ABUJA - Baba Awolu reports for work at 5 a.m. each day at a local toilet and washroom facility he owns in the Jahi district of Abuja. The facility, known in the native Hausa language as "Gidan Wanka," was built to serve poor people without access to bathrooms.
Awolu says he has to arrive early so he can attend to users who are preparing for the day.
"What we're doing is helping people and the government,” Awolu said. “Instead of going to nearby bushes to defecate, they can use our facility and pay a token.”
In October a survey by the U.N. Children's Fund named Nigeria as the country with the most people practicing open defecation, passing India, which outlawed the practice.
About 25 percent, or more than 47 million Nigerians, lack access to toilet facilities. The majority are in rural areas, where many poor people can't afford to install toilets in their homes.
The result is defecation in bushes and fields, leading to contaminated water supplies and the spread of disease.
At an event in Abuja this week, Nigerian authorities said they are determined to end open defecation and achieve U.N. sanitation goals by 2025, five years ahead of schedule.
Only 14 out of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria are open defecation-free, authorities say. The practice is more prevalent in north-central states, including Abuja, the capital.
Muhammad Mahmood is Nigeria's environment minister.
"This commitment is demonstrated by the president's declaration of state of emergency on water, sanitation and hygiene in the country,” Mahmood said. “With just 11 years to go with the 2030 deadline, we must re-double our efforts to provide universal access to toilets, leaving no one behind."
Some 87,000 young children in Nigeria die each year from illnesses linked to open defecation, poor sanitation and hygiene.
That number may fall, however, as more places like Baba Awolu's open across Nigeria, giving people regular access to working bathrooms and a boost to public sanitation.