Now That Osinbajo Is Inspecting Toilets

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Now That Osinbajo Is Inspecting Toilets – Abimbola Adelakun

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Acting President Yemi Osinbajo paid a surprise visit to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport on Thursday and proceeded to inspect facilities that included carousels and the toilets. Afterwards, he told journalists that the airport was one of the major places where the government needed to ensure amenities work appropriately and that that the deficiencies he observed during his inspection would be corrected. I am not sure what Osinbajo saw in the toilets but from my experience, one of the best places to ever answer the call of nature in Nigeria is the Murtala Muhammed Airport. Anyone who inspects the toilets in those places can be forgiven for presuming that toilets in Nigeria are in fair condition and only needed a bit of upgrade here and there. If Osinbajo wants to see what toilets in Nigeria really look like, he will need a tour of Nigeria itself.

This piece was written by Abimbola Adelakun. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

The toilet situation in Nigeria is a major cultural problem that colludes with failure of urban planning, rural neglect, and endemic poverty. Toilets at Nigerian airports, while they are afflicted by the malignant Nigerian factor, do not as much as give a glimpse of the severity of the problem. Anyone who wants to know what the toilet situation looks like in Nigeria should visit the NYSC camps or Nigerian university hostels to see the dehumanising conditions in which this country nurtures the intellect of her youths. When they are done, they should visit public hospitals where one visit to the toilet can make the patient lose the will to live.

Nigerian motor parks, incidentally, have public toilets where you pay to use them but the lack of hygiene in those places is another problem entirely. I have learnt to control my unease and look another way each time I am at a motor park and a driver or bus conductor opens his fly and pees on the wheels of the vehicle. I have found that there is no point telling them to go use a toilet when we are both aware that either the toilets do not exist or they are in such horrible states that it makes no difference whether people pee outside or inside them.

Some toilets in fast food joints in Nigeria are in such abject states that their managers should forever  be banned from touching anyone’s food. Every now and then, images of toilets in police or Army barracks surface and one cannot but wonder how a people made to subsist in such denigrating conditions can carry out their jobs with required level of human decency.

Some public schools in Nigeria still use pit latrines and there are documented cases of pupils falling into those pit latrines largely because nobody thought there should be enforceable safety standards for those so-called toilets. In fact, there are private houses where the owners never even considered including a toilet in the building at all. In 2016, Lagos State shut down some houses that did not have a toilet. It makes one wonder, how could anyone have ever conceived the idea of building a house without including a plan for a toilet? Even in places where people have toilets in their houses, the perennial problem of poor water supply drives them to use open-air toilets and they end up infesting nature with the acidity of their waste.

As far back as 1990, UNICEF indicated that about 23 million Nigerians defecated in public. Some 11 years later, the figure had exponentially increased by 10 million. Since 2011 when UNICEF presented that astounding figure, the number of Nigerians that practise open defecation has shot up. UNICEF estimated 39 million in 2013 and 50 million in 2015. By 2016, the problem has worsened to the point that WaterAid, an international charity organisation, estimates that over 71 per cent of Nigerians lack access to safe and private toilets while over 25 per cent practise open defecation. Nigeria is also the number six country in the world where people defecate publicly, a figure that comes to an average number of 50 people per square metre. Add to that fact that we are Number 3 in the world on the list of countries where access to sanitation is low. WaterAid also notes that a disproportionate number of people who lack access to safe toilets and sanitary facilities are women. A 2012 study shows that 69 per cent of women cannot safely use toilet facilities without the threat of suffering some form of violence and harassment. UNICEF also estimates that Nigeria loses an average of 150,000 children every year to cases of diarrhoea, a problem exacerbated by poor toilet facilities, unsafe water and overall poor sanitation. All these figures should be considered intolerable for a country like Nigeria.

About half of Nigerian households use makeshift toilets and pit latrines but this too has tremendous negative environmental impact. Some studies have indicated that our poor and unregulated sanitary culture results in faecal contamination of underground water. All around us, there are grave environmental implications of people peeing or defecating in gutters publicly on refuse heaps, behind walls and fences, in streams and in runnels. The effect is almost inescapable even for those of us who have toilets in our houses. We regularly walk through public places infested with the stench of bodily waste and take in other people’s excrement through our nostrils. Even worse is the fact that in some of the places where people practise open defecation, they do not wrap their faeces in biodegradeable materials. Their utter lack of disregard for the environment haunts the rest of us in multiple ways. Our physical health is affected by poor sanitary conditions and it takes time and resources to nurture ourselves back to health. The lack of basic sanitary conditions of our society animalises us such that the evolutionary link between us and animals begins to appear considerably short. Of course, we are also psychologically depleted by our helplessness at fashioning simple workable schemes that can ease our national toilet situation.

While Osinbajo is getting some praise for deigning to inspect where the common man takes a leak, I still think that no President needs inspect toilets any more than the minister of health needs to inspect our foods to know whether we are getting enough protein or not. The bigger picture is that Nigeria has a bad toilet problem that requires complex solutions. He cannot see that from the guided tours provided by bureaucrats and politicians who will not let him see beyond what they want him to see. He will need to see that Nigeria, as it is currently constituted, is a gigantic open-air toilet where all kinds of scatological activities take place. Many Nigerians are already inured to the wretched reality of our unhygienic environment.

To combat our national toilet problems, we will need policies, ideas, visions, and comprehensive programmes that align with the Sustainable Development Goals. Nigeria will have to confront the problem of water supply. There was a time when water used to flow into our homes from state water corporation agencies but now those neglected underground pipes are bursting their innards and spilling all over the place. This is a problem that will require reworking the structures of our state and local government administration and how they impede development initiatives. We will also look at policies that will enable us to process waste into energy. We will need to consider aspects of our lives – from lifestyle and social habits to weather patterns – that can help us work out schemes that can make access to toilets a reality. Finally, we will need to re-orient our people who may be used to their ways that stooping in public to relieve oneself is what only animals should do without self-consciousness. We are humans, we should be better than that.

This piece was written by Abimbola Adelakun. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of



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