By Danmaryam Zayamu
All is not well among professionals in the health sector over which group should be in charge of the Open Defecation-Free Nigeria by 2025 campaign, ExpressDay can authoritatively report.
It would be recalled that in late 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari, signed Executive Order 009 titled ‘The Open Defecation-Free Nigeria by 2025 and Other Related Matters Order.’
The Executive Order, among other things, is aimed at ensuring that Nigeria gets out of nations practicing open defecation by 2025..
Currently, only 11 out of the 774 local government areas in the country have been certified open defecation free.
Item 3 (a) and (b) of the Executive Order 009 states that: (a) there is established in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources a National Secretariat called “Clean Nigeria Campaign Secretariat” and (b) the Secretariat is authorized on behalf of the President to implement this Order by ensuring that all public places including schools, hotels, fuel stations, places of worship, market places, hospitals and offices have accessible toilets and latrines within their premises.
This is however, the area of the cold in fighting among professionals in the health sector on which group has the competence to head and control the secretariat in order to achieve the desired objective.
In an exclusive interview with ExpressDay, a professional Environmental Health Officer who is the Director, Primary Healthcare and also Secretary to Nembe Local Government Authority in Bayelsa State, Chief Jude Pulemote, advised President Muhammadu Buhari, to ensure that the right professional group is given the headship of the campaign in order to achieve its objectives.
According to him, many projects have failed in Nigeria over the years because the right professional group was not given the mandate to handle the project.
“The most important thing, using the right personnel. Most projects have failed in Nigeria and will continue to fail because we always politicize everything.
“Look at where you need to use sanitarians, health officers, you will go and use engineers or accountants. No one can deliver what he does not have.
“So, for us to succeed both in this ODF dream as well as proper waste management or attaining the SDG on water and sanitation in this country by 2025 going by the order of the president, we must use the right personnel.
“We have health officers laying waste in their offices. Although we know that the number of environmental health officers is grossly inadequate in some areas because they have not employed for many years.”
While accusing the medical doctors for always struggling to take lead of every health project even if they do not have the professional competence, Chief Pulemote said: “Especially, our senior brothers the medical doctors and others who are privilege to be in positions of authority. When they notice that the government or international agency is funding a particular project, they always come with a claim that they are the team lead so the job should be given to them.
“Most times they don’t deliver because it is not their field. That has been a major problem in Nigeria. So for us to succeed in ending open defecation, the President must maintain his word by putting the round pegs in the round holes otherwise we will make mockery of ourselves.”
While reiterating that there is already a subtle battle on which professional group will lead the campaign, the Environmental Health Officer said: “This war has been there from time immemorial, let us not pretend about it.
“Anytime health programmes are floated and they capture both national and international attention or state attention, different professionals will begin to scramble to be in charge of the programme not minding weather it is their core professional area or not.
“It is shameful that up till now Nigeria is still battling with polio eradication. Polio eradication campaign started in 1998 till now we are still battling with it. Do you know why? People who are trained as clinicians that should be handling curative healthcare services say no, polio eradication has money, GAVI fund is coming, we must be there. They clamour to be there not just as a team member but to head it.
“The same thing is apparently eminent in this open defecation free Nigeria campaign that is coming. You will see it. Time is the best revealer of hidden things.
“Believe you me, sanitation is the exclusive area of expertise for the environmental health officers initially called sanitary inspectors or public health superintendents with support from one or two quarters.”
He, therefore, advised the Federal Government to use the man power that they ought to use to achieve result.
“Let the government use the workers they know are professionally trained in this area which are the Environmental Health Officers,” Chief Pulemote, stressed.