerned will appreciate the change because “when such provisions are made, the people involved will also understand that it is better than doing their stuff on the road; I don’t think it is nice,” she said.

She voiced concern for the children who can be exposed to various diseases in such an environment and urged everyone to do their part to discourage such practices.

The problem is compounded when nearby children accidentally foot in human waste.

“I believe those in the vicinity of such places should warn one another; they should have the guts to inform those engaging in such behavior that it is wrong. They need to be warned against doing that while driving. It’s not something anyone would want to see. The concept alone is repulsive to me.

“Whoever is doing that should stop; they should desist because it could easily lead to an epidemic in such areas,” she warned.

Actor psychology

When asked about the mental health implications of such behavior, Dr. Leonard Okonkwo, a consultant psychologist at Lagos University Teaching Hospital in Ikeja, suggested that the individuals in question may be perfectly healthy.

He said it was because of the “bandwagon effect,” which gains traction when a society fails to explicitly denounce an idea or practice.

By saying, “Abnormality has nothing to do with deviant behavior,” he put an end to any and all speculation that the perpetrators’ mental health was in any way related to their criminal actions. When people act in ways that are considered aberrant by society, you call it deviant.

People are doing these things because they have seen others do them and no one has penalized them, as you have found. As a result, people accept this way of life as the usual.

He added that the location of the act also has a significant role in determining whether the people involved should be considered normal or deviant.

Their mental health is directly related to the location of the act. Ajegunle, Oshodi, and Victoria Island (VI): Where do you find this practiced? He remarked, “Ask questions when you see someone doing it in VI; that’s a highly odd area for people to conduct such things.

Furthermore, he states that “sometimes you could find people who do this thing because it is not really seen as abnormal since others are doing it,” reiterating the role of the bandwagon effect in the situation. If others are doing it under pressure and getting away with it, then many more people will do it too.

Again, when there are no alternatives, people just make use of whatever is available,” he remarked, remembering that necessity is often the mother of creation. People will do what they have to do if they are pushed and no other options are presented to them.

“I am still trying to say that the people doing this are most likely not abnormal,” she continued, “because there are things that the majority of the people in society will do, especially when they do not have any alternative.”

He criticized the administration, asking, “Even though there are legislations against some of these behaviors, how much of it has been enforced?” in reference to the laws that already exist against such actions.

How much of a public profile does enforcement have, if any? I don’t know how many times you’ve heard that someone got five months in jail for defecating in the street. So it’s just accepted as the standard now.

Furthermore, what is the literacy rate in our country? The vast majority of people in this culture are illiterate and so unaware of current events. This means that people are more likely to imitate the behaviors of those around them.

Regarding if individuals who do so in the water are in the same position as those who do so on the road, he replied, “I know it is something that is used to be done a lot in the village where people’s level of awareness is very low.”

Even in the hamlet, people are aware of the effects of the water and will go to the downstream area of a stream if they need to do that. That’s why they head for safer waters downstream. Therefore, most of the time, individuals simply consider it common behavior because they encounter so many people engaging in it in that setting.

In conclusion, it is strongly advised against. I’m not making any judgments on whether or not the folks that engage in such behavior are normal or abnormal. It’s not always because they’re abnormal; sometimes it’s because the practice is socially acceptable in a given context, at which point it ceases to be viewed as odd.

You can’t label it as abnormal because there are examples of perfectly normal people engaging in those behaviors. I’ve also provided examples of when it’s appropriate to say that someone is abnormal. For instance, “you know that person is abnormal if they just jump out of a bus on Allen Avenue or in VGC or VI and begin to urinate by the side of the road.”

Relevance to medicine

According to Dr. Nneka Ossai, a medical professional, such behavior is unhealthy because it creates significant health risks, particularly for those in the immediate area.

She explained, “It has health implications because feces contain lots of bacteria and if anyone accidentally comes into contact with it and then touches the food or any edible thing being consumed by such a person, he or she could be infected with one disease or the other.”

She further elaborated on the danger this poses to people’s health by saying that it pollutes the air they breathe.

The air we breathe is also contaminated, she added. Those who work or spend time in such areas are more vulnerable to ingesting potentially fatal levels of germs through the oxygen they breathe.

“By breathing in this polluted air, they put themselves at risk for a wide range of bacterial infections.”

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