By Tosin Lanre-Kolade, NAN
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says Nigeria will need to build no fewer than 3.9 million toilets annually to meet the open defecation-free target by 2025.
Dr Jane Bevan, UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), said this at the opening of a two-day 1st Toilet Business Owners Conference in Abuja on Monday.
According to her, current toilet construction in the country stood between 180,000 – 200,000 toilets annually, saying it was inadequate.
Bevan said the conference was timely as Toilet business owners were key to ending open defecation challenges in Nigeria.
She said there was the need to do things differently by creating demand for toilets, saying the private sector could play huge roles for sustainability and strengthening sanitation markets in the country.
Bevan, quoting the 2021 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping on Nigeria’s sanitation status, said 48 million people practice open defecation, while 95 million were without access to basic sanitation services.
“About 1.3 per cent of GDP or N455 billion is lost annually due to poor access to sanitation – health, health care savings and productivity.
Every dollar invested in water and sanitation results in economic benefits ranging from $3 to $34″.
“Nigeria cannot continue business as usual or it will miss the target of 2025 and 2030, There is need to strengthen and scale up proven strategies to reach the country’s goals.
“The private sector must work closely with all tiers of government and communities to actively create sustainable solutions to address the sanitation needs of unserved and underserved communities and help grow capital investment and human capital”.
Dr Didi Walson-Jack, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, said she was optimistic that Toilet Business Owners (TBOs) would complement government’s effort and contribute to the realisation of the objective of ending open defecation in Nigeria.
According to her, “Nigeria is ready for business and the market is expansive for quicker and bigger returns on investment as long as we are prepared to think outside the box”.
The permanent secretary noted that the outcome of the conference would reinforce other existing initiatives in achieving the national and global goals for the water, sanitation and hygiene sub-sector.
She noted that TBOs were part of the Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) that would help in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“This is particularly noteworthy in Nigeria where the SMEs have contributed approximately 48 per cent to the national GDP over the last five ears as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
“Moreover, the SMEs in Nigeria accounted for 96 per cent of all businesses in the country and employed 57.7 million people, representing 84.02 per cent of the workforce in 2016.
“I am therefore confident that with this level of SME participation in the economy, this conference will equip the participants with a better appreciation of the potentials of these enterprises for the Sanitation Sector”.
Earlier, Mr Chukwuma Nnana, Executive Director, Toiletpride Initiative and Convener, said one of the biggest challenges in realising an open defecation-free environment was the lack of enabling environment for these sanitation businesses to thrive.
According to him, TBOs and sanitation entrepreneurs are yet to be mobilised to their full potential.
The conference was designed to showcase and create awareness on the contributions of private sanitation enterprises in scaling up sanitation service delivery in Nigeria.