Henceforth, hotels and eateries in Akwa Ibom State which do not meet the environmental health conditions/guidelines of the state government, would be shut down, the state Commissioner of Environment, Mr. Charles Udo, has warned.
Udo, who issued the warning in a chat with newsmen, said it was the decision of his ministry to take environmental and health issues very serious hence the recent workshop organised by the Ministry for the hotels, food and beverage sector.
The commissioner who advocated a re-introduction of sanitary inspectors in communities, explained that the hospitality sector becomes the primary target in the fight against poor environmental health conditions because they deal with what is directly consumed by the people.
“My dream is to bring back the days of sanitary inspectors. I call them sanitary inspectors but they are environmental health workers and have uniform: white and brown. Their business is making sure of what you are eating and the environment that you live.
“The meat pie you eat in the fast food joint; do you know if the flour used is expired? It is the business of the environmental health workers, do you even know the hygiene condition of where the food is being processed? Do you know the expiry dates of the condiments? The condition of the physical structure they are? It is still their business.
“As a little child, I can remember that the fear of sanitary inspectors was the beginning of wisdom among community people, both young and old but they gradually evaporated. Not that they are no longer there but evaporated into their offices.
“When I was given the opportunity to serve in this ministry, I realized that the job of an environmental health officer is not in the office. For instance, you have a borehole here and you think you are drinking clean water but over the fence, there is a septic tank over than the standard depth, automatically, you are drinking contaminated water. You can’t deal with that, it is the business of the environmental health worker,” Udo explained.
He said the worship, which served as a refresher course, was opened to all hotel, food and beverage sector operators and hinted that guidelines would be issued even as enforcement and apprehension on defaulters would begin.
“We did not want to go ahead to enforce the law and apprehend defaulters. We had to start by educating and creating awareness, letting people understand what they should do because for over 30 years, nobody has asked questions on environmental health or exposed operator in the sector to national guidelines in the country for compliance.
“Now that the workshop is concluded, guidelines would be given. We will begin to visit hotels to check their kitchens, their interiors, based on what we expect from them on environmental health standard” the commissioner stressed.
Udo noted that the guidelines would take into consideration, the categories and level of patronage in the industry, calling on stakeholers and the general public to treat the issue with utmost importance as it has to do with the overall health of the citizenry.