The Nigerian states of Lagos and Plateau are leading the charge to end open defecation and combat the issues that people living in extreme poverty within Nigeria face.
Lagos and Plateau announced commitments totaling $175.8 million toward clean water, sanitation, and ending open defecation in their respective states at the 2019 Global Citizen Festival in New York City’s Central Park on Sept. 28. Their commitments are in response to the over 150,000 actions Global Citizens took demanding world leaders stand up for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).
Around 100 million Nigerians have no access to improved sanitation, and a large portion of the population practices open defecation — the practice whereby people defecate in fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water, or other open spaces.
International artist and Global Citizen Ambassador DJ Cuppy introduced Simon Bako Lalong, the governor of Plateau, and chair of the Northern Nigeria Governors’ Forum to the Central Park festival stage.
“Clean water and sanitation in schools are not given in many places, including my home country of Nigeria,” DJ Cuppy said. “It’s heartbreaking for me ... Who else wants to change that?”
Lalong told the crowd of tens of thousands of Global Citizens that their voices had been heard.
“About 70% of Nigerians today live without access to basic clean drinking water and sanitation,” Lalong said, “children and women are hit the hardest by this devastating reality.”
Lalong announced he’s committing 15.5 million Nigerian naira (approx USD $42.9 million) in direct government investment to fight open defecation and an additional 11.8 million naira (approx USD $32.9 million) to be secured in private sector investments, for a total of $75.8 million for WASH.
AMAZING! 🇳🇬 Plateau State Governor @SimonLalong just responded to over 150K actions taken by Global Citizens with an INCREDIBLE commitment to secure clean water and sanitation for 2.3 million people. #GlobalCitizenFestivalpic.twitter.com/CIq090H0Zm— Global Citizen Impact (@GlblCtznImpact) September 28, 2019
Later in the night, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos, announced that Lagos will join the effort.
“Together, we can power the movement and create a world free of extreme poverty,” Sanwo-Olu said on stage, “and you can count on Lagos state to do its part.”
Sanwo-Olu announced Lagos is committing $100 million to WASH, and to end open defecation in the state by 2025.
Global Citizen started amplifying the voices of grassroots activists and Global Citizens who asked Nigerian governors to invest in WASH in 2019 ahead of the Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream campaign. The campaign aims to push the world to reprioritize efforts to end extreme poverty by 2030 and is set to culminate on Sept. 26, 2020, with five simultaneous 10-hour long festivals across the world. One of the festivals will be hosted in Lagos, Nigeria.
Global Goal 6 aims to ensure universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and only 30% of the Nigerian population has access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. While Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian president, declared a state of emergency on water, sanitation, and hygiene in November 2018, Plateau and Lagos had not presented funding or a plan to address it before the Global Citizen Festival in New York City.
Read More: How This Man Went From Working in Construction to Fighting Open Defecation Across Nigeria
Lagos has one of the lower open defecation rates but the city is the most densely populated in Nigeria. The city’s land shortage makes ensuring everyone has access to WASH more of a challenge. As Lagos grows rapidly, it is hugely symbolic for the country that the state is prioritizing WASH.
The majority of the roughly 47 million people who practice open defecation in Nigeria live in the north of the country, where there is less access to safe toilets. The northern state of Plateau has one of the highest rates of open defecation in Nigeria –– over 55%.
To get Plateau on board to fund the end open defecation in their state, Global Citizen shared the number of actions taken calling on Nigerian state governments to invest in WASH. Then, Plateau's Rural Water and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), which manages water and sanitation, worked with relevant colleagues in their government to conduct an assessment of how much funding would be needed for the state to become open defecation free.
Plateau plans to follow through with the commitment by working in collaboration with development partners to promote safe hygiene practices, promote cost-effective technologies and to manage waste, and strengthen local institutions to support improved sanitation efforts, according to the Ministry of Water Resources and Energy.
Now that Plateau and Lagos paved the way with their momentous commitments to WASH, it is up to other states to step up.