A Bill to establish the Clean Nigeria Agency for prohibition of open urination and defecation today went through public scrutiny with many government agencies and the private sector offering divergent views.
The bill, which was debated at a public hearing at the National Assembly, was received with mixed reactions as some presentations gave it knocks while others hailed the effort.
The session was organised by the Bello Mandiya-led Senate Committee on Water Resources to find ways of eradicating the menace.
The sponsor and member of the Committee, Senator Clifford Ordia, said the exercise was meant to gather divergent views from the public to aid in passing the bill.
He said the bill would also complement the Presidential Executive Order 009 on enforcement and sanctions against Open Defecation System (ODS).
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said the bill was necessary due to its implications on the size of the population, public welfare and the environment.
He urged the Committee to review presentations and arrive at fair and enduring decisions in public interest.
In one of the presentations, the Society for Water and Sanitation, stressed the need for proper coordination and synergy on Sanitation and environmental issues between states and local governments
“State governments should strengthen their contributions to the issues because water and sanitation matters are human rights,” National Coordinator of the society, Attah Benson, said.
He called for a national law on the issues “so that state governments will not take it as a favour”.
The local governments need to be enhanced and made functional to carry out the duties at grassroots.
Senator Bello Mandiya, Chairman, Senate Committee on Water Resources, expressed concern that in spite of huge funds and availability of personnel with capacity, Nigeria still ranked the highest among countries that practised open defecation.
Mandiya (APC-Katsina South) expressed shock that Nigeria had not attained significant progress in sanitation after four years of a committee to tackle the situation.
“Why have we not done well like India that tackled its situation within four years?”
“Why are we where we are now in spite of what you all said you have been doing well and very hard to improve the sanitation situation?”
During a presentation that shocked the audience, representatives of the Federal Ministry of Environment expressed opposition to the bill, saying Clean Nigeria project was a campaign.
“Already, there is a proliferation of agencies, but the current bill addressed only one out of 15 components of water and sanitation in Nigeria.
“We are shocked to see the Bill which is just one aspect.”
“To tackle environmental matters, there is need to build and strengthen our capacity and restore the functions of Sanitary Inspectors”
Similarly, Mr Nicholas Igwe, National Coordinator for Organised Private Sector, Sanitation and Hygiene, expressed regrets that sanitation matters had “sent many Nigerians to their graves” since many died of water borne and environmental diseases.
He, however, explained that the bill was retrogressive, instead of progressive because it failed to address technical matters.
Igwe said the bill, if passed, should accelerate the process of ending open defecation.