Patience Wumi: Is It Too Much To Ask For Clean Restrooms in Nigeria?

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-woman-hand-over-mouth-image8125682Let’s talk about something dirty. Before your mind goes to the gutter, this is about public toilets.
I try to avoid public toilets because the thought of random people sharing that same space as me grosses me out. We all have different biology and anatomy, different fluids and excretions, and different habits and mannerisms. Therefore, I prefer to use the bathrooms in my house where I am familiar with the other people who use them. However, when nature calls, sometimes I have to use public restrooms.

My travels have taught me a lesson when it comes to public toilets: always have your own tissue with you! I have traveled around the world to some dodgy places and even some glam places where the toilets did not have toilet paper so I have learned to always carry my own. There is nothing more irritating than using the toilet and realizing that there is no tissue or wet wipes to clean up. I stay prepared!

I spent the holiday period in Nigeria as an “I just got back (IJGB)” and had a great time as always. Traffic, heat, food, fuel scarcity and whatever else IJGBs typically complain about do not bother me much. It is all part of my homely experience. Nonetheless, please permit me to have my one IJGB complaint that surprisingly many people fail to talk about. The public restroom situation in Nigeria is terrible. Horrible. Gross. I can’t shout, but it sucks!

I suspect that many Nigerians are accustomed to how bad the situation is so they plan accordingly. I also have to do the same whenever I am in Nigeria. There are insufficient public restrooms. For example, a market woman works all day in the heat and has to go in the corner of a stall to do the deed. If she is lucky, there might be a concealed toilet in the market but I cannot imagine the condition of that toilet. Not okay.

I recall a few years back seeing disturbing pictures of toilets at NYSC camps. Definitely not okay. All over Lagos you see men of all ages urinating by the road. Men are lucky because they can effectively pee standing up. Still not okay.

In Lagos, I have entered many establishments like restaurants and banks and their restrooms are not up to standard. For instance, you will go to a nice restaurant and their toilet will still leave you with much to be desired. A toilet is a necessity. Should a proper upkeep not be equally considered when developing and managing an establishment?

I cannot simply always wait until I get home to use the toilet and I should not have to. In the US, I can guarantee that most places I go to will have a toilet that is at least satisfactory (although some are also disgusting). Therefore, my bladder is not something that I really think about when I am in the US like I have to in Nigeria. I am one of those people that drink a glass of water and have to pee. Therefore, when I go out in Nigeria I result to drinking a lot less, which can lead to dehydration, because I do not want to hold my pee for long or feel dirty because I used the toilet.

I am writing this complaint for the men and women who are constantly hustling outside, people with bladder issues, and generally everyone who has to deal with the toilet situation. In 2016, even in some houses the landlord will not provide a standard toilet for their tenants. There are major problems the country is facing, but this toilet situation is one that we can easily work together to improve. It is time to make clean and usable toilets a standard in our society.

It is time to hold landlords, businesses and government accountable to keep us feeling safe and clean. Rich or poor, when nature calls we all have to abide. I cannot be the only one that is aware of this problem or have had bad toilet experiences. Let’s speak up and demand better.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

33 Comments on Patience Wumi: Is It Too Much To Ask For Clean Restrooms in Nigeria?
  • hannah Ukiwo February 4, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    you have just said it all. this has long been a bothering issue.

    • jide February 4, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      Nigerian publlic. Facilities run latrines not restroom. You go in, hold your breath wee or shat and run out to catch fresh breath.

  • charles February 4, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    As petty as it might sound, it is really crazy…I can count how many places where I have been to that actually have clean rest rooms every time you go there. From big hotels, to a state house of assembly (i visited last week), to banks to big companies, the rest rooms are just an eye sore, despite the “barage of cleaners” found in these places.
    i had to come to the conclusion, that “Nigerians dey sh.it”

  • jumibaby February 4, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    I tire o! Please tell them. Even the so called big companies and restaurant. You enter their toilets and you shit immediately refuses to come out. So you carry yourself out, wait till you get home before you do the do.

  • ElessarisElendil February 4, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    A day I’ll never forget, I made the mistake of drinking too much water and made the even worse mistake of using the library toilet.

    I simply do not understand how your parents will spend millions of naira and you’ll spend 15 years in school, pass SSCE, JAMB and Post-JAMB only to come shit on the toilet floor.

    Some Nigerians simply glory in ticking all the worst stereotypes of the Black Man.

  • mrs chidukane February 4, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    New Ministry of Justice building Umuahia has NO restrooms. How will you build an office complex with no restroom? I even prefer restrooms that you pay to use because those ones are usually cleaner. This is a big problem in Nigeria. However, in the defense of some restaurants /fastfood joints the customers use the facilities very roughly eg stand on the toilet seat, break the shank,etc. The owners get tired of fixing and just let it go.

  • Honeycrown February 4, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    My sister, I’ve already conditioned myself to stop using public restrooms since I left boarding house o! I think the bathrooms we had back then mentally & emotionally traumatized me. I later found out from a friend of mine who was even more badly traumatized ? that she only does #2 once in 2/3 weeks. I advised her to go see a psychiatrist because the experience has left her scarred.
    Jokes apart though, I rarely use public restrooms and it doesn’t matter where in the world. Some places are just a no-no its like I can never feel the urge to go. Some glammed up places with excellent bathrooms, I still find it hard to go sef. I don’t understand how people do #2 outside their home sef. I have an exception during my periods but my current job has an excellent bathroom but I use like 2x a week. Getting clean bathrooms in Nigeria will be on the bottom of the “to do” list because in my opinion, hygiene isn’t that important to people and we have a culture of using the “road side” as option.

    • Cele-Ijesha February 4, 2016 at 7:32 pm

      Iya Tanwa, na im be say shit never worry you. Maybe it is those respectful shit that knock, ko, ko, ko, before they come out. i.e igbe to ni manners.. if better shit should hold you, you will form Ray Charles to all those little indignities in the toilet and shit the shit. Igbe o ti gbon e

      • S! February 4, 2016 at 11:14 pm

        Looool.
        Please tell them.

  • Olola February 4, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Southern Sun, Ikoyi…the toilet downstairs was in a horrible state yesterday. I was extremely disappointed to say the least. I couldn’t even manage to use it.

  • Tee February 4, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Same goes to NYSC hygiene. From the stories I heard from people, I still dey wonder how people stayed for a week in those places not to talk of months. Hmmmm, Naija I hail o. OCD people like me no fit near that place. Women with health conditions like fibroid, endometriosis are really in trouble in this country. Small time, them go say, white people are dirty. The same white people wey you fit buy their tokunbo cars cos he dey clean, even tokunbo clothes and electronics. I’m sorry to say, but we dirty for Naija no be small. I have seen homess with househelps and cleaners that I feel they are wasting salary paying domestic staff cos they ain’t clean. And for Obodo Oyinbo wey we no get help, we still clean and disinfect everything.

    • susa February 4, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Lmao! I think most Nigerians are tidy and not clean. There is a difference between the two.

  • Abk February 4, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Not even in Nigeria, even here in Toronto. I’ve mastered the act of not using public restrooms or washrooms; in whatever country I go/visit. I’m someone that can’t hold my pee, when I’m home and need to pee; I immediately rush to the washroom. However, when I’m outdoors, I’ve noticed for some reasons even when I need to pee; I hold myself.

  • Cancel Reply February 4, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Public toilets in Rome and Nigeria are twins! Terrible something.

  • susa February 4, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Nigeria in general has a toilet/washroom problem and our people still need to be trained on how to use the toilet.

    • Blank February 4, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      @Susa that you have to train adults, some who are mothers and fathers is even more embarrassing.

      • susa February 4, 2016 at 7:39 pm

        Lol. Wetin we go do? When you can’t even use the washrooms in some people’s homes….

  • o February 4, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    “Despite the barage of cleaners”. Do you know how much the average cleaner earns? Btw 11 – 15k per month. Most of them have mouths to feed. Will them kill themselves on top another person’s shit because of a measly sum? Most of those cleaning coys get the big contracts but pay the cleaners peanuts. Still there’s dignity in labour, I’m not trying to excuse the cleaners that don’t do their jobs.

  • Dunni February 4, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Much needed article. However before we lay the blame solely on establishments for the terrible state of their toilets let’s not forget that the cleanliness of toilets also depends on the people that use them.

    When you use a toilet and refuse to flush it and/or clean up after yourself e.g. pee on seats then you’re part of the problem. It’s a nasty job to clean up other people’s excitements regardless of whether you’re getting paid for it or not. We’re not animals in the bush.

    If everyone left toilets in the state that they’d wish to find them then the situation would be much better overall. Having said that it is the job of establishments to provide water, toilet paper, and toilet brush in every toilet so that people can use responsibly.

  • o February 4, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    If you are looking for the dirtiest rest rooms, go no further than LUTH. They are so dirty that I’m sure even the germs are irritated. I don’t know what it is but most places just can’t manage rest rooms. I see some public toilets at some major bus stops and I can only imagine the state they will be in…i think the govt should introduce paid public rest rooms. I’m sure ppl will gladly part with 20 or 50 naira in return for a decent toilet. As for me, I drink very little water when goin out. I can’t be rushing to toilet anyhow.

    • Ceetoo February 5, 2016 at 9:10 am

      If the Govt introduce paid toilet now… Nene and co will come and shout “Buhari/APC want to kill Nigerians.” We dont know what we want yet in this country….
      I was at Oyingbo market one day and nearly died of holding my pee (i had been in traffic for so long before i got there) my stock fish customer said I should use the public toilet that it is clean… I thot he was actually losing his mind… but he kept insisting and i said no i will manage…. when i started dancing i had to take the risk, with my jeans folded up to by hips, i went in and i was pleasantly surprised. The place was kinda clean…. Not all bad news.

  • Olu February 4, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    Jungle

  • ‘Diddie February 4, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    As in..its very disturbing. Just poor maintenance culture and lack of facilities
    How can a toilet not have water ? Even when there is water, the users do use it properly( and these would be very fine girls)
    Please I want to vent oo, Toilets in Unilag are terrible..from the library to Faculties…It is so terrible

    • o February 4, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      What of the hostels?? Maybe they are better now. I used to target the cleaners. When I’m in the hostel in the morning, once the cleaner steps out, I step in cos for sure it will still be a bit tolerable. And I mastered d art of turning my towel to head wrap, no clean spot to hang towels…

      • Cindy February 4, 2016 at 10:19 pm

        I was an v.hall rep, my eyes saw evil. Just like you. My room was opposite the cleaner’s room in my final year. She knew me very well. Infact ,as she finishes cleaning a spot, I hop in immediately. Mastered the art of using a potty all over again. Some people will be menstruating and wee, yet they cannot rinse away. One day,cleaner came angrily shouting that someone shortput inside a whole drum of water meant for cleaning and washing. Unilag girls, I hail una.

  • Oya oh February 4, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    Oya who will clean or wash the toilets when everyone is claiming to be a dude or Ajebo.. People want jobs that will pay them millions overnight!

  • Dr.N February 4, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    In Uni, I used to clean d toilet with a brush n all b4 using. Yeah, even d bathroom. Folks line up to use after me. We need to help people. Put cleaners on stand by to check d loo after u use it. If u stood on d seat, forgot to flush, or did stuff on d floor, u get called out. Maybe pay a fine.
    Of course this can only work where there is a well managed rest room

  • ks February 5, 2016 at 1:55 am

    THANK U for talking about this. abeg check out d toilet at arrival in MMA….really fierce.
    very terrible smells and germs to follow.

    on depature MMA toilet better. the water hose in the toilet was very surprising but flooding on floor.

    Unilag party/event hall… worst toilets ever… stool floating on the ground disgusting place.

    Secondary school toilet with feces up to the brim. nobody gives a shit for real.

    what of people who crap on newspaper and throws it in your compound. Imagine the smell of hot shit stewing in the sun. it doesnt smell like perfume…lol..

    Time for someone to do business with public toilets. build a few with showers. charge to use and keep very clean. u will be able to buy ur bugatti in record time… and money made from shit business doesnt smell.

  • Aanuolutomiwa February 5, 2016 at 9:54 am

    The problem start with us, i’m a front desk officer and the toilet is in my office, most time i have to call some staff back to go and reflush and clean it properly, some people will leave shit stains and they are not blind to see the brush beside it, its not everything cleaners will do for us, we just believe thats what they are paid to do.
    I even pick up brush to clean the toilet when i need to use it,lets indulge in the habit of waiting to see if the mess has been properly flush b4 we dash out of the toilet.

  • Voice of Reason February 5, 2016 at 11:16 am

    All of these start with childhood, the average Nigerian women sees herself to be worthless and a vessel of filth, she is truly convinced of this truth.

    This gives an idea as to the true nature of the Nigerian mind. what he does when no one is looking. Behind the facade of religion when all the falsehood is ripped off?

    Every one of you on this blog are a party to this mess. But do you know why you do it? It is because the average black skilled person thinks so so so lowly of himself, and also all that look like him.

    When you pee leaving drops on the seat of the toilet or on the floor. what are you doing?. You are saying to the world “i am worth nothing anyway, so is the next person to use this toilet”. If you thought highly of your selves (e.g like a beacon of reason). you would never degrade yourselves to such pitiful states.

    That is why you are obsessed with weddings (e.g. look at Aanuolutomiwa’s profile pic) because that is the only outlet that gives you a tint of self worth. But unfortunately that illusion only lasts a day after which all goes back to their pitiful lives of filth and a dead self worth.

  • Baba February 5, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Finally,someone said something about this mess!!
    From secondary school to uni,even my house i also thought the bath can never be white and shiny. I reached obodo Oyinbo and i was surprised.
    Going back on visits now just gives me a cringe!! You ask for a fresh toilet and when you get is shocking, you think WTF!!
    I went for my mum’s 70th,the whole house was full of family(during Ebola crisis,my sis stayed back after buying ticket).I went to the newly built hotel around the corner….tufiakpa…restroom was so mouldy and i dont want to describe the cistern.

    I do not know how we survived the Ebola crisis..there must be a God that protect just the black man!!

  • Deep Soul February 5, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Alas, I am not the only mad person!!

    We recently just moved to a new (rented) house and I personally made sure I bought new toilet seats for all the toilets. My husband said it was not necessary because they could be washed…lai lai oh!

    I remember when I was in NYSC camp, I had to take special permission to go to town….and my reason was simple – I needed to take a dump! I jejunely bought a small bottle of dettol, paid 5k for a hotel room, bathed the toilet seat with dettol and did the deed! I figured that would last me till I left camp but unfortunately, it didn’t and the next time, I had to enter inside Ekiti bush!

    Even at work, where I can’t seem to escape it, I can NEVER EVER be caught dead sitting on a toilet bowl

    I can NEVER EVER be caught dead doing No. 2 outside my house either.

    Infact, my obsession with clean toilets is so severe that I have begged my husband to construct two separate toilets in the master’s bedroom for the new house we are building……I do not even wanna share a toilet with my one & only, not to talk of public……AHH!

  • Leigh Allen February 26, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I also travel a lot and when I was younger I went to many festivals where I was forced to use the public toilets. I learned my lesson through the years and now I always carry with me paper tissues. I definitely don’t like using public toilets but this is the only way if you want to travel. I am always happy when the toilets are clean. 🙂 Thanks for the post!

  • Post a comment