The Nigerian government has urged the Benue and Cross River state governments to release their counterpart funds for scaling up the sanitation programme in the states.
The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, made this call at a meeting with the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) team from Geneva in Abuja.
The WSSCC is funding the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) programme in three local government areas in each of the two states.
Mr. Adamu described as ‘saddening’ the refusal of the two states to “pay up counterpart funds for the upgrade of the programme”, adding that “lack of water and sanitation impacted negatively on the economy, health and productivity.”
He said that the payment of the funds was an opportunity to scale up sanitation and hygiene in the states, while reducing disease prevalence there.
He said the federal government’s commitment to scaling up sanitation and hygiene, while increasing their access to potable water led to the inauguration of the Partnership for Extended Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) as a collaborative programme towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal Six on water and sanitation.
“The RUSHPIN programme is a good target towards commitment to reduce the statistics of 46 million people practising open defecation and 71 per cent of them lacking basic sanitation,’’ Adamu said.
Mr Chris Williams, Executive Director, WSSCC, said that nations could not quantify the benefits of investing in water and sanitation projects, adding that with the commitment of all stakeholders, the goals of RUSHPIN would be met.
He noted that the progress which Nigeria had made in the two states indicated that with strengthened collaboration and payment of counterpart funds, open defecation would cease.
“It has been proved that massive investment in water and sanitation reduces health costs, while increasing girls’ school attendance and women empowerment,’’ he said.
Also speaking, Mr Nanpet Chuktu, the RUSHPIN Programme Manager, said within four years of programme implementation, “1,859 communities had been reached with hygiene messages”, adding that “600,000 people now lived in open defecation-free communities in the six local government areas.”
He said that the agency used Community Led-Total Sanitation (CLTS) model to encourage the communities to build and use toilets, while adopting behavioural change as a means of promoting hygienic habits.
The Deputy Governor of Benue, Mr Benson Abounu, while blaming the delay in the state’s payment of its counterpart funds to “undue government bureaucracy and delay in funds allocation”, however gave assurances that the state that we will play our part within the shortest time’.
On his part, Mr Gabe Odu the Cross River Commissioner for Water Resources, while pledging that the counterpart funds would be paid soon, said that with the RUSHPIN intervention, at least 376 communities in the state had been declared open defecation-free.
Odu said that the state was proud to have Obanlinku Local Government Area as the first area to be declared open defecation-free in the country.
According to him, “the Cross River Government is known to be donor-friendly, as shown by the release of N100 million for the UNICEF/EU water programme”, adding that “N220 million has been budgeted for sanitation and other water programmes in the 2017 budget’’.