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Public toilets: Nigeria can do better


Sir: It is alarming to read that 4.5 billion people worldwide live without household toilets and hence body waste which needs to be disposed off properly, deface our environments and result in epidemics. Realising the Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure that everyone has access to a household toilet by 2030 in Nigeria is near impossible. There is a total disconnect in policies to adequately manage waste, punish offenders, coupled with landlord’s insensitivity. And tenants who don’t know their rights in Nigeria are legion, plus around us are staffers of coordinating and enforcement agencies who do nothing but to piss in the wind.

Why should lease-holders pay for offices without toilets in shopping complexes? In Port Harcourt, it is a novelty. You shouldn’t be surprised to read, that many shop owners defaecate inside their shops, in bags, which they dispose of at night. I can imagine the horrific job people make garbage collectors do. These collectors mistake contents in bags for straws only to grab muck. Others urinate inside buckets and in their shops. You can’t blame them. Where are the toilets? The country makes citizens grossly uncultured with no provision for public toilets, allowing them to defaecate in the open.

I was once offered the alternative in my friend’s office in Port Harcourt to urinate in a bucket when I got mightily pressed but couldn’t, and I had to go to a nearby gutter, in a narrow street to do so whilst looking over my shoulder, lest an ‘Eve’ coming sees me. Imagine my experience at Elekahia Housing Estate for instance. From time to time, I went to the shopping centre in the estate to bend my elbow. When you get pressed to urinate, you have to do it in the gutter because there are no rooms to do so. Surprisingly, the shopping centre in Elekahia Housing Estate built in the 1980s has two structures, originally built to be used as toilets to serve shop owners. No one bothered to make it functional, there are no fittings, seats, pipes etc. It is now used instead to pack things. The space earmarked for borehole to provide water was commandeered by a restaurateur and converted to a kitchen. Shop owners and visitors urinate openly.

I thought I could contribute my own quota to the development of the estate by putting the toilets into use, provide employment to three workers and manage the waste in the shopping centre effectively. I calculated wrongly. I went to the Housing Authority in charge of the estate, made my intentions known and I was asked to write an application and submit same with an architectural design of the structure in place. The latter cost me money. The application was to be handed to a senior official for delivery to the GM’s office. He did submit it and was returned to him the GM for verification and for final report to the GM before action could be taken. This was in the last quarter of 2016. Every time I went for status report I was told by my contact person that he needed a file to submit his report to the GM, not minding that same application came from the GM’s office without a file. We kept on waiting for office files to be brought to his office before he could work.

Close to one year later, the status remained the same until the officer in charge couldn’t find my application which was sent for verification and report by the GM.

He told me to apply again. That should have been for the third time. I was too adroit to do so. These fellows, government officials, landlords would continually piss in the wind while citizens are fraternally denied basic necessities. Who is there to provide people with toilets. You need go to villages and see Nigerians defaecating close to water bodies that they drink from, because there are no provisions for toilets. Would we ever grow beyond this point? Why should landlords be allowed to build homes, in many places, with only one toilet for families of more than 20 people and shops/offices without toilets are everywhere?

• Simon Abah, Abuja.

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