FIVE Local Government Areas, LGAs, in Benue state which were supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund
, UNICEF, Tuesday received certificates certifying them Open Defecation Free, ODF, by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.
Issuing the ODF certificates to the LGAs which included Buruku, Konshisha, Obi, Oju, and Tarka, in Makurdi, the Minister for Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu
commended UNICEF for its interventions and successes recorded in managing the projects, and institutional structures at the State, Local Government and Community levels.
The Minister also commended the Benue State Government for the achievement and enjoined the people of the state to keep up the good effort by playing their part in sustaining the results achieved so far as the State work towards achieving a state-wide ODF status in the not too distant future.
His words: “Accomplishing this feat will accelerate the State’s advancement towards universal access to Water Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, services for its citizens and contribute to the national aspirations.
“As we are aware, most of the priority areas of President Buhari’s Administration which include enhancing social inclusion and poverty reduction, expanding business growth and entrepreneurship; and expanding access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity, are impacted in one way or the other by access to WASH services.
“I hereby enjoin all sub-national Governments to prioritise investment in WASH services as this is very strategic to development and improvement of the welfare of the populace.
“We all must work together in accelerating stakeholders’ engagement and community mobilization towards imbibing a culture of safe hygiene practice as we progressively move Nigeria from the unfortunate position of being at the top of the ladder of countries with the highest number of persons practising open defecation
, towards attaining the SDG 6 targets for water and sanitation.
“I wish to reiterate my Ministry’s commitment towards improved coordination, partnership and implementation of WASH programmes which is expected to address the water, sanitation and hygiene inadequacies in Nigeria, as we look forward to a country where all citizens have access to improved and sustainable WASH services, leaving no one behind.”
The State Governor, who was representated by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources and Environment, Mr. Godwin Tighir, said the state was committed to the WASH project hence the approval of funds to drive it.
“The programme has also done much in the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps and we are believing that by 2025 all the Local Government Areas in the state will be ODF,” the Governor said.
On her part, WASH Ambassador and First Lady of Benue State, Dr. Eunice Ortom who was represented by the Commissioner for Trade and Investments, Mrs. Ladi Ishiegbe commended the UNICEF for its intervention programmes in various sectors.
Mrs. Ortom charged Local Government Council Chairmen in the state to always collaborate with traditional rulers to ensure that the ODF status was maintained and sustained in the Local Government Areas.
Mrs. Ortom also advised the State Ministry of Trade and Investment to collaborate with the Ministry of Environment to ensure cleanliness and availability of toilets in Benue markets and business areas.
The Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Enugu Field Office, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh in his remark commended Governor Samuel Ortom for committing the sum of N250million as support to attain ODF status in the state which according to him was highly remarkable.
“We therefore commend the Governor for his support, his resilience and his efforts towards overseeing the welfare of his people.
“I must also commend the traditional rulers who have been working closely with the WASH units to ensure the actualization of ODF status in the five Local Government Areas,” Conteh said.
While also commending UNICEF partners from the Federal Ministry of Water Resource, Dr. Conteh said the presence of the Ministry at the event showed that “what UNICEF is doing at the state level is at the heart of the people at that level who also give their support to ensure that the programme succeeded.
“I must also commended all those who played one role or the other to ensure the success being recorded in the state,” he said.
Also speaking, the WASH Manager, UNICEF Field Office Enugu, Mamita Thakkar said the attainment of ODF in the five LGAs was achieved through collective efforts.
“We have come this far due to the collective efforts of everyone, because we galvanized as a team and shared a common vision, because we understood why sanitation, why ODF, the significance of becoming ODF, we shared the joy and pride of calling ourselves a clean community, a community of dignified individuals who will not go out to the open to defecate.
“The State has made significant progress in WASH, especially with regards to creating ODF LGAs. In a record time of 1.5 years, five ODF LGAs were achieved, despite the COVID restrictions and challenges. This is a remarkable achievement for the State.
“The State has launched the ODF Road Map, it has constituted the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on WASH and most recently allocated N250million for Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, PEWASH. This to me is a huge progress. We already have nine LGAs which are ODF in the State. With two more planned before the end of the year, we will soon reach the 50 percent mark.
“So, how can we achieve this? If we do the right things, we can gain the distinction of the first State to be ODF. Can we rise to take this challenge? We have big and medium towns like Gboko and Otukpo? What are the solutions for urban small towns?
“We need to change our perception of sanitation from being a stand-alone issue to one that impinges on several areas of our growth and development, including several of our SDGs.
“We need to accelerate our efforts to create a State with no Open Defecation. We need to recognize that investments in water, sanitation and hygiene pay dividends in public health, nutrition, education, employment, gender equality, and the environment,” Thakker said.
Earlier in a welcome remark the General Manager of Benue Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, BERWASSA, Mrs. Torkwase Ikyaator, said the historic event marked another giant step on the journey to achieving an ODF Benue by 2025, with the hope of placing the State among others, on the Map of “Clean Nigeria; Use the Toilet Campaign” of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
She said, “Benue State has a population of over 2.7 million people practicing open defecation. According to the Water, Sanitation, Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) Report 2019.
“One in every two persons in Benue State defecate in the open and do not have access to basic sanitation facilities. The reason for this high population of people practising open defecation remains that 14 LGAs have wholly or partially received WASH intervention and nine LGAs are complete without any form of WASH intervention.”