Open Defecation: Traditional, Religious Leaders Want Laws to Punish Offenders

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…As UNICEF Pledges Support for Review of LGA Bye-laws

By: Mayen Etim

KADUNA, North-West, Nigeria –
Traditional and religious leaders in Kaduna state have decried lack of appropriate laws to implement the campaign against open defecation.
Their worries are as a result of citizens’ continuous habit to practice open defecation in most communities in the state; and thereby called on the Local Government Council to provide laws to back up enforcement.
The leaders who spoke during an ODF sensitization meeting for traditional and religious leaders organized by UNICEF, on Saturday, May 18, 2019, in Kafanchan Jema’a LGA, unanimously agreed that the best way to easily attain the ODF is that government should assist them with enabling laws to enforce the campaign.
The District Head of Asso in Jema’a LGA, Barnabas Samaila said the law has become imperative because there is a level they could go when it comes to penalizing their subjects.”It is important that the LG come up with a law because sometimes we do have problems with our subjects  in terms of enforcement. some will tell you that there is no law that gives you that power. That is why we need those laws,” he added.

According to him, there was a time he gave an order to every household in his district to make sure they provide at least a pit toilet in their houses, few of them obeyed while others default; saying “with a law, it will back up whatever action that will be taken.”

Reacting to the traditional and religious leaders demand, Chairman Zango-Kataf LGA, Dr. Elias Manza, assured that the LGAs will not waste time to ensure that such laws are put in place in a very short time.

“This demand is just emerging, the fact that this is being brought up for us to key in, is something that we need to work together with the district heads, community leaders and leaders of the LGAs in order to ensure we overcome the issue of open defecation. And the law will be in place in a short time from now.

“One of the major things the district heads raised is that if we do not have any laws with which to confront people, it will be difficult, it’s a good idea. There is no reason we should not support the bye-laws; whether to review the  existing one or  to put up another one”.

“One would definitely want to support this view that it will make it easier for those who would be required to implement content of the bye-laws to do so with some level of ease,” he explained.

Dr. Manza, said, realizing that open defecation could lead to different challenges and various diseases and the fact that health system in the country is not as strong as anyone would wish, the extent to which UNICEF is going about the campaign is commendable and is now left for the LGAs to do what is required of them.

He expressed hope that ending open defecation in the state is possible, but however noted that, “what usually happens is sad to say; we are generally low in discipline, but with vigorous campaigns across the different strata of our society, with different stakeholders to have as many people to buy in.

“And with the elements of the bye-laws we are talking about and people know that it is mandatory for them to have toilets in their houses, there is no reason why we’ll not achieve an open defecation free society.”

Also speaking, Vice Chairman of Jema’a LGA, Mr. Mgboni Micah Digah, who noted that open defecation has really affected the people especially those in the rural areas, due to their ignorance, said the time has come for LGs to take responsibility of sensitizing the people that open defecation is not healthy for their lives.

“I assure you that we as a LG will enforce it using the the WASH Department  in particular to sensitize people at the rural areas so that within the shortest possible time open defecation will be history,” he said.

The WASH Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna Field Office, Theresa Pamma, pledged the Fund’s support for the review of the LGAs bye-laws.

“We are going to support the LGAs through the state to review LGA bye-laws, I know that there exists local government bye-laws in the past, but have become obsolete, so we are going to  work towards supporting  government in reviewing these laws and also ensure the implementation is supported at the LGA level.

“We will also create much awareness amongst key stakeholders,” she said.

On her assessment of the ODF campaign in the four LGAs of; Kachia, Jaba, Jema’a and Zango-Kataf who were at the meeting, Mrs. Pamma, said “all the LGAs have improved, but with all sincerity the most improvement have come from Jaba and Kachia LGAs.

“When we started it we didn’t have a single community that was ODF. All the project LGAs in the state have some open defecation free communities now in the four LGAs that are here, while we have quite a number of communities that have stopped open defecation completely.

“The highest number of ODF communities that we have are from Kachia LGA; 447, followed by Jaba 255. But if you look at the number of communities in each of these LGAs, then most progress has come from Jaba LGA. And we are looking forward to Jaba being declared ODF in a couple of weeks or months.

“Our target is to see Kaduna state becoming ODF. We want Kaduna citizens to have access to at least a toilet. We don’t want a single person in the state; whether old or young, male or female to defecate in the open. We want everybody to make use of toilet and practice effective handwashing.

“That’s a key way of eliminating or preventing transmission of diseases like Cholera, Typhoid, Diarrhea and Vomiting among others.

“So if you have people defecating in toilets and using them effectively along with the practice of effective hand washing, then we have gone a long way to reducing the transmission of excreta related diseases.”

It will be recalled that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2018, declared its determination to ensure that Kaduna state is declared Open Defecation Free, (ODF), by 2025 with the implementation of the Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria (SHAWN II) project.

SHAWN II is a United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, (DFID), funded project being managed  by UNICEF with counterpart funding for community water supply from Kaduna State Government in the 22 LGAs under Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Project.

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