Vice President Kashim Shettima
VP Urges Doctors to Stay and Help Build a Better Nigeria

Cholera: Shettima Inaugurates Committee to End Open Defecation

Vice President Kashim Shettima on Thursday said the Federal Government has commenced measures to combat the cholera epidemic by tackling the causes, including open defecation.

Consequently, he affirmed that the Bola Tinubu administration is poised to end open defecation by 2025.

The Vice President spoke on Thursday when he inaugurated the Steering Committee for the “Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet” Campaign at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said the FG could end open defecation by mobilising strategic stakeholders, leveraging technology, and deploying innovative and sustainable solutions to boost the nation’s sanitation landscape.

The Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Communications, Mr Stanley Nkwocha, revealed details of the ceremony in a statement titled, ‘Clean Nigeria Initiative: FG tackles cholera from the root, intensifies bid to end open defecation.’

His comments follow the recent outbreak of Cholera, which has affected several states, including Lagos.

From January to June 2024, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported at least 3,000 suspected cases, with 65 confirmed and 30 deaths across 96 local government areas in 30 states.

Bayelsa, Zamfara, Abia, Cross River, Bauchi, Delta, Katsina, Imo, Nasarawa, and Lagos are the most affected states.

Shettima, who underscored the significance of hygiene, health and its impact on development and wealth, urged the committee to “align with broader government priorities and interventions in areas such as poverty reduction, education, and economic growth.”

He said the recently reported cases of cholera in Nigeria should be sufficient motivation for the committee to work harder, just as he directed members of the committee to “craft solutions to handle wastewater management, contaminated water sources, and open defecation” across the country.

Shettima also expressed confidence that members of the team “will commit to research-driven approaches in our bids to deliver on our promise to make the nation clean.

“We are well aware that achieving this objective begins with our collective resolve to embrace behavioural change and cultivate a lifestyle that prioritizes proper sanitation practices, hygiene education, and community engagement,” he added.

He stressed that the goals and aspirations of the country could be best achieved by harnessing the resources available in the public and private sectors, especially by carrying out innovative research.

“The public sector cannot succeed in this campaign unless we engage and encourage private sector participation and invite innovative and sustainable solutions.

“We must partner by utilising technology for real-time monitoring, data collection, and impact assessment while recognizing the role of youth and women in driving change,” the VP emphasised.

Aside from its core mandate, the Vice President tasked the committee to be vigilant in its assignment, especially “as we develop solutions to the devastations of climate change, urbanisation, and population growth,” noting that “we have become ambassadors of a cause that seeks to restore the health and dignity of our people.”

The meeting which is the fifth since the flag-off of the Clean Nigeria Campaign in 2019 provides a forum to review the progress achieved so far in the country.

Earlier, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate, recalled that in the bid to tackle the Cholera epidemic, which he said is ravaging the country in 33 states, with 2,000 cases and 33 deaths, the Federal Executive Council, at its last meeting, also commissioned a cabinet committee to deal with the issue.

He said, “That cabinet committee comprises Water, Education, Environment, Aviation, and almost all the relevant ministries. Open defecation is part of the drivers of this Cholera outbreak that we are seeing.

“But we also have a good example of a sub-national unit doing very well in Jigawa State, which has been declared open defecation-free.

“That is a good example showing that sub-national units can help us address this issue. So, we really appreciate your leadership and commit ourselves to supporting this effort so that we can end open defecation in Nigeria.”

Presenting the report on ‘Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet Campaign’, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Prof. Joseph Terlumun Utsev, said the report covers both challenges and successes since its establishment in 2016 and was inaugurated and signed into law in 2019.

According to him, the campaign is a transformative initiative to eradicate open defecation in Nigeria in the year 2025, noting that the campaign was aimed at getting all stakeholders to join and tackle open defecation which currently ranked Nigeria as the second largest country that practices open defecation in the world, next to India.

He said the 2018 Water and Sanitation Hygiene national outcome revealed that approximately 47 million Nigerians engaged in open defecation, constituting 23 per cent of the population.

The minister highlighted the objectives of the campaign to include a nationwide campaign, mobilising support and resources at both the national and sub-national levels to fight the menace and creating a pool of resource persons and spoke actors in mobilising the people in all strata of the society to imbibe in the culture and self-sanitation, as well as setting the mechanism for tracking progress, sharing knowledge and lessons.

In the report, the Minister warned that open defecation has its own economic, social, and health impact on the national outlook of the country, noting that in 2016, a road map was made by the previous administration and an investment of about N959bn would be required.

“The idea was that money would be used in the construction of toilets in both the households and national levels.

“25,000 toilets would be constructed at the rural level and 50,000 toilets at the urban level, but as of today, things have changed and a review was needed.

“With that, there was an approval of N10.4bn to be given annually for the implementation of the exercise and we, 48 million people, have changed their behaviour and 9.4 million toilets were to be built across the 33 states and the FCT with this estimation,” the Minister explained.

The minister solicited the support of the Ministries of Finance and Justice for the success of the campaign.