October 15, 2014 was World Hand Washing Day. It is a day set aside by the United Nations annually to remind the global community of the need for continued and sustained hand wash and hygiene promotion across the globe.
The theme for last year’s global hand washing was: “Choose hand washing, choose health.” As we Nigerians and indeed the global community marked the day there was a reminder of how over 1.5 million people die annually from water and sanitation related diseases.
THE Federal Government  last year said  86 persons out of 1, 623 reportedly infected by the cholera outbreak in some parts of the country died of the preventable disease. As its response, the Federal Government directed the Nigeria Centre for disease Control to immediately coordinate all its response activities and report to the ministry of health daily on both the patterns of occurrence. The Federal Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, in a statement by his Special Assistant (Media and Communications), Mr. Dan Nwomeh, directed all federal health facilities in the country to provide free services to cholera patients.
CHOLERA outbreak has affected a number of states including Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Zamfara, Nasarawa and Lagos with fears of possible spread to other parts of the country. There is also gastro-enteritis outbreak in Sokoto and Katsina states which have not been confirmed to be cholera.
WE  are alarmed at the continued  outbreak of cholera in the country and the fast  rate of its spread. The death toll is also disturbing because it shows the parlous state of our attention to basic hygienic practices in the country.
IT is shameful that while other countries in sub-Saharan Africa are making progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goal on Sanitation, Nigeria is off track. Also shameful is the fact that Nigeria is off track in meeting the Millennium Development Goal for  Water. Cholera, as we all know from basic science or hygiene is a water-borne disease.  It is sad that in spite of billions of dollars earned from crude oil since its discovery in commercial quantity in 1958,  access to potable water is still a mirage to many citizens as 42 per cent of Nigerians still take water from unwholesome sources.
WE also decry a situation where the Federal Government still saddle itself with provision of water to Nigerians, a responsibility it ought to have devolved over the years to the States and Local Governments, which are the tiers of government closest to ordinary citizens.
ALSO, owing to the failure of government to provide potable water to its citizens, many resort to self help with poor regulation of the sector by government whose responsibility it is to regulate the sector. Many boreholes are located near sewage and pits while a good number are located near graves in residential premises. Some citizens as a result are practically drinking their faeces. These situations predispose citizens to water- borne diseases such as the cholera epidemics that is ravaging parts of the country.
IN some parts of South-West of Nigeria, human faeces and wastes are exposed close to sources of drinking water in such a way that the outbreak of cholera is as good as a time bomb waiting to explode.
EQUALLY shameful is he fact that there is no public toilets in most cities of Nigeria and there are urban homes without toilets and latrines making the country to record 34 per cent sanitation coverage.
WE therefore call on governments at all levels to rise up to their responsibility of providing safe drinking water to Nigerians and take steps to regulate the sector in such as way that private persons involved in water provision for self-use comply with international best practices.
WE call on the three tiers of government to build public toilets, provide clean potable water to the poor and vulnerable groups and put measures in place for their sustainability. They should also promote sanitation and hygiene culture in schools, markets and other public places to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea and other sanitation related diseases.
AS the nation is  currently undergoing  the process of  amending the 1999 constitution,  or producing a brand new constitution as being demanded by Nigerians  from the national dialogue advisory committee, we urge the law makers and conference participants  to make access to  water and sanitation a right for all Nigerians. It should be expressly stated in the constitution. This is, more so, when  a  number of International instruments and convention exists governing the right to water and sanitation. However, governments of all countries need to domesticate these instruments for the rights of citizens to be assured.
ON 30 September 2010, the UN Human Rights Council affirmed for the first time that the human right to water and sanitation is legally binding. Nigerian authorities need to guarantee this right for all citizens.  The  right to water and sanitation is derived from the right to adequate standard of living, which is recognised in several international treaties. These include the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to which 160 States are party, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has reached nearly universal ratification.
IT is instructive to note that the  Councilís resolution helps those denied the right to water and sanitation to hold governments to account. It is for these reasons we call on Civil society and those at risk to actively claim this right from duty bearers. The Society for Water and Sanitation, NEWSAN, Nigeria’s umbrella body for Civil Society Organisations working in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector to rise up to the occasion  by holding government to account and ensuring that Nigeria moves speedily in guaranteeing the rights of all citizens to WASH.