By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Ltd., on Tuesday inaugurated the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in Idumagbo and Oyingbo communities in Lagos State, aimed at ending open defecation by 2025.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the project is one of the social development initiatives powered through the 1 million euro donation made by the NBC’s parent company, the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company.
Speaking at the event, Mrs Soromidayo George, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Director, NBC, said the company had a long-standing history of pioneering sustainable development projects as part of its commitments to give back to communities.
George said the projects were embarked upon to provide support to thousands of people in Nigeria that lacked access to clean water, good sanitary environment for healthy living.
“Our aim is for us to be able to provide support to thousands of people in Nigeria with basic needs which include access to clean water, good sanitary environment and toilet facilities to have healthy environment,” she said.
She added that the company set up the facilities to support the Federal Government’s drive to eliminate open defecation by 2025.
George said it was the first in the series of project inauguration that would be done across the nation, noting that Lagos State is highly privileged and close to the company’s heart.
She said the company was working hand-in-hand with the local governments, Ministry of Environment and various implementing partners to ensure that Nigerians lived healthy without cholera.
George implored the leaders of the communities to ensure proper use of the facilities their sustainability.
She also enjoined them to educate members of their communities in order to end open defecation in Lagos State.
Also speaking, Mr Jerome Oyebanji, Corporate Affairs & Community Partnerships Manager, NBC, said the initiative was to support the national agenda to end open defecation by 2025.
Oyebanji, who described the target as a tall order, noted that it would only be achieved through partnerships by improving public health in the country.
He said the company partnered with OPS-WASH (Organised Private Sector in Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) to build a 10-room toilet facility equipped with bore-hole, over-head tank, water taps, bio-digester and sanitary facilities.
“This is an enabler, an enabler for economic activities because we strategically located the facilities in various places we have markets,” said Oyebanji.
He added that the facilities would support economic activities as well as tourism.
Oyebanji said apart from providing clean water and good hygiene services for over one million Nigerians, OPS-WASH would be leveraging the sustained operation of the facilities for a data collection exercise aimed at increasing SDG 6 investments.
Mrs Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, Director Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, NBC, said the SDG 6 (Clean Water & Sanitation) represented Nigeria’s biggest development challenge, with 48 million Nigerians left without access to safe sanitation.
Onyemelukwe said the company would continue to make a difference in different communities across the country.
“Our mission is to refresh the world and make a difference, and why we are here today is to actually experience the making a difference path.
“It cannot be overemphasised that this kind of facility needs to be duplicated in multiple places in Lagos so that people can have access to clean water and sanitation.
“We recognise that water is a priority to everyone and for us as a company because it is essential to life, essential to our beverages and our communities and we must have it in a sustainable manner,” she said.
She said the company had remained consistent in enhancing the lives of Nigerians for over seven decades it started operations in the country.
The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of the Environment & Water Resources, Dr Omobolaji Gaji, said the project was in line with the SDG 6 and part of commitment of the NBC to give back to the society.
The Permanent Secretary, represented by the Deputy Director Sanitation, Mrs Omoyeni Balogun, said over 2.2 billion people globally had no access to good sanitation.
He said people practiced open defecation, especially in developing countries, which put health at risk leading to spread of diseases.
“Sanitation is an essential starting point and a key weapon to fight disease, poverty and degradation of the vital environment.
“Lagos with the population of over 22 million people was reported in 2018 to have 1.8 million people practising open defecation on daily basis.
“The state currently has about 1,500 public toilets including privately built ones and this is grossly inssufficent considering the continuous influx of people into Lagos State,” he said.
According to him, the state needs over 4,000 toilets considering the population in addition to the 1,500 to address the issue of open defecation.
The permanent secretary said a new strategy had been birthed to provide a sustainable solution and innovation to public toilet design.
Mrs Oluwatoyin Agbenla, the Zonal Director South West/Federal Control, Federal Ministry of Environment, said sanitation was crucial to the development and survival of the country.
Agbenla said WASH was declared as federal and state emergency in 2018 with the target that open defecation would come to an end across the country.
She commended the NBC for partnering with government to end open defecation.
Agbenla urged the community leaders to ensure proper use of the facilities for more to come. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Salif Atojoko