INTERVIEW: Kano to Revive House to House Sanitation, Employs Sanitation Vanguards – Commissioner

Dr. Ibrahim Kabiru Ketso is the Kano State Commissioner for Environment. In this interview with Arewa Agenda’s Mohammad Dahiru Lawal, Musa Sani Aliyu and Hannatu Sulaiman Abba, the Commissioner speaks on efforts the government is making to address havoc caused by flooding in the state, indiscriminate dumping of refuse, open defecation among other issues of environmental concern.

Arewa Agenda: The people of Gobirawa in Madobi Local Government Area have decried an illegal sand excavation activity by an unknown company in their area, making them prone to flooding and land degradation, what are you doing to address this?

Commissioner: I can tell you that we have received a formal complaint from the community and we have sent our people to go and inspect the location and we have partnered with the state Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Commission and just last week our team with the commissions team went to the community on a fact finding mission especially with the complaint that there is a company that is illegally excavating sand there, causing more havoc. I want to assure the people of this area that we will do everything within our power to bring a stop to that illegal practice and do want we have to do to contain the environmental factors that is threatening their lives and properties.

Arewa Agenda: Didn’t the company secure permission before digging?

Commissioner: They did not seek any permission from us, we don’t even know them

Arewa Agenda: Have your ministry made any effort to go and inspect Dan Shayi Village in Rimin Gado Local Government seeing as for the past few days they have been trapped by rising water levels and nobody could go in or out of the village?

Commissioner: Seriously, we haven’t gotten any formal report about this, but now that you have brought this to our attention, we will investigate and do the needful.

Arewa Agenda: The people of the Area think that if the government build a bridge for them it will solve their problem, what would you say about that?

Commissioner: We will investigate and determine if constructing a bridge is one of the possible way out, but if it comes to the issue of bridge I cannot expressly approve that because that is now the mandate of the Ministry of Works which we will have to inform them to take over and I am sure they will be proactive after necessary estimates. This requires corporation from both ministries based on advice from experts.

Arewa Agenda: So when are you likely to take action?

Commissioner: I cannot categorically guarantee a timeline but I can assure that we don’t hesitate when we have such cases at hand. Just last week we got similar complaint and we sent our team to investigate after which we took necessary action.

Arewa Agenda: A Community in Gaida are suffering drastic flooding due to the Sabon Titi underpass bridge water channel which empties into their community, bringing about loss of lives and properties due to lack of drainage system, what can you say about that?

Commissioner: This concerns the ministry of works.

Arewa Agenda: Seeing that it is also causing environmental concerns, isn’t there anything you can do?

Commissioner: We will inform the ministry now that you have brought our attention to it. We had similar case about two years ago, we had similar issue where the people of the community were dumping refuse in the drainage system and flooding affected them badly. When we investigated and took the necessary action, till date we haven’t had any complain from them again.

Arewa Agenda: You recently commissioned a 2million tree planting exercise, tell us more?

Commissioner: This is one of the key concern of this administration under the Leadership of Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, OFR, to populate the state with tree because of its importance in climate change, land degradation, erosion and so on. Besides it aides farming as well as create an aesthetic and breath-taking environment, based on this and many more of its importance which I may not have mentioned, this government has mandated itself to plant trees in the state every year. We do every rainy season and this season we plan to plant 2million trees in the state and we have gone far with this so far. Hopefully before the end of the rainy season we will complete the mission.

Arewa Agenda: What other measures are you putting in place besides relying on tree planting to contain flooding?

Commissioner: Yes, measures such as curtailing causative factors are in place for example on the issue of the illegal excavator in Gobirawa. That is why we enjoy people to always report any concern, encourage our staff who may stumble across environmental issue to quickly draw our attention or even you reporters when you air or publish some of your reports, we take proactive action to bring an end to it. Apart from that we are also doing Civil works in spotlight areas so we are really untop of issues.

Arewa Agenda: Sanitation and Hygiene are important health indicators but it is still a major challenge in the State, what do you consider as the most important approach in solving this issues?

Commissioner: Well, sanitation is really an important issue because if you have an environment that is sanitized, it improves the entire wellbeing of members of the society, it decreases the occurrence of diseases and with it you can be able to interrupt transmission of diseases, so sanitation is really very key to the survival of human beings. Certainly there are areas of challenges areas of challenges. So I will say the way to go by it is to carry everybody along and ensure that everybody is in it, bringing community members, bringing society based organization and everybody because when you are talking of sanitation, Government alone cannot be able to handle it so there is need for everybody to partake in it and this is one of the areas that we are having one of the major challenges you know, getting everybody to partake in sanitation. For instance, let me cite an example, we do conduct monthly sanitation exercise in the state every last Friday and every last Saturday of the month and one of the observations that we have made, mainly on Saturday’s which is the sanitation for the entire city, people are restricted from moving from 7am to 10am, they cannot move unless there is genuine reason to that or they have been exempted to participate in sanitation exercise and you discover that people are staying at home but instead of using the three hours that have been dedicated for the sanitation exercise, they will stay at home doing some other things that have nothing to do with sanitation so there is really the need for members of the society to prioritise and take this issue of sanitation as an important issue and to ensure that they sanitise their environment, industries, companies. It is only by so doing that we will be able to reach where we want to reach. Another challenge is the issue of indiscriminate dumping of refuse. Government have set aside what we call waste collection centres and this are places where people are expected to go and dump their refuse but you discover that people don’t use this places, some do use them but majority of people do not use them they prefer to go and dump their refuse by the roadside which will litter the entire environment. So I think getting the support and corporation of members of the society is very key in achieving the sanitation that we need for Kano State.

Arewa Agenda: It is understandable that laxity on the part of citizens is one of the major challenge as far as sanitisation in the state is concerned. What efforts are in place to sensitize and ensure that people pick up responsibilities?

Commissioner: Yes a lot of sensitization efforts are ongoing but certainly we need to do more and also you members of the press have a stake in this, you need to contribute your own quota as part of your corporate social responsibility to ensure that you also sponsor some of this sensitization programs so that members of the public can be adequately sensitized and educated about the need for them to be participating in sanitation exercise and also I think another issue id for us to revive the issue of house to house sanitation, we are working on it and this is what we have been discussing lately and we put in place mechanisms to ensure that this is revived. Kano state government have employed what we call sanitation vanguards and we are deploying them to…already we have decentralised them and sent them back to communities and what we want is for them to be going from house to house to enlighten members of the household to be conducting sanitation exercise, to educate them, on the importance of sanitation and also to monitor and supervise whether or not people are conducting sanitation in their domiciles.

Arewa Agenda: The crux of preventive measures against COVID-19 and WHO COVID-19 protocols has been on good sanitary conditions, personal hygiene such as handwashing. How important are they in the context of life post-COVID?

Commissioner: They are really very important pre, during and post COVID because not only COVID, poor sanitation has link with so many diseases so certainly during post COVID era, there is a need for us to sustain and even improve on the issue of sanitation because once we are done with COVID, there are other diseases that are associated with poor sanitation like cholera and other diseases like typhoid, like hepatitis, this are diseases that are associated with sanitation and so many other diseases that can be easily transmitted if sanitation is poor, so definitely, issue of sanitation is very key post COVID and there is need for us to do everything possible to ensure that sanitation is maintained, sustained and improved post COVID era.

Arewa Agenda: What outrages you the most about the state of sanitation and hygiene in the State?

Commissioner: Well, like you mentioned, there are a lot of pressure for instance I mentioned the issue of indiscriminate dumping of refuse, really a very serious issue and it puts a lot of pressure on us, like now we are in the rainy season, we are witnessing a lot of flooding episodes in some communities and this is not unexpected because the report from the hydrological survey that have been conducted in the country has shown that many States in the country are going to witness unprecedented episodes of flooding and Kano is not spared, it is one of the States that have been forecasted to have episodes of flooding and we have 20 local governments that are affected in this survey, so this is also another pressure point when you have rains especially torrential rains, in communities we do have flooding episodes and this destroys properties and sometimes it is associated with even loss of lives so this exerts a lot of pressure on us among other issues that we are contending with so I think by and large these are the two major pressure points; indiscriminate dumping of refuse and this issue of flooding and another area that I may say is the issue of vector control, am sure you know REMASAB (Refuse Management and Sanitation Board) which is one of the agencies under the ministry has the mandate of controlling vectors in the city and this is rainy season, the season where you have proliferation of vectors especially mosquitos and you have a lot of cases of malaria during rainy season traditionally and this is another thing, we needed to fumigate a lot of places to ensure that the vector population in the state is dropping down drastically.

Arewa Agenda: A number of communities in the state have started imbibing sustainable toilet behaviour when it comes to open defecation, what is the state doing to ensure more communities and the entire state is open defecation free?

Commissioner: Coincidentally, just before you came in, we were discussing about open defecation, how you can position some toilets in some places within the city and outside. Certainly this is a very serious issue in Nigeria, from previous report it showed that Nigeria is only second to India globally in terms of prevalence of open defecation so Kano is in Nigeria and it is therefore not spared from this menace of open defecation, fortunately, we are doing everything possible to ensure that this menace is curtailed. Part of the effort the government is making is to educate, enlighten, sensitize members of the public on the dangers of open defecation. One, it is against our culture, it is against our religion to defecate openly so we use this to sensitize members of the public. We also celebrate some days, like the world toilet day, the last one was celebrated last year, we use this opportunity to organize occasions and invite in experts, community members, associations, market groups, including community leaders to brainstorm and to educate ourselves on open defecation, its dangers and what we can do as individuals and groups to address this challenge and we use the occasion to inform them about the efforts the government is putting in place to ensure that this is addressed. One other thing that we do is to…you know this ministry has the statutory responsibility of giving licences for private and public conveniences and also establishing public conveniences and monitoring their utilization. So we do conduct this exercise to ensure that public conveniences are adequately placed and they are being operated in a manner that will not constitute danger to the lives of people. So right now the ministry has conducted a survey on areas that are prone to open defecation in Kano State and we have also mapped out those areas that have deficiency of public conveniences, right now have written a brief to his excellency to inform government about this and also to secure approval to establish additional public conveniences in the state so that we can be able to address this menace of open defecation. We are equally collaborating with some partners to ensure that this challenge is addressed so I want to assure you that government is concerned about this and we are doing everything possible to ensure that open defecation is eradicated in Kano State so that we can have open defecation free society in Kano.

Agenda is a Publication of Young Writers from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives.

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