By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, described as disturbing Nigeria’s second position rating in global open defecation, declaring a state of emergency on Nigeria’s water supply, sanitation and hygiene sector.
President Buhari said the declaration became imperative to reduce the high prevalence of water-borne diseases in different parts of the country, which has caused preventable deaths.
Inaugurating the National Action Plan for Revitalisation of Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, in Abuja, President Buhari directed government at all levels to redouble efforts towards meeting the nation’s water supply and sanitation needs.
He described statistics on open defecation, access to piped water services and sanitation in the country as ‘disturbing,’ warning that henceforth Federal Government’s support to state governments would be based on their commitment to implement the National WASH Action Plan to end open defecation by 2025.
Buhari said: “Access to piped water services, which was 32 percent in 1990, has declined to seven in 2015; access to improved sanitation also decreased from 38 percent in 1990 to 29 in 2015.
“Our country now ranks second in the global rating on open defecation, as about 25 percent of our population is practicing open defecation.
“WASH services in rural areas are unsustainable, as 46 percent of all water schemes are non-functional, and the share of our spending on WASH sector has been declining from 0.70 percent of the GDP in 1990 to about 0.27 percent in 2015, which is far below the 0.70 percent at the West African regional level.”
President Buhari emphasised that the provision of potable water supply, adequate sanitation and hygiene were primarily the responsibilities of state and local governments.
However, at the federal level, the President pledged, his administration would continue to place priority on infrastructure development, including those of water supply, sanitation and hygiene services, towards ensuring a better life for Nigerians.
According to him, this is being demonstrated through faithful implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, which is the present administration’s blueprint for infrastructure and economic development.
Speaking on behalf of development partners on WASH, Deputy Country Representative, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, Nigeria, Pernille Ironson, said: “The Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Environment and state governments need to work together for all Nigerians to have clean water and sanitation.”
Currently, the WASH programme is in six states— Imo, Abia, Delta, Taraba, Niger and Sokoto.
General Manager, Delta State Water Board, Engr. Okoh Nosakhoroh, said the launch will change the narrative in the sector as the health of the people would improve.