Open defecation in Benin City: Epidemic waiting to happen

By Osaigbovo Iguobaro

Open defecation is fast becoming a modern day life for most residents of Ibiwe, Lagos Omo, Butcher, Jegede, and other adjourning streets around the King square in Benin City. This City which is a home to most migrant workers without shelters, is embroid in the web of contradictions at night after daily hustle during the day by inhabitants of the area.

Pedestrians, traders, commuters face health risk daily due to a possible outbreak of epidemic in the locality. First time visitors to the City Centre have good reason to be cautious of open gutters that log majority of waste in the premier Local Government Council in the State.

Dumps for open defecation practice. Activities of scavengers and destitute have put the people in the City under greater pressure arising from the inability of the appropriate authorities are yet to hazard a clue to how this public nuisance.

The absence of toilet facilities in these densely populated quarters located near the Oredo Local government Council’s Secretariat that lack working monitors to measure pollution, have made matters worse in the City where this nonchalant behaviour has remained unabated.

Insiders familiar with the development will admit that past and present administrative Health Departments in the Council seem to look on at this irritable and horrible public nuisance, that has yet to ebb.

Beyond the immediate threat lies the challenge. High level of corruption occasioned by lax oversight, and the unfair advantage, allegedly given by some Council officials to violators of sanitation environmental laws. If the laws are implemented stricto senso, ought to have brought respite to the people. Sadly, notable highly placed business Enterprises in the area in helping people make sense of the world around them.

Investigation revealed that most property owners who have failed to provide toilets, have gone away with this culture of impunity by giving our cash gifts to sanitation workers assigned the responsibility to enforce the laws for the culprits to escape arrest and prosecution in Mobile Courts in the Council.

It may explain why these areas have become a safe haven for migrant workers who use their flash light to trace their path. It is also a source of livelihood to property owners and their families, including those who dwell outside the locality.

Investigation revealed that the worship Centre that plays host to over 3,000 worshippers, particularly migrant traders and commuters and passengers of a popular Transport Company beside the worship Centre that ought to ease the pain; again, add up the menace of open defecation.

Whenever guests and visitors to the motor park are pressed, they are either advised to make use of a nearby continence at a popular phone Plaza belonging  to a popular business Mongul, and pay N150  to ease themselves.

But, those who are unable to afford the token, often resort to open defecation.This practice in African palace — is called ‘shot put’, a terminology meaning using a nylon or a bucket placed on the ground in a closet  and dump it in a nearby gutter in anticipation that the rain could flush their faeces into nearby drainages.

The Chief Imam of Benin Central Mosque, Alhaji Abdufatia Enabulele insisted that there are toilet facilities in the Mosque.

He said in an interview that, “I know they used to have toilet facilities in that Mosque. They cannot be worshipping there with the population and not have a toilet.

“Although for sometime, I have not visited the place, I know they have a toilet”, he said.

TheNewspad investigation also revealed that traders and residents of the area find it difficult to quit their shops and apartments despite the risk of epidemic lurking around them due to the prime location of the street biggest tradition Centre in the State.

Open defecation, which has become a norm, is closely linked to habit by some traders who also dispose their refuse into the drains around most markets in Benin Metropolis usually when there is a downpour. This also account for the flooding menace in major streets, including Lagos street gutters that flow above its brim during downpour due largely to improper waste disposal, bristling around the essence of human existence.

Motorists and passerby are apprehensive about steps relevant authorities have taken towards addressing this systematic failure in Nigeria’s public service by concerned authorities.

The menance has put a question mark in Edo State government quest to end open defecation in Nigeria, which is still lagging India, which is the second worst Country battling with open defecation, ahead of 2030 target set by the United Nations for Sub-Sahan Africa to end open defecation.



The Edo State Commissioner for Environmental and Sustainability, Ach Joshua Omokhodion said, “The Ministry is not aware of such happening.

He said, “such a facility (Mosque) without a functioning toilet? Thanks for the information, I will personally go and and verify and the necessary action will be taken”, he assured.

The Edo State Ministry of Urban Planning and Urban Development led by Isoken Omo had given some of these individuals behind these nefarious activities a run for their money by compelling them clean up their gutters and embrace safe health practices that promote improved wellbeing.

The situation seems not to be abating despite every Monday compulsory Environmental sanitation that holds between 7am and 10a.m across markets in Benin Metropolis.

Officials of the Public Works Volunteers (PUWOV) led by its Coordinator, Mr Osagie Muktari has demonstrated much commitment in sanitising Edo State of dirt.

In his recent interview on Independent Television Radio Pidgin English programme, the Chairman of Oredo Local Government Area, Dr. Tom Obaseki lamented that most of the waste generated at home at the markets.

He assured however that the Council has
began a programme tagged, beat plastic in Oredo where volunteers could make money by picking plastic for recycling.

Obaseki Complaint telephone line:
08170000735, which members of the public could call to raise awareness towards a better Oredo Local Government Council.

But the Council boss did not comment on the menace of open defecation practice.

He said, almost 200 of us including about 10 schools go out everyday to sensitize the people.

“We have settle over 12,000 street traders into markets”, according to him, all the environmental officers have been mandated to work with waste managers”.

Speaking further, Obaseki said, “The problem with our markets is over congestion. It will surprise you the kind of dirts.

“Because of congestion in Oba market, drainages that are suppose to control flood, people trade on it.

“We don’t have the capacity to take waste ourselves. So, private
waste managers take refuse. But, when there is a problem regarding waste, call on us.

“We have said it that we don’t tolerate any form of barbaric enforcement in revenue.

“This is a new Oredo. We have to work together to make Oredo clean and be the clean people we are known for”, he said.

The current situation has once again highlighted the relevance of the third tier of government and how they are the most closest to the people.

Despite government’s effort to enforce the weekly sanitation around the city, this menace still lingers. With the growing nature of novel disease, we can only hope this persisting problem do not become an epidemic. Will the government take stringent actions or put necessary policies in place to forestall any possible disease outbreak from this situation? Or should Nigeriens fold their arms and embrace the new normal while a serious health issue lurks around the residents?

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