Editor's Note: In this piece, Raheemah Salama Arogundade writes about the menace of public urination, highlighting its hazards and suggesting pragmatic way-outs.
I honestly don’t like to think of people relieving themselves, not to talk of policing where and how people choose to relieve themselves but I have discovered people should be policed cause the nerve people use in peeing anywhere and everywhere confounds me. This can't be normal anymore.
Nigerians take the piss steadily (both literarily and figuratively). I have never seen a country so drunk on religion yet so shitty with values. The irony. Mind-boggling stuff. I boarded a vehicle to convey me to my destination and intentionally sat in front of the vehicle together with the bus driver to enjoy the side view en route. Through the side window, my eyes caught a man adjusting his pants by the side of the road, he had just emptied his bladder by the pedestrian sidewalk. Unperturbed because it is a common practice here, I overlooked the act, forgot the man and focused on the road ahead. Till I saw another man, and then another and then another. I decided to do a quick survey; deciding to count the number of people using the side streets, gutters, sidewalks, bushy spaces or any public space exposed to public view as a toilet. To my surprise, I counted over 10 people, in a span of about 45 minutes.
As common as the practice it, it never did occur to me that it is widely practised. And it is not just prevalent among males, though the ratio of men to women is high. Growing up, I realised it is not uncommon to see Nigerians use public spaces as public toilets. An act most is guilty of one way or another.
On several occasions, while travelling, I have witnessed passengers pleading with the driver to stop at any place seemingly obscure to public view (which often times is discretely exposed) such as bushy lands where they could relieve themselves. To be fair, it is totally understandable how uncomfortable it could be holding in such pressure, a pressure that has its way of warping the functioning of the brain and interrupting normal rationale. But does this make the act justifiable, specifically when the effects are being considered.
As wrong as environmentalists and public health workers consider public urination to be, the reality is often times tested by immediate physical pressure. One may be walking or driving by in an unfamiliar locality or travelling and this pressure nags at the bladder. In the absence of public toilets, do you carry on in discomfort and consequently mess yourself up or you look for somewhere secluded to relieve yourself of the pressure?
As common as public urination is in Nigeria, it is not considered a criminal offence. Countries such as USA, UK, India, have grouped public urination as a criminal offence under categories such as public indecency, public nuisance, indecent exposure, offensive littering, public lewdness and disorderly conduct. As expected, there are divergent views on the issue of public urination. While some are of the opinion that nothing justifies the act, others are of the opinion that if no solutions are proffered, then public urination should not be considered an offence. And in truth, several court rulings in some of these countries have made the issue more vague. In Nigeria however, Public urination is now a trend, a trend that has marred the boundaries between right and wrong.
Here it is normal and you find out that even those who openly show their resentment are at the receiving end, not necessarily because they don’t indulge in it, with the exception of environmentalists who genuinely care about the state of the environment and public health workers who continuously connect the impact of poor sanitation to increase in mortality. It is conceivably because of the hazardous effects of public urination that the Lagos state government has openly begun the fight against it and equally satisfying is the fact the government realizes that to curb such an act, the solution lies in providing more public toilets and enforcing strict measures such as jail time and payment of fine for offenders. With the provision and construction of basic sanitation facilities, the government stresses that it is wrong to empty your bladder in a place not specifically designated for that purpose.
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The moral and cultural aversions expected as a reaction to responding to nature’s call in the open is almost absent. The lack of public toilets as an excuse is always tenable, but we cannot overlook the hazards of public urination. Healthwise, public urination is one of the easiest ways of transmitting diseases, especially if the fluid comes in contact with the skin. Some diseases that can be spread through body fluids such as blood, urine, saliva and poor sanitation include hepatitis B & C, HIV, diarrhoea, glandular fever amongst others. other effects of public urination are pollution of air, water and land, contamination of agricultural produce.
Opinions split in many directions when it comes to the solutions to public urination but these three are the basic; first is that the government should allocate funds to build more public toilets’ the second is the raise awareness on the effects of public urination to health, environment, agriculture and our progress as a nation, and the third is to make public urination a criminal offence punishable by law.
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