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We will mobilise Nigerians in diaspora to invest in WASH, says Igwe

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
26 September 2022   |   4:08 am
Dr. Nicholas Igwe is the National Coordinator, Organised Private Sector in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (OPS-WASH).

Nicholas Igwe

Dr. Nicholas Igwe is the National Coordinator, Organised Private Sector in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (OPS-WASH). He spoke to CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM on why Nigeria is lagging behind in ending open defecation and the 2025 roadmap, as well as ways to ensure access to basic water services.

In 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed Executive Order 009 to end open defecation in the country by 2025. Why is the country still where it is in terms of open defecation, what are the challenges?
Executive Order 009 mandates that open defecation is prohibited and further mandates business to ensure that there is a provision of safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Though, Nigeria has displayed strong efforts in its political will to end open defecation in the country through various policy instruments, the gaps in the sector are huge. Government alone cannot bridge the financial, sustainability and efficiency gaps in the sector.

To see to the end of open defecation by 2025, concerted effort needs to come from all stakeholders, particularly the private sector. The latter is key as it is the stakeholder with the most resources and capacity to efficiently tackle the problem.

The implementation of legal and policy instruments is a key first step, but its implementation cannot work in isolation. Different stakeholders and partners need to come together to create and identify strategies to eradicate open defecation in the sector. States need to place these policy instruments at the forefront of their political agenda.

Does Nigeria have a roadmap towards eliminating open defecation and how committed are stakeholders in that regard, especially in delivery of sustainable sanitation and hygiene services to all citizens?
The roadmap sights 2025 as the target to end open defecation. Actions are being implemented at the state level – with the implementation of state specific roadmaps. Given the state of emergency, WASH is the number one development priority. The Federal Government remains highly committed but action needs to trickle down to states and Local Government Areas(LGAs).

The Federal Government set up multi-stakeholder committee chaired by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. It includes the Chairman of the State Governors and the President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in ensuring that action is trickled down. Development partners were also represented, as well as the private sector, which is represented by OPS-WASH.

Ekiti State and Kwara State are two state governments that have developed their own roadmaps to end open defecation. The Federal Government has shown the utmost dedication to the WASH sector. Since the instalment of the Partnership for Expanded Water Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) programme in 2018, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources has actively worked on policies and regulations creating an enabling environment for the private sector. 
This is against the backdrop of the 2030 target for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which Nigeria is a signatory.

Statistics show 46 million people lack access to toilets and still practice open defecation, while India with a population of billions has freed itself from the practice. What are the effort of the organised private sector in ending open defecation in the country?
There has been an international call for the private sector to bridge the financial, sustainability and efficiency gaps in WASH. Organised Private Sector in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (OPS-WASH) was established under the leadership of Sanitation and Water for All, using their mutual accountability and multi-stakeholder collaboration mechanisms.

It is for this reason that the OPS-WASH was inaugurated in 2019 as the private sector umbrella body for WASH by Minister, Suleiman Adamu. We are also the private sector representative for the Presidential Steering Committee chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. The private sector has significant resources to resolve the challenges.

Currently, about 48 million people are defecating in the open as per the 2021 WASH Norm report. OPS-WASH is housing business-led solutions for WASH, meaning we have provided a private sector driven platform to accelerate the Clean Nigeria: Use The Toilet Campaign. We cultivated pillars under which we intend to target various components of the campaign.

These are; One, financial Institutions: we have partnered with financial institutions to create innovative financial structures that will encourage corporations to invest in WASH. FMDQ Group has taken on our tax credit and blue bonds programme.

This is intended to compliment Executive Order 009 and create a tax incentive infrastructure for corporations to invest in WASH. It is one of the steps we are taking toward making the WASH sector attractive for investments.

Two, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): we have assisted Coca-Cola HBC in broadening their CSR projects to include WASH. They have kickstarted their sanitation project in six sites across the country. We also house private individuals, who have seen the value in investing in the sector.

Three, mobilising Nigerians in Diaspora: Nigerians in the Diaspora have significant roles to play given the remittances back home. OPS-WASH plans to mobilise two-million Nigerians in Diaspora to invest in WASH in their communities back home.

This has been kickstarted with the David Alaba Foundation Project in which FC Real Madrid Football star donated 13.3 Million Naira to his father’s home State (Ogun State).

Four, Sanitation Entrepreneurs: As we continue to build sanitation facilities across the country, there will be an increase in job creation, especially for operation and maintenance positions. Additionally, through our partnership with government agencies, such as Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) Federal Capital territory (FCT), we have been able to allocate land for entrepreneurs to invest in paid sanitation facilities in market-places.

Five, telecommunications: This industry is key in creating widespread behaviour change through the creation of various communications. This sector is best positioned to achieve this. We have continued building partnerships and relationships to come up with creative strategies to tackle all aspects of the Clean Nigeria Campaign.

The Ministries of Finance, Environment and major stakeholders from the water sector are opposed to a Bill seeking to establish a Clean Nigeria Agency tas they see it as duplications of efforts and resources? Do we need such bill? What are the gray areas in that bill?
We do not need a Bill, the president has already established Clean Nigeria Secretariat as well as the Clean Nigeria Campaign Steering Committee. It would not be an ideal use of resources to have multiple agencies with the same purpose.

Many, including the private sector have opposed this Bill. Instead, we should work on strengthening the systems we already have in place. This is one of the Sanitation and Water for All Objectives.

It is encouraging however to note that the Government is eager and willing to implement any legal instruments that will boost progress in the sector – though the Bill is unnecessary at this stage.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report said although about 70 per cent of Nigerians are reported to have access to basic water services, more than half of these water sources are contaminated. How do we ensure strong commitment and appropriate action by all stakeholders?
Private residences and business properties need to be held accountable for using improper and environmentally harmful sanitation and sewage systems which further contaminates water sources in addition to open defecation.

Widespread behaviour change campaigns are needed to make Nigerians aware of the urgency of the matter. As the FGN continues its push to ensure equal access to water, citizens should understand that although water is a human right, it is also an economic commodity which results in financial burden on the Government.

Once again, it is up to WASH stakeholders to creatively develop strategies to ensure that everyone has fair access to clean water. We are actively working with financial institutions to reach a point of equity as regards affordability of clean water. The country should continue its efforts to better regulate water quality.

World Toilet Organisation has named Nigeria as host of the World Toilet Day, for 2022. With the country lagging behind in the issue of water right in all its ramifications, what prompted its choice and how prepared is Nigeria to host the global community, and the gain for the economy?
The World Toilet Summit is held every year in commemoration of the United Nations World Toilet Day (Nov.19th). This is the result of the efforts of The World Toilet Organisation and founder – Jack Sim to bring international attention to the issues around global sanitation.

The World Toilet Organisation selects a host-country in most years (barring COVID-19) and other factors to hold the annual World Toilet Summit. This is a platform in which high-level delegates from all over the globe come together to discuss issues around the chosen theme. The host country is chosen based on the potential of that country to leave behind a strong legacy around resolving the issue on sanitation.

Although, Nigeria is number one in the world for open defecation, the ranking is juxtaposed by strong political will, which is often the most difficult aspect to achieve. It means that there is a great enabling environment for the creation of a booming sanitation economy. The Federal Government has been resilient and decisive in its strive to fulfil SDG 6.

Nigeria has an overwhelming potential for a strong sanitation economy, which will see to job creation, this is why the theme is sanitation innovations for economic development. The number of people practicing open defecation is so high that we will need to scale up sanitation solutions across the country. This accelerated drive will see to mass job creation and a boost in the overall health and productivity of the communities in Nigeria.

Hosting the summit will provide a perfect platform to formulate strategies and partnerships across all sectors and stakeholders to propel the Clean Nigeria Use The Toilet Campaign.

This year’s summit sponsors include Reckitt Benckiser, SATO part of Lixil Group, Zuloo Inc (USA), Hypo Toilet Cleaner of Tolaram Group, Holborn Nigeria Limited, Islamic Development Bank and Coca-Cola (HBC) Nigerian Bottling Company.

The event has also attracted the support of global development partners including UNICEF, Sanitation and Water for All and the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund based in Geneva.

Since the theme of the summit is Sanitation Innovations for Economic Development, there will be a tech exhibition from some of the global sanitation technology leaders, including Faecal Sludge Management Alliance (FSM Alliance), SATO, Holborn plastics and more.

President Muhammadu Buhari will be in attendance, UN Secretary General Amina Mohammed and Minster of Water Resources will also be in attendance, as well as state governors.
Panels will dwell on areas such as scaling up the sanitation, economy for national development, potentials for toilet economy, circular and smart sanitation economy.