When nature calls, we must respond, however, how and where we respond – matters greatly. Open defecation is one of the ways people respond to nature calls, especially in places where they are no (or poor) toilet facilities. Currently, Nigeria with her developmental and infrastructural challenges has growing concerns in managing the menace of open defecation.
Lugbe community in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is one of such communities plagued with this challenge. In the words of Prince Mustapha, a Central Chairman in Lugbe community, “Open defecation is a great threat to us in this (Lugbe) community. At the district level, we have made various efforts to see how we can stop our people from defecating in the open. We recently reached out to the Abuja Municipal Area Council to help us build public toilets that can serve as an alternative for residents, especially for those in the market, bike men and other passersby.”
Right from the popular Police Sign Post Bus-stop, the sights and odour that welcomes one into this part of Lugbe Community affirm that the predominance of open defecation and confirms why it is of grave concern to the community. On a site visit, Rafiat Sule, a resident showed my colleague – Adesuwa Obasuyi and I around the community. The area is densely populated with scattered structures of residential structures, two large markets, places of worship – churches and mosques, and appalling sights of fresh and caked human faeces among solid waste littered the area, engulfing it with a very offensive odour.
Of a truth is, toilet facility isn’t completely missing. Gidan – wanka, which literally means “a house of washing” is a sort of privately managed sanitary facility and there are two within the area. Each Gidan – wanka with a source of running water is designed to serve three purposes, toilet, bath and laundry. Maybe four, since people come in to fetch water from the Gidan – wanka too. Abdulrahman, through his friend, Ibrahim who served as an interpreter shared with us how he runs the daily operation of the Gidan – wanka. “For everyone who walks in to use this facility, I charge #30 (thirty Naira), it doesn’t matter if they are coming in to do one or all the three things – toilet, bath and laundry. On the average, I get to make #500 (five hundred Naira) sometimes, I make close to #1000 (One thousand Naira). Most of the money goes to buying soaps and other cleaning materials to makes show the place remains clean.”
As available and convenient as this is, we wondered have open defection still remains rampant in the area. In his response, Abdulrahman stated: “Some people think the price is too high and they cannot afford it. Others just prefer to do it in the ‘natural way’ or consider the location of the Gidan – wanka is too far for them.”
Summarily, open defection may remain prominent in the area until the associated issues are addressed properly. There is a need for localized sensitization and a mindset change, equally, the existing two Gidan – wanka are underserving the community, particularly considering their locations. The community must work with agencies at the FCT level to ensure enforcement and better alternative uses for the existing location of open defecation.