The ministries of finance and environment and other stakeholders in the environment sector on Monday rejected a bill that seeks to prohibit open defecation and urination in the country.
The bill titled: “Clean Nigeria Agency (Establishment) Bill, was sponsored by Senator Clifford Ordia (PDP Edo).
The ministries and other critical stakeholders spoke against the piece of legislation at a one-day public hearing on the bill organised by the Senate Committee on Water Resources at the National Assembly, Abuja.
They said it was unnecessary to establish a new agency to fight open urination and defecation in a country with an estimated 46 million people with no access to toilets.
In his opening remarks, Chairman, Senate Committee on Water Resources, Senator Bello Mandiya (APC, Katsina), noted that there was an urgent need to eradicate open urination and defecation in the country because of their adverse effect on the environment and health of the people.
Mandiya said: “This Bill seeks to create an agency to prohibit open urination and defecation in the country.
“This is very clear because we know what this causes.
“Unfortunately for this purpose, Nigeria is among the highest if not the highest country practising open defecation.
“So there is a need to do everything possible to eradicate it.”
Senator Ordia, in his presentation, said the bill seeks to make rules and issue guidelines and regulations for the construction and operations of public toilets.
He said the agency, when established, would certify public toilet facilities to be fit for use by members of the public.
He also said the agency would have powers to shut down any public place that does not meet the required standard of public toilet facility prescribed by the agency, among others.
However, the Director of Legal Services, Ministry of Environment, Mrs Obayagbo Helen, said the ministry was opposed to the passage of the bill.
Obayagbo said: “Creating an agency for a fragment of one component of sanitation would mean creating more than 15 agencies for sanitation issues alone.
“This would mean wastage of scarce government resources. Besides, there are too many federal government agencies in existence currently and most of them self-sustaining but depend on the already very thin resources of the Federal Government.”
The Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, represented by its Assistant Director, Legal, Mrs Ate Amali, said there were agencies of government already performing roles being envisaged for the proposed agency.
The National President, Environmental Health Officers Association of Nigeria (EHOAN), Mr Jamilu Shuaibu, said the bill was inconsistent with the provisions of the fourth schedule of the 1999 constitution as amended.
He said the constitution vested the local government councils with the role of maintenance and regulations of public convenience.
He said the 774 local government areas have been implementing the role through their environmental health services department and units.
Shuaibu said the agency if established, would be an additional liability and additional cost of governance.
He, however, recommended that the relevant Federal Government Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) responsible for environmental sanitation be empowered to produce a national policy with corresponding guidelines in toilets and urinals in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.
He also recommended that existing agencies in the federal, state and local governments should be strengthened to perform their functions more effectively.