By Fortune Eloagu, Nguamo Aka, Martha Orubo and Amaka Agu
Naturally, it is strictly a private affair for any adult, and no healthy person really wants to be watched while answering what has been tagged, ‘nature’s call’. However, in some parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), open defecation has become a common practice, especially by men, with culprits pleading lack of public toilets.
Throwing human dignity and decorum to the winds, men who are mainly artisans and residents of slums in the suburbs of the capital city have turned open spaces, particularly public fields, bushes and drainages as well as streams into makeshift toilets.
Worried over increasing cases of the anti-social practice and the inherent health hazards, Abuja Metro went to town to sound people out on the menace of what has become a national embarrassment in the nation’s capital.
Why they do it
A resident, Amos Brown, said though the act offends the sensibilities, most people seldom reason well when they are pressed and have no place to ease off. He said the authorities are to blame for not providing adequate public conveniences.
“We need public toilets and better places in the country. I believe a cultured person should not ease himself or herself in the open because it is something personal. Open defecation is not hygienic and it is not good for the environment too. It constitutes both air and land pollution.
“It is common knowledge that restaurant operators will not allow you to use their restroom without patronising them. It does not make sense. If the government had provided such basic facility, people would not engage in the disgraceful act of defecating in the open space”, he said.
Another resident, Suder Gambo, said it takes lack of self-discipline for anybody to defecate in the public glare, even though he was quick to add that some do it because they do not have a choice. “It is not healthy and so, it could cause diseases. It is not good for the environment too. The government really needs to create public rest rooms for the masses”, he said.
In supporting Gambo, another respondent, Chidike Ude, said: “It is because there are no adequate public toilets. It is toxic to health and pollutes the environment. It is also an eyesore. We need public toilets at strategic locations in the FCT, to discourage the practice.”
Not a few residents warned that open defecation constitutes serious threat to public health and should therefore, be discouraged. Mr. Victor Kingsley, while conceding that some people are involved in the act because modern facility is not readily available in many parts of the city, noted that some people do not care, and can do anything publicly. “However, it is very bad; it causes many diseases like cholera and diarrhoea. It is not healthy for even people living in such vicinities, because they inhale the smell.”
On the way forward, he called for proper public enlightenment, orientation and education, adding: “If people are educated on the health hazards inherent in open defecation, I believe it will be minimized. The government should make provision for public toilet, even if people have to pay little amount to access the facility.”
Some need fresh air while doing it
A female resident, Dorothy Aba, said some people prefer defecating in the open for fresh air. Her words: “Some people can defecate anywhere, especially when they are pressed, while some believe that open-air defecating allows them fresh and natural air. These are mainly people who grew up in the villages, where open defecation is not a crime.
“Also, in areas where water is scarce, open defecation becomes a culture because the people will do it freely and clean themselves with leaves or paper. Above all, some people are simply uncultured, uncivilised and poorly raised and will not stop such act because they do not see anything wrong with it. They fail to understand that it has health implications and pollutes the environment.”
She, urged the Federal Government and Abuja Area Councils to provide adequate public toilets in the capital territory.
Do not blame them
Another resident, Williams Adesola said: “I do not blame those who take to easing themselves publicly because there is no public toilet in most places and no organisation will allow any stranger to come in just to ease himself. It is not hygienic, but I do not blame them.”
He advised the government to provide public toilets, because people will keep urinating and defecating publicly, whenever they are pressed and cannot help it. He said the act is not healthy for people and environment, pointing out that in other countries, public toilets are provided for people to ease themselves.
Spread of typhoid
A medical doctor, Ben Nongo, alerted residents to the danger in open defecation, saying that many of those who do so may be carriers of typhoid fever. He said the disease passes through faeces and when it rains, water washes the wastes into vegetables, wells and broken pipes which can cause diseases that are contagious through water and contaminated foods, stressing that where the vegetables or fruits are not properly washed before consumption, the disease is transmitted.
“If you go to the market or shopping malls where there are good toilets, people will not defecate outside. A lot of travellers defecate in the open because there are no public toilets along the roads. In some countries, while travelling, you will see public toilets by the roadsides for travelers; even if they have to pay to use them. Here, we do not have toilets. It is only natural that people will definitely defecate anywhere they see, whenever they are pressed”, he said. The Sun