Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Nigeria: Open Defecation Booms In Billiri General Hospital Under Governor Inuwa Yahaya’s Watch

General Hospital Billiri Gate

By Iliya Kure

The failure of the Gombe State government to renovate General Hospital Billiri, or at least provide temporary toilet facilities at the hospital is continually leading patients and their relatives to embark on open defecation, which could lead to an outbreak of cholera in the area.

Such inaction is key among other factors that has taken Gombe state off track from achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which hangs on safe toilets and water for all by 2030.

It also negates steps taken by multilateral bodies like UNICEF which spends millions of dollars on programmes aimed at ending open defecation in communities across the world, including Nigeria and Gombe state.

The situation in General Hospital Billiri was created by the dilapidation of the hospital buildings which suffered years of neglect and non-renovation – making the facility an eyesore.

There is currently no functional toilet in the whole of the General Hospital and this has pressured patients and their relatives to embark on open defection in the hospital area.

A patient relative Simon told AFRIC APRIME NEWS that they defecate in the open field behind the hospital wall, “it is a known fact, and everyone in the hospital knows that there is no toilet here. So, we just go behind and answer the call of nature, otherwise, where would they expect us to go,” he said.

Voice of America Hausa Service in January aired a report on the situation in Billiri General Hospital in which patients and their relatives also confirmed to the visiting reporter that they were defecating in the open.

One of the patient’s relatives told the VOA reporter in Hausa, “…. we don’t have toilets; we don’t have bathrooms…. the toilets have crumbled, the roof to the room have also gone off…. We go to the grasses behind to defecate, and for the sick, when they defecate in the potty bowl we take it outside to dispose of it. There is nothing we can do…. there is also no well or borehole, but there is an overhead tank, but sometimes we don’t even get it [the water].

Another patient’s relative said, “…in the hospital, there is no bathroom, there is no toilet…. The toilets are broken and have caved in…. there is no toilet outside [the building] …. the [patient] relatives have to go behind the hospital or neighboring houses to ease themselves… those who are from the [Billiri] town have to go back home to use the toilet, and take their bath…. For those coming from outside the town [Billiri], you know this is a big problem.

There has been no action from the state government since January when VOA aired the report – it was expected that the Gombe state government would act swiftly to provide temporary toilet facilities pending the award of contracts to renovate the hospital.

No Open Defecation Free (ODF) LGA In Gombe State

The poor handling of cases like this explains why Gombe state has no Local Government declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). It also brings to question the effort the government claims it is taking or the seriousness it attaches to ending open defecation in the state.

In January, the state government constituted a 29-member task team on sanitation to address open defection in the state. At the occasion, represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Governor Yahaya said, “It’s a quest to bring an end to open defecation and ensure safe water and environment.”

The Governor reiterated his commitment to ending Open Defecation in the state.

But since 2020, the Gombe state government has declared a state of emergency on the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene sector leading to the signing of Executive Order 006.

Announcing the plan to journalists on December 30, 2020, in Gombe, the then Commissioner for Water Resources, Mijinyawa Yahaya said that Executive Order 006 was to ensure that Gombe state was open defecation-free by 2025.

“Plans are also ongoing for the establishment of public toilets, especially in densely populated areas and specifically in motor parks, markets, hospitals and schools,” he said.

He added that his ministry would embark on massive awareness to sensitize people of the state, especially in rural communities on the dangers of open defecation.

Three years after signing Executive Order 006, no Local Government Area in the state has been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). There is also no active campaign in the rural communities sensitizing people on the dangers of open defecation.

Tangale Community Concerns 

National President of Tangale Community Development Association (TCDA) P. T. Gambo, expressed dismay over the attitude of the Gombe state government of neglecting the facility despite all appeals for intervention.

He alleged that Governor Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State instructed the leadership of the Hospital not to accept any assistance or donations from people or groups operating in the community.

Mr. Gambo told AFRICA PRIME NEWS that in December, a group of Tangale women in Abuja brought items worth millions of naira to donate to the hospital but the State government rejected the gesture.

“Several times we got non-governmental organizations who brought items to donate to the hospital, and others wanting to renovate it [the hospital], but the leadership of the hospital said there was a standing order from the governor not to accept any donation from members of the community,” he said.

A local NGO working in Billiri told AFRICA PRIME NEWS that they donated an item to the hospital last year, but was rejected by the hospital management.

Mai Tangle Saga

Tangale people believe the action was not far from the position they took not to recognize the person Governor Yahaya appointed into the office of Mai Tangle, the paramount Tangale traditional ruler.

Before the appointment in March 2021, Tangale kingmakers conducted an election through ballot to determine who would become their next ruler after Mai Abdu Buba Maisheru II, who died on January 10, 2021.

After counting the votes, Dr. Musa Idris Maiyamba polled five votes, and two other candidates Ahmed Magaji and Danladi Sanusi got two votes each respectively.

The governor went ahead and appointed Mr. Sanusi as Mai Tangle. In return, the Tangale people decided not to recognize the governor’s appointee, describing him as a stooge – they still consider the stool vacant.

The action of the Tangale people made it difficult for the governor’s appointee to perform any traditional role or any of the duties of Mai Tangle in the land. He has not been able to attend any of the Tangale festivals and events.

He could only relate with the government, which they believe has frustrated the governor.

Race to Open Defecation Free (ODF) Status 

Many states in Nigeria including those neighboring Gombe have joined the race to assume the ODF status – Gombe is far lagging.

Record of Open Defecation Free LGAs in Nigeria is periodically made public by the National Task Group on Sanitation (NTGS) as more LGAs assume the status. The latest record released in December shows the following states and the number of LGAs that have so far been declared ODF;

Jigawa State, the first Open Defecation Free State (27 LGAs); Anambra (3 LGAs); Akwa Ibom (1 LGA); Bauchi (7 LGAs); Bayelsa (1 LGA); Benue (9 LGAs); Borno (2 LGAs); Cross River (6 LGAs); Delta (1 LGA); Kano (18 LGAs); Kaduna (7 LGAs); Katsina (27 LGAs); Ogun (1 LGAs); Osun (1 LGAs); Yobe (1 LGAs); Zamfara (3 LGAs); and Imo (1 LGAs) LGAs respectively.

Reacting to inaction by governments, Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Balarabe Lawal Abbas, in November, during the celebration of 2023 World Toilet Day, in Abuja, warned of the devastating effect of open defecation, “One of the major consequences of poor excreta and sewage disposal is the high rate of diarrhea disease which is the second cause of high morbidity and mortality rates among children under the age of five. The persistent re-occurrence of annual incidences of cholera outbreaks in some of our states are also manifestations of inadequate toilet facilities.”

The Minister called for effort and investment to address open defecation, “every one Naira invested in toilets and sanitation, up to five Naira is returned in saved medical costs, better health, increased productivity, education, and jobs,” he said.

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