A raid on houses without toilets is underway in the Upper East region with 104 landlords so far dragged to the Bolgatanga District Magistrate Court where they had to embrace fines among other conditions to avoid a six-month-jail term.
Civil society organisations in the region, where unavailability of toilets or decent toilet facilities in many houses has emboldened open defecation in many places, have hailed the ongoing raid led by the Rent Control Department. Worried observers have said many of the structures called “places of convenience” are actually “places of thorough inconvenience”.
One of the prosecuted landlords, who was fined Gh¢300 and also asked to either construct a toilet within 3 months or to do 6 months in jail, chose the former without hesitation. Another householder, found to have already put up a flush toilet but failed to have also connected pipes to the septic tank, coughed out a reduced Gh¢240 in court. He was given 2 weeks to complete the structure or, in default, serve a 3-month jail sentence.
In another case, one was put behind bars after he told the court he was not guilty. When he reappeared, he pleaded guilty and was slapped with a fine of Gh¢840. He was ordered to provide a befitting toilet facility for his tenants within 2 months or receive a 6-month prison sentence. A landlord skipped a jail term by building a toilet quickly after he had received a notice to appear in court. He, however, was charged Gh¢240 for waiting until he was summoned before he provided his tenants with a washroom.
“There are some of the premises we’ve actually visited and, in fact, it would have been better if they don’t have toilet facilities. You enter the toilet and it’s an eyesore. That alone scares the tenants from using that particular facility- especially the ladies. You enter a toilet within a [building] and there are maggots all over. These are pits types of latrines people do. It’s serious.
“You visit a very big compound house with about 13 tenants, enter the bathroom and it’s not properly floored. Somebody would have to bathe and come out and still wash his or her legs. You are bathing, accidentally your sponge drops and you can’t use it again because the place is looking so terrible,” the Upper East Regional Rent Control Manager, Adam Yaminu Kasim, told Starr News.
He pointed out: “In this country, people misconstrue the essence of rent. People just restrict rent to the four squares of the room where they sleep. Rent goes beyond the four squares. The rent actually includes any other facility that is supposed to come with decent accommodation- talking about kitchen, storeroom and decent toilet facility- not just toilet facility, but decent toilet facility.”
Assembly clears popular open-defecation joint
Abandoned and mostly bushy, the Bolgatanga Children’s Park, situated along the highway that links Ghana to Burkina Faso, has remained an open-defecation rendezvous.
Day and night, individuals park their vehicles around the forsaken facility to ease themselves in the tree-covered area of the premises. The Bolgatanga Municipal Assembly, who believes the lack-of-toilet situation in many houses is one of the factors fuelling open defecation at the neglected park, has cleared some parts of the bush to discourage the practice. Tons of used toilet rolls and solid waste, capped with sheets of paper, became bare after a team engaged by the assembly slashed down the bush.
The Bolgatanga Municipal Environmental Health Officer, Leo Logochura, led the team to the park. Whilst the men were busy bringing down the bush, Mr. Logochura told Starr News: “We are out to reduce open defecation. And we have strategies. That is prosecuting landlords without household toilets and to clear open spaces such that there won’t be chance for people to defecate. People come here to do open defecation. You’ll see [vehicles] parked on the road, people coming to do open defecation. It is also a security threat. The place is bushy. Anybody can hide here and commit any crime, especially in the night.”
He added: “Open defecation is very serious in the region. I think the whole country we know, Upper East is last and Bolga is worst off. We have prosecuted over 29 landlords in the municipality and 13 household toilets have been constructed by some of the landlords. That is those we have supervised. Some are under construction. Presently, on my table we have got 15 landlords ready for prosecution because they have no household toilets.”
Assemblies need to inspect houses under construction- Coalition
The Upper East Regional Secretariat of the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health believes a thorough scrutiny of building plans and the inspection of houses under construction are all that is needed to ensure decent toilet facilities are provided and to curb sanitation-related diseases in the region.
“The landlords, landladies are running a commercial business. You must make sure that you include a bathhouse and places of convenience. But you ask yourself- what are the inspection directorates of the assemblies [doing about this]? You need to inspect. The sanitation byelaws of assemblies must bite now.
“The taskforce should intensify their campaign. We can prevent most of the diseases from occurring- diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid and the rest. Sanitation is not just building a place of convenience but also keeping our environment clean. Bolgatanga was once adjudged the neatest municipality in the whole country when the Honourable Regional Minister (Rockson Bukari) was the Municipal Chief Executive. Let’s begin to respect simple byelaws,” said the Upper East Regional Chairman of the coalition, Noble Asakeya Alagskomah.