The Historical Background Of Sanitary Inspectors In Nigeria

Sanitary inspectors in the 60s
Known as ‘wole-wole’ in Yorubaland, ‘Nwaole-ala’ among the Igbos and ‘duba-gari’ among Hausa people, sanitary inspectors are government officials saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the sanitation of houses and neighbourhoods in every part of Nigeria.


The office of the sanitary inspector was established during the colonial era of Nigeria. At the dawn of their establishment, they were known as sanitary attendants because their primary function then was to serve as helping hands to colonial masters (sanitary inspectors) who execute sanitary duties themselves.

On a clearer note, colonial masters who oversaw sanitization were called ‘sanitary inspectors’ while Nigerians who worked under them were referred to as ‘sanitary attendants’.

The sanitary attendants handled meager duties such as marking tall or bent trees, noting dilapidated buildings, pasting announcements or warning bills, interpreting for colonial masters, etcetera.

As time went on, the sanitary attendants were assigned more professional functions such as daily sanitary inspection, collection of water samples, noting mosquitoes’ breeding sites, and so on.

Many of the sanitary attendants improved their education level and thus earned more recognition for their office. They began to execute functions such as felling tall trees that were close to residential buildings, identifying infectious disease cases, disinfection and disinfestation, liaison between the colonial masters and villagers, verification of notices issued by their colonial masters (sanitary inspectors), retention of daily, weekly and monthly returns and others.

In the 1920s, Dr. Isaac Ladipo Oluwole played a crucial role in improving the status of Nigerian health workers, including the partly recognized sanitary attendants.

Dr. Oluwole returned from Britain as a public health physician and became the first African Medical Officer of Health (MOH) in the Lagos colony. In 1920, he established the Nigerian School of Hygiene in Yaba, Lagos, which was the first of its kind in Nigeria, and trained qualified people to become sanitary inspectors.

During this period, the sanitary attendants were now referred to as sanitary inspectors and were put in charge of:

  • Routine sanitary inspection of houses, markets, schools, and communities.
  • Waste disposal and environmental sanitation, pollution control, and industrial sanitation.
  • Water sampling and sanitation.
  • Port health duties (air, land, and seaports)
  • Control of communicable diseases (infectious diseases).
  • Building and urban planning.
  • Vector and pest control e.g. Malaria control.
  • Prosecution of public health offenders in the court.
  • Meat and food inspection.
  • The disposal of the dead (corpses).
  • Occupational health and factory inspection.
  • Vaccination/inoculation of both schoolchildren and adults.
  • Health education on personal and public hygiene.
Sanitary inspectors in the 60s
They were dreaded by all and sundry, even more than the then colonial police officers, because breaching their orders was breaching the system, so people avoid getting into their trouble net by tidying up their environments.

Another factor that improved the status of the sanitary inspectors was the establishment of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948 as people with a higher level of education joined the profession.

In 1988, the name of the profession was changed to environmental health officers in line with the internationally accepted name of practitioners of the profession and also to accommodate members of the profession who graduated from the university with a degree in public health, environmental health, and epidemiology.

Fast forward to recent years, the present situation of the sanitary inspectors in Nigeria is disheartening as little regard is given to them and their functions. The profession is withering away at an increasing spate and people now tag it ‘old-school’ while some are not even aware of their (sanitary inspectors now environmental health officers) existence.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Professional Association of Environmental Health Officers of Nigeria (PAEHON); “Preventing disease through proper environmental management in the 21st century in Nigeria”; 2001;
  2. Sani Garba; Environmental Health in Nigeria, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow; 2004;
  3. Omipidan. Teslim Opemipo (2014). Colonial Rule in Nigeria and Nigeria’s Struggle for Independence. highlifextra.
  4. Ayodeji Olukoju; Local And Global Dynamics In The Transformation Of The Port-City Of Lagos Since The Nineteenth Century (PDF); Department of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos.
  5. Image Credit – Émi Ni Afrika

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How Nigeria’s Independence was celebrated on October 1st 1960 (With Videos)

Nigeria's Independence
Nigerians at the Tafawa Balewa Square on October 1st 1960

Joy and merriment rented the air as excited Nigerians stormed Tafawa Balewa Square, in Lagos, to partake in the long-awaited celebration of Nigeria’s independence on Saturday, 1st of October, 1960.


Among the crowds were students, civil servants, market women, traders and others. Performers (cultural dancers, masquerades, acrobats) also were standby and eager to entertain people with their performances.

Below is a video showing Nigeria’s Independence celebration on October 1st 1960​

OldNaija gathered that policemen stood in bands in different key places across the square to prevent or suppress any form of unwanted intrusion. It was indeed a wonderful sight to behold.

The celebration was not limited to the capital city of Lagos in the Western region, there were also celebrations in other regions of the country but that of Lagos was the biggest and most colourful. Nigerians who could not make it to the Tafawa Balewa Square watched the event on their black and white television sets at home.

The celebration at the Tafawa Balewa Square kicked-off with the eloquent speech of the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, in which he expressed his joy and happiness for the newly liberated nation and her people.

He went further by thanking the colonial masters and promising that Nigeria will remain in good terms with them. Read the full speech here.

Nigeria Independence Constitution
Jaja Wachuku, Tafawa Balewa and Princess Alexandra of Kent

The national anthem was sung and the Nigerian flag, designed by Taiwo Akinkunmi in 1959, was hoisted in replacement of the British flag. Also, Jaja Wachukwu, Nigeria’s first indigenous speaker, received Nigeria’s instrument of freedom (also called ‘Freedom Charter’) from Princess Alexandra of Kent, a member of the British royal family who represented Queen Elizabeth at the ceremony.

In the evening, the sky above the Tafawa Balewa Square came alive with a display of fireworks and shouts of happy independence. Dance troupes from different Nigerian ethnic groups displayed their dancing prowesses to the thrilled audience and acrobats awed the guests with their performances too.

A state banquet was held where dignitaries from Nigeria and other countries mingled, wined and danced. It was an unforgettable day in the history of Nigeria.

Here is another video of the Nigerian Independence celebration in 1960

Thanks for reading,

British Movietone News – A video on Nigeria’s Independence


Story Of Gloria Okon, Nigeria’s Most Controversial Female Drug Smuggler

Gloria Okon
Gloria Okon. © Joliba Heritage & Culture

On the 22nd of April, 1985, the National Security Organization (NSO) arrested a 35-year-old lady named Gloria Okon at the Aminu Kano International airport for smuggling substances suspected to be heroin and other kinds of hard drugs.


She was about to leave Nigeria for England when she was caught with 56.70 grammes of the substances, 301 dollars, 60 pounds sterling, N20,000 and 19,000 Italian lira.

The news of Gloria Okon’s apprehension flooded both local and international media. Nigerians were eager to know her fate because then, Decree no. 20 of the Buhari military junta declared anyone caught with hard drugs punishable by death. But on April 28, 1985, six days after Gloria Okon was arrested, she died in a very mysterious and controversial manner while in custody.

The medical report stated that the cause of her death was food poisoning. It was said that she didn’t show any sign of illness when arrested until a day after. A customs officer who kept Gloria Okon in custody said that that on the day she was arrested, she requested for rice and beans and she was given, and later she started complaining then died.

Before her death, she was interrogated but refused to talk. She only left a very slim clue; she mentioned the name Bassey but without a second name which dragged the investigation to a dead end. gathered that none of Gloria Okon’s relatives showed up to claim her corpse and that further shed light on the dark part of the saga.

After Babangida removed Buhari from power, Gani Fawehinmi, a prolific Nigerian lawyer, set to revive the investigation of Gloria Okon’s case but ended up crashing into the walls of Haliru Akilu and Kunle Togun, top security agents of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

Maryam Babangida
Maryam Babangida

In the absence of no conclusion on Gloria Okon’s case, several speculations began to spread like wildfire among Nigerians. Some believed that Gloria Okon was working for the first lady, Mariam Babangida, and she was killed so the cat won’t be let out of the bag. Some people also believed that Gloria Okon’s death was faked and the corpse sent to her family was not hers. It was also said that she was living her normal life over the seas while portrayed dead in Nigeria.

In June 2009, Professor Taiyemiwo Ogunade, in an interview with THE NATION said: “Gloria Okon is actually Chinyere, that’s her real name. She married Charles “Jeff” Chandler, the fellow who killed Nzeogwu and was killed a day later. Chinyere, Maryam and Princess Atta were young friends who hung out together. They all married into the military, because the military was a proud and respectable profession then. Charles Chandler, who was Tiv, married Chinyere who I think is from Imo State. IBB married Maryam from Asaba and Mamman Vatsa married the princess.

So Chinyere became a widow and resorted to trading between UK and Nigeria. And then she was caught with drugs; Mamman Vatsa was the person who put Chinyere on the next available flight from Kano to London – and then claimed that she was dead by parading a dead woman picked out of the mortuary. Dele Giwa later found out that she was in London having delivered a baby by another man. He sent a French photographer to the place and they saw Maryam Babangida at the event. Kayode Soyinka brought back the photographs. Dele was sitting across the table from Kayode examining the photos taken of “Gloria Okon” (Chinyere, Richard Chandler’s wife) at the naming ceremony in London. Maryam Babangida was there. And then a letter parcel was delivered to him and he said excitedly that it must be from “Mr. President” referring to the discussions he had with IBB days earlier. The bomb exploded and severed his lower abdomen; he died a few hours later. [This is an excerpt, read the full interview here]

Dele Giwa
Dele Giwa after the bomb assassination.

Till today, the mysterious case of Gloria Okon has not been solved and no one seems not to be interested in reopening the closed case. Will the case be reopened? A question worth asking!


  • REPUBLIC REPORT. “Dele Giwa’s Greed, IBB/Gloria Okon Saga, & 1980s Drug-Trafficking REVISITED”. REPUBLIC REPORT.
  • Teslim Omipidan. Killers Exposed! The Gruesome Murder of Dele Giwa In 1986.
  • NAIJ: Mysterious Story Of Gloria Okon