Dr. Pedi Obani, an Associate Professor in the School of Law at the University of Bradford and a Visiting Research Fellow in Water, Security, Policy, and Governance at the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds, has called for urgent legal and policy changes to advance sanitation and hygiene goals in Nigeria.
Speaking at a conference held in Abeokuta to mark World Toilet Day, Dr. Obani stressed the need for express recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation within domestic laws and policies. She also emphasized the importance of clearly spelling out the minimum core obligations of these rights in the legal framework to avoid confusion over the requirements.
“The human right to sanitation entitles everyone, without discrimination, to access affordable, safe, hygienic, secure, socially, and culturally acceptable sanitation in all spheres of life,” Dr. Obani said. “Everyone, including the poor and marginalized groups, should receive the necessary support to ensure sustainable access to personal sanitation and hygiene.”
Dr. Obani also highlighted broader cultural and governance issues, including procurement laws and fragmentation of responsibility for sanitation services, that must be addressed to ensure that no one is left behind in sanitation coverage.
In addition to domestic legal and policy changes, Dr. Obani underscored the crucial role of international cooperation in achieving the objectives of World Toilet Day. She noted how the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global supply chains, affecting access to menstrual hygiene products and other essential sanitation materials.
“International cooperation can significantly enhance access to financial resources, technology, and knowledge transfer to improve sanitation within countries,” Dr. Obani said. “However, it is essential to recognize and support local competencies and governance structures that can advance universal access to sanitation.”
The conference also addressed key takeaways regarding challenges and solutions in sanitation and hygiene. Dr. Obani identified three key takeaways:
- Planning, investment, and multistakeholder collaborations are needed to ensure sanitation coverage for the present and future generations.
- Nigeria has several examples of good sanitation and hygiene projects and practices that can be upscaled with political will and international cooperation.
- Courts and political institutions can facilitate the realization of sanitation and hygiene goals. More engagement is needed in advocacy and enforcement efforts.
Looking ahead, Dr. Obani emphasized the critical role of environmental law in supporting the goals of World Toilet Day. She pointed to the right to a clean and healthy environment, enshrined in Nigeria’s domestic legal framework, as an entry point for advancing access to sanitation and hygiene.
“The links between sanitation, hygiene, and the environment have long been recognized in Nigeria,” Dr. Obani said. “This creates an opportunity to explore the synergies between environmental rights and access to sanitation in the field of environmental law.”
Dr. Obani also called for an interdisciplinary approach, drawing from diverse disciplines such as engineering, economics, the creative arts, communication, and psychology, to contribute to improving sanitation coverage.
“Achieving the goals of World Toilet Day requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including government, civil society, the private sector, and communities,” Dr. Obani concluded. “By working together, we can ensure that everyone has access to safe, hygienic, and sustainable sanitation and hygiene services.”