Open defecation: Stakeholders fault Clean Nigeria Agency Bill

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The Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Finance have faulted a bill seeking to establish Clean Nigerian Agency for the eradication of open defecation in the country.

They were part of stakeholders who made presentations at a public hearing by the Senate on a bill for an Act to establish the Nigerian Clean Agency to prohibite open urination, defecation to keep Nigerian clean and disease free on Monday in Abuja.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Clifford Ordia (PDP- Edo).

Ordia in his presentation said the bill sought to make rules, issue guidelines and regulations for the construction and operations of public toilets.

He said the agency, when established would certify public toilet facility to be fit for use by members of the public.

He said the agency would have powers to shut down any public place that does not meet the required standard of public toilet facility prescribed by the agency among other functions.

However, speaking against establishment of the agency, the Director, Legal Services, Ministry of Evironmment, Mrs. Helen Obayagbon said the ministry was opposed to the bill.

She said the bill was trying to convert a fragment of waste management component of sanitation into an agency,adding that there were 15 components of sanitation.

According to her, creating an agency for a fragment of one component of sanitation would mean creating more than 15 agencies on sanitation alone.

This, she noted would result in waste of government resource adding that the ministry of environment has the mandate of coordinating environmental sanitation activities in all sectors of Nigeria.

She noted that the ministry and its agencies were neither informed nor consulted on the proposed agency.

She said the creation of the agency would not only amount to duplication of functions but also conflict in roles of the ministry and its existing agency.

She called for further strengthening of the capacity of sanitation officers of the ministry via capacity building, and improved funding to execute its functions.

The representative of the Ministry of Finance Mrs Ati Amali, an Assistant Director, Legal said there were existing agencies of government performing same role with the proposed agency.

She said the establishment of agency would mean further duplication of agencies of government.

She advised that further programmes should be development to further eradicate issues of open defecation in the country.

The National President, Environmental Health Officers Association of Nigeria (EHOAN), Mr Jamilu Shuaibu said the bill was inconsistent with the provisions of the fourth scheduled of the 1999 constitution as amended.

He said the Constitution vested the role of maintenance and regulations of public convenience on the local government councils.

He said the 774 local councils have been performing the role via their Environmental Health Services Department.

He said the agency, if established would be an additional liability on government.

He, however, recommended that the relevant government Ministries, agency responsible for environmental sanitation be empowered to produce a national policy with corresponding guidelines in toilet and urinals in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

He also recommend that existing agencies in the federal, states and local government should be strengthened to perform their functions more effectively.

Ealier, in his opening remark, Chairman, of the Committee Sen.Bello Mandiya, noted that there was an urgent need to eradicate open urination and defecation in the country.