OPEN DEFECATION: Princess Bunmi G Oguntibeju Poised To Curb The Menace In Lagos State

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The United Nations has cried out that there is a global sanitation crisis and many African nations are not doing much to arrest the situation. Particular attention is drawn to Nigeria where poor hygiene has become a menace because of poor waste management and open defecation. The United Nations has noted that 3.5 billion people are still living without safely managed sanitation. This is alarming, and it is for his reason that the Civil Society Organizations on Community Advancement and Humanitarian Empowerment Initiatives (CSCHEI) is taking up the task, as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goal, to start the Sustainable Development Goal Club, build public toilets and boreholes, train civil servants and state government workers. Princess Bunmi G. Oguntibeju, the newly appointed Programme Director of CSCHEI, Lagos State, made this known in a Press Release to the media last week.
Princess Bunmi G. Oguntibeju is passionate about cleanliness, our environment, and as a change agent, about raising disciplined children.


Below are excerpts from the interview with Emdee David:

Emdee David: The United Nations is concerned about the menace of Open Defecation in Nigeria. You are from the South West, but in Lagos where you live, open defecation is daily reported and refuge management is still not at its best.
Are you concerned? And Why?

BOG: YES, I am concern. Why? As director of the programme, Lagos of CSCHEI our primary aim is to domesticate the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of the United Nations. One of the major angles of the UN is to stop open defecation, which has gradually become a major epidemic, particularly in Lagos, Ibadan and Ogun States, and especially the axis of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, between Berger and Kara Bridge. Residents are beginning to fear that if nothing is done, or action is not taken drastically, health crises may arise, an outbreak of ailing and health issues especially for children from the stench that comes from this area. It has become part of life for miscreants to openly defecate without any remorse. So as a platform that is coordinating NGOs for all CSOs, working hand in hand with the UN, it is our prerogative to ensure that the citizens are educated about this health hazard. We have to take action, and we have to be proactive, as we all know, the government cannot do it alone, especially as the nation is facing different challenges, insecurity and all, it is our duty to be part of achieving sustainable development goals 2030.


Emdee David: 3.5 billion people are still living without safely managed sanitation. Do you think this is the fault of the Government or individuals?


BOG: I think it is a two-way thing. The government failed in its responsibility to provide basic amenities for the people. Individuals also capitalized on the failure of the government to become lawless. But then, like I said, government is not an illusion. When we say government, we part of it. The ability to know what is right and do it is something that the family is responsible for imbibing in children as they grow. Again, I will not be too harsh on the people, what you don’t know, you don’t know. The government has a role, and we as parents, and change agents, all need to be deliberate in educating people; they may not just know that the stench that comes out of what they do is pollution. It is pollution, so the government has to up its game and play its part. Where is the NOA, National Orientation Agency? where is their role in all of this? It serves to say we have politicised every area and aspect of governance which is the telltale sign we have. Nigeria, one of the countries that signed the SDG is still on the lower part of the ladder. So both angles, on both sides, we have our failing, maybe 70-30, government 70 and the people, 30. Because if they don’t know they don’t know. And this is why CECHEI is starting up our SDG Club in schools, particularly in primary school. Where we feel that students and pupils should be educated on the importance of cleanliness, and the necessity of maintaining a clean environment and letting them know that open defecation, apart from the fact that is it not dignifying, is polluting the environment and can lead to an epidemic.


Emdee David: In Lagos state, you could see the streets, under the bridges, and by refuse dumps, all littered with human poo. Is the government bothered about the health hazard this could cause?
BOG: Well open defecation is number 6 SDG of the UN – an end to the Open Defecation. Lagos as a state had not really lived up to expectations. Of course, they are aware, and they make public pronouncements about it but I am yet to see that deliberate step and responsibility on the side of the government towards an end to open defecation. Many things come in hand in putting an end to open defecation, there are a lot of responsibilities – the Ministry of Environment, for instance, I see them only being concerned about LAWMA, managing of waste. However, I think there should be a parastatal or another sub-agency under LAWMA whose responsibility is to see that there is an end to open defecation. You’d still drive around Lagos and see people openly defecating, in a state that we claim is world-class? No. It is of essence that we rise to the occasion so we don’t have an epidemic on our hands.

That is why CSCHEI has come up as a coordinating NGO to work in tandem with other CSOs as an agent of change to ensure that by the year 2030, Nigeria, if not fully achieved a higher rate of success in attaining SDG, would have been seen to have done better. So, to answer your question, seriously, the government is not doing enough to arrest the situation.


Emdee David: In what way do you think you and the Lagos State government can collaborate to fight against Open defecation? Has any practical action been considered?

BOG: We are hoping that the Lagos state government will collaborate with us. We have our plans and blueprints. One of our core concerns is to end open defecation. Therefore, as a change agent organization, we will be building public toilets in local government in Lagos. As I said, in the area of advocacy, which is just one out of all the things we will be doing, we will be educating students, pupils, and undergraduates, on why open defecation is dangerous, and hazardous to our health. So definitely, I am looking forward to a synergy with the Lagos state government. I have met with Rasheed Shabi, Chairman of the Committee on Environment; I made an attempt to meet with the SSG, and I am yet to meet with the Lagos state governor, but I am hoping that all of these would be done in a short time so we can hit the ground running.


Emdee David: Is there any form of funding from the UN or CSCHEI to build public toilets?
BOG: Definitely, we have quite a handful of partners, we have some embassies that will be collaborating with us, the UN on its own, is concerned about the Sustainable development goal. So we are sure as we go ahead, funding will come from them and other donor agencies, and as a credible individual, the director general, Hon. Kunle Yusuf, MON, has been interested. We trust him that with his leadership there will be accountability. considering the fact that the driving force and the motivation driving this cause is to contribute our quota to care as individuals, knowing that the government cannot take all the responsibility, we will be able to deliver and make an impact so that our role as change agent will be felt, in a very short while.


Emdee David: Is there a way the private sector can be involved?
BOG: We can’t go all the way by ourselves, we expect that the private sector will be part of us, to perform their social responsibility to support us in whatever way. They could come out to donate or support us with public toilets. We look forward to partnering with the private sector, and the blue chip companies, even if the toilets would be branded in their company name. Building public toilets in their neighbourhood will go a long way. So the private sector responsibility will go a long way in something called Corporate Social Responsibility. So definitely, the private sector will support us.


Emdee David: What other ways do you think the public can be sensitized?

BOG: Advocacy. Stiff penalty, if caught openly defecating. The National Orientation
Agencies across states can be made more effective. Synergy with Markets, Motor parks, and Artisan leadership is key in educating their members, Etc.


Emdee David: Have you also considered using Social Media Influencers or Entertainment celebrities to enlighten the public?
BOG: Sincerely, it is on our to-do list. We will be using the Hashtag #saynotoopendefecation.


Emdee David: Beyond the cities, do you have plans to take your message and action to the rural areas where having toilets is a luxury?
BOG: Well funny enough, the rural areas have even more understanding and native intelligence to know that open defecation is not good. I notice that in rural areas, you see them go far into the bush to poo. It is only in towns and cities that you find people shamelessly doing their thing in public, to the disdain, and disgust of onlookers and travellers. That is not to say we will not go to the hinterlands. We will further educate them to do better and get better in the management of doing their business of pooing.
This is the area where we will be collaborating with local governments, and the ARGON president of each state, to effectively achieve this. We have a blueprint of exactly what to do.


Emdee David:: As the Programme Coordinator for CSCHEI in Lagos State, what are the specific goals you hope to achieve in the next year?
BOG: At the National, we have a plan; we have a blueprint as to what to do. In the first quarter, which is the next three months, our primary goal is to start the Sustainable Development Goal Club, build public toilets and boreholes, training of civil servants and state government workers. So definitely, we will get to achieve so much in one year. Right now, the first quarter is geared towards the programmes that we have mentioned.
As an individual, who is passionate about achieving the SDG, as a Nigerian ensuring that we are successful in the achievement of SDG as a country, I am passionate about advocacy, and mentoring; so the SDG is one part of our programmes that excites me. I am passionate as a change agent about cleanliness, about our environment, and about raising disciplined children. I see myself putting the fullness of my being into ensuring that Lagos, as a flagship state in this nation, will achieve so much and do better before the end of this year.
Finally, as Director of Programme CSCHEI, Lagos, my appeal to the Lagos State Government is that their support is sacrosanct. We create the environment we live in. All hands must be on deck to achieve success. This shouldn’t be business as usual.

~ Written by Emdee David

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