Photo: Sen Ekweremadu
Stakeholders have identified partnership among the various components of the environmental health sector as key to achieving any meaningful success in environmental and public health practice in Nigeria.
This general consensus is the outcome of the first national summit on environmental health held on Thursday in Abuja organized by the Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON) which drew stakeholders from across the country.
The theme of the summit is: “Rebranding Environmental Health Practice: Breaking Barriers, Unlocking Opportunities.”
The Minister of Environment, Dr Muhammad Abubakar, in his address at the event, urged both the public and private sector stakeholders to forge a partnership that would improve the nation’s public health practice.
The minister, who noted that the summit was timely as the world was grappling with COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, urged the practitioners to collaboratively take advantage of the summit to provide a robust framework to step up the practice of the profession.
Abubakar also said these diseases were fueled by insanitary environment and unhygienic behaviour which the environmental practitioner was legally empowered to combat through a workable partnership between the public and private sectors.
Also speaking, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, a former Deputy Senate President and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment, urged the environmental health officers to collaborate with the traditional institution in the country to ensure success in environmental health practice.
He noted that there was the need to revisit the practice of environmental sanitation, based on a collaborative approach, especially in the villages because, according to him, most of the environmental problems are in the villages.
Ekweremadu, represented by Prof. Etim Essien of the National Assembly, charged EHORECON to partner traditional rulers and involve them from time to time, particularly with a view to educating and sensitizing them and their subjects on the importance of environmental health.
He said: “You can also deploy some officers to those areas to give orientations on environmental health and its implications on their community.
“Before carrying out aggressive environmental law enforcement, ensure that you commence with mass sensitization of both industries and other people.
“Let them be aware. If possible give them guidelines to comply with the procedures that you will introduce, failure to comply with which attracts punishment that will be enforced.”
Ekweremadu also assured the council that the National Assembly, particularly the committee that oversights them, will make a case towards ensuring that they were properly funded to enable them perform their duties effectively and efficiently.
Prof. Agwu Amadi of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, on his part, observed that the poor collaboration among government ministries, departments and agencies in the planning and implementation of environmental health services needed to be addressed. stressing that the challenges in environmental health practice were enormous.
He said the lack of infrastructure for the management of environmental health and sanitation services and programmes, as well as inadequate laboratories for sampling were some of the challenges.
In his comment, Dr Yakubu Baba, Registrar, EHORECON, said the opportunities in environmental health services were enormous, adding that all hands, public and private sectors, needed to be on deck in partnership to properly tap them.
Bsba said the sustainability plan of the council was entrenched in the private sector, adding that there were lots of opportunities where practitioners can access easy funds to establish businesses in Nigeria.
Dr Kunle Williams, President, Pest Control Association of Nigeria, said the private sector had been yearning for various ways of collaborating with government to remove some of the barriers.
“We believe that the private-public partnership is the way to go in the country. The profession of public health has been battered in the past,’’ Williams added.