Nature is inevitable. When it calls, no one can ignore. But could this be the reason many Nigerians respond in the most disgusting way that could attract negative implications apart from portraying humans as the worst animals on earth?
Today, it is common to find human faeces in open spaces even in the best cities across the country.
From the backyard of an average compound in Nigeria, to public places such as railways, motor parks, airport terminal buildings, filling stations, footpaths, highways, street roads, playing grounds, prayer houses, forests and stadiums, we find faeces.
Unfortunately, this common act has earned Nigeria the rating as the country with the largest number of people that defecate in the open, in Africa and second largest globally, after India.
According to the 2018 National Outcome Routine Mapping(NORM) report, 47 million Nigerians defecate in the open while the country loses N455 billion(US$ 1.3b) annually due to poor sanitation.
Obviously, adequate sanitation with good hygiene and safe water are fundamental to good health, social and economic development. This is why, in 2008, the Prime Minister of India quoted one of his predecessors, Mahatma Gandhi, as saying in 1923, “Sanitation is more important than independence”.
To Ghandi, improvements in one or more of these three components of good health can really reduce the rates of various severe diseases and improve the quality of many people’s life, particularly children, in developing countries like Nigeria.
Every society is recognized based on how it responds to, and manages human waste. But how true is this in Nigeria of today?
It is common to see people selling foods, sleeping, eating and drinking beside human faeces in Lagos and across the 36 states of the federation.
Several questions have been raised on why many Nigerians engage in open defecation. Sadly, there seems to be no definite answer to these questions. While some claimed open defecation is due to poverty and lack of government support in providing toilet facilities, in cases where the facilities are available, people still end up defecating in the open.
A case in point is Mr. Emeka Agwuenyi who told Sunday Vanguard that, even with his education, he cannot quit doing it in the bush.
“I cannot afford to do it in a small room always. I don’t enjoy using toilet in Lagos. This is why anytime I am in the village I feel free doing it in the bush”.
Like Emeka, many people claimed doing it in the open gives them a kind of fulfilment, freedom and joy. Others do it due to cultural beliefs such as “it is forbidden to share toilets with women of reproductive age.”
Emeka and the rest of the 47 million Nigerians who do it openly must have been doing so out of ignorance of the implication of their action. Experts say regardless of the reasons to justify their actions, if human faeces are not handled properly, it can cause serious health challenges to public sources of water supply.