Despite the sensitization programmes and awareness campaigns embarked upon by government, concerned groups and organisations, the trend of drug abuse seems to be increasing in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and its environs. REGINA OTOKPA reports
Like a flood, drug abuse is a dangerous trend, sweeping across every nook and cranny of the Abuja. From hard drugs like cocaine, marijuana (cannabis) to medicinal drugs such as codeine to mention but a few, youths within and outside the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are endangered by continuous use of these dangerous substances.
Across the FCT, there are designated hot spots where these drugs can be purchased. Sadly, some of these joints are close to police stations, military barracks, hospitals, churches and mosques.
Even though security operatives carry out occasional raids of these drug joints, it is all a sham.
Inside Abuja checks revealed that youths engage in substance abuse for several reasons, including pressure from friends or peer group, depression, frustration resulting from the harsh economic situation in the country.
In addition, those who abuse drugs often have poor education, lack of sensitisation on the dangers of drug abuse, low self esteem, family pressure or just for the fun of it.
In as much as substance abuse makes one feel good, it has a wide range of short and long term direct and indirect effects that leaves a trail of consequences.
It alters the body function in a way that takes away common sense, erodes one’s capacity to reason or make good judgements and leaves users addicted to the point of no return even when they know it is affecting them negatively and they want to quit.
The worst of it is that can lead to death, resulting from cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, kidney, cancer, liver or mental diseases, HIV or hepatitis including other health disorders such as hormonal or neurological effects.
Not only does abuse of drugs affect those using, it equally affects those around them as it exposes them to the risk of trauma, violence, injury and communicable diseases.
It can also impact on relationships negatively and create a number of social upsets.
Inside Abuja checks showed that in the past, Nigeria was a mere transit country for narcotic drugs.
Sadly today, Nigeria is recognised internationally as a user nation. Presently, Lagos State and the North West geopolitical zone are topping the list on the prevalence chart of drug abuse in the country.
At a youth conference on drug abuse recently in Abuja, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), lamented that the statistics of drug use among youths was become disturbing.
He added that the abuse of prescriptive medicines was most worrisome.
The elder statesman, who spoke to Inside Abuja through his son, Mr. Ibrahim Gowon, said given the enormity of the problem, there was an urgent need for government and the private sector to join efforts to curb the growing menace of drug abuse among youths.“
Latest statistics from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are frightening. Gowon expressed hopes that the sensitisation initiative will provide light at the end of the tunnel.
“We should appeal to the Federal Government, the private sector, Civil Society Organisations, religious and traditional institutions to combine efforts in raising awareness about the ills of drug abuse.
“The problem is no longer restricted to hard drugs. It now involves medicinal drugs like codeine that can easily be purchased at the counter. This is a huge menace. Drug abuse not only kills, it destroys lives, not just of the individual, but of people around the person involved,” he said.
Giving an insight into its activities to curb the abuse of drugs in the country, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA), Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd) said drug abuse had become a major public health problem in the country.
Riding on the mandate of PACEDA to get remedial and sustainable solutions to the menace, the Committee did not only go round communities across the country to raise awareness and sensitisation on the dangers of drug abuse but they equally engaged the communities, state governments and foreign Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), to widen its scope about how to tackle the scourge.
A PACEDA member, Mrs Martina Nwodu, who spoke on behalf of Marwa, said the Committee has come up with strong recommendations soon to be submitted to the Federal Government, which she believes would change the narrative of drug abuse in the country.
“The Federal Government today aligns with the goal of eradicating drug abuse in Nigeria. Drug abuse should be a concern to all of us because we are all affected one way or the other. We have put together a report containing recommendations. We are sure that those recommendations will soon be rolled out and they will be made known to everybody in Nigeria and everybody will be called to key in to the process.
“What have been put in place are huge. It’s just that they need to be strengthened further and it is part of the recommendations. We are sure that once that is done, we will begin to record some reversal in the trend.
The good news is no matter the enormity of any issue, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel if the right steps are taken such as implementing policies aimed at tackling the problem, collaborating with religious and traditional leaders to appeal to the conscience of people abusing drugs.”
According to the Public Relations Officer of NDLEA, FCT command, Mr. Peter Adegbe, improved parenting, enforcement of basic education by the government at all levels, increased sensitisation and awareness of youths on the effects of drug abuse on their
overall good health and mental wellbeing would go a long way to assist the agency in the fight against drug abuse.
“The agency is working round the clock. Our enlightenment effort has also intensified seriously. Before now, little attention was dedicated to local areas, villages, but we are beginning to engage them. We sit with communities and local persons and educate them on the consequences of these substances permitting it around them and even using it.
“We are going far. We are networking with a lot of NGOs and government agencies. We are engaging in talk shows in tertiary institutions and secondary schools. What is lacking is the citizen responsibility, individuals. We cannot be everywhere all the same time. What we want is for you to organise something and invite NDLEA to come and do the talking,”Adegbe said.
Nollywood stars storm Abuja for DGN anniversary
Notable Nollywood stars, last week stormed the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) in preparation for the celebration of Directors Guild of Nigeria ( DGN) 20th anniversary.
The visit, they said, was to seek for FCTA’s partnership to make the celebration a memorable event that would leave behind great memories and worthy legacies.
The President of DGN, Chief Fred Amata, said the entertainment industry in Nigeria had come of age and had contributed significantly to economic development in the country.
Amata said the DGN and its retinue of directors could boast responsibility for the biggest projects the industry started with, creating and nurturing the biggest actors, biggest structures, biggest engagements and creating the biggest icons the industry knows till date.
He also commended the FCT Administration for always supporting the industry, particularly in the establishment of the Abuja Film Village International and the staging of the annual Abuja Carnival.
Amata stressed the need for more interface between government and the Nollywood industry in order to move the industry to the desired level. The ace actor, who appealed to the government to create favourable policies for the industry, solicited the support of FCTA in the area of capacity building for artistes.
“Government policies still need to be better articulated to address challenges in the industry. We know that government recently, through the CBN, released huge money to the industry as a loan but it should be more than that. We need grants for the film industry to make it national project to make Nollywood capable of producing contents that can increase revenue for the country,” he said.
Receiving the stars, Permanent Secretary, Federal Capital Territory Administration, Mr. Christian Ohaa, expressed willingness of FCT to partner with them.
Ohaa, while congratulating the DGN for its 20th anniversary, said the FCTA had all the necessary departments that could collaborate with the Directors Guild of Nigeria effectively in its quest to take the industry to greater heights.
He said: “We have different departments like the Abuja Film village, Centre for Arts and Culture, and even the FCT Archives that can collaborate with the Nollywood effectively. The Directors Guild of Nigeria can come to the FCT Archives to get a lot of information that they will use to add value to what they are doing.
“We will create an enabling environment for the Nollywood industry to thrive in the FCT and the country at large. We are also going to collaborate with you to discuss with some private organisations that have relationship with FCTA to help sponsor some of your programmes.
“You are making Nigeria proud in the world entertainment space. Virtually, most of you here are well known and a lot of Nigerians watch your films to ease the stress of living”
Notable actors who accompanied Amata for the visit included Segun Arinze, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Kate Henshaw , Tony Akposheri and Francis Duru, amongst others.
Sani: We must respect rights of Abuja indigenous people
Human Right Activist and politician, Senator Shehu Sani, has called on the Federal Government to expand the employment and appointment opportunities available to natives of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), so as to give them a sense of belonging.
Sani stated this in Abuja, at a ceremony to mark this year’s World Indigenous Peoples Day. The ceremony was organised by the Coalition of FCT Indigenous Association in Abuja.
He decried the current situation where the indigenous people of Abuja whose forefathers donated their ancestral lands to the government for the establishment of the Federal Capital Territory, were being denied their basic rights as citizens of Nigeria.
“The Federal Government must give the FCT natives a sense of belonging; it should do so through adequate compensation, distribution of political appointments and amenities.
“The natives should be adequately compensated for the use of their lands. It will not be fair to marginalise them in the sharing of the resources.
“The problem of Abuja can be located in the general problem we face as a country and our refusal to reconfigure ourselves politically, socially and economically. This has brought us to where we are today.
“Nation building with proper legislation and adjudication in place can become a blessing to any nation when her citizens are developed as against decimation of her values.
“My submission is that government must address the plight of FCT indigenes and every other geopolitical zone. Government must be considerate. All sides must be given fair hearing,” he said.
The activist also urged government to restructure the country, so as to encourage each geo-political zone to develop along its area of best comparative advantage.
“We must restructure for peaceful coexistence and development; restructuring will return the country to the winning formula of the past that facilitated its socio-economic development.
“The North-central zone can optimise its mechanised agricultural potential and harness the Rivers Niger and Benue valleys not just for irrigation, but also for hydroponic farming.
“The zone can then transit into heavy industries, including steel manufacturing and auto-manufacturing, while also harnessing the rivers as inland waterways and tourist attractions,” he said.
Sani said that if the approach was adopted, Nigeria’s 36 states would, within 10 years, evolve into six strong federating geo-political zones and a Federal Capital Territory.
Bwari youths walk for peace, unity
The youth in Bwari, headquarters of Bwari Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory, recently embarked on a special Walk for Peace. CALEB ONWE reports
Bwari, a semi-urban settlement is inhabited by many ethnic groups, aside from the original inhabitants, who are of the Gbagi ( Gwari) and Koro ethnic stocks.
In the last two years, the peaceful co- existence and good neighbourliness of the community suddenly disappeared due to a chieftaincy tussle. The rift over who should lead the people has led to a lot of violence and destruction of property. This has also split the youth, who hitherto lived and enjoyed good brotherliness.
Apparently, the disagreement injected bad blood into ‘ the community to the extent that friendship took flight, giving way to enmity and animosity.
In recent days, what has been uppermost in the minds of all stakeholders is how to mend the broken walls of human relations.
The recent “Walk for Peace Campaign ” organised by youths within the area was one of such efforts geared towards re-uniting the people. It was not just applauded by good spirited residents, but seen as the needed solution to the festering conflict.
The youth, who were once aggrieved and took to the streets and the market, burning shops and destroying properties that have nothing to do with the parties involved in the tussle, have resolved to promote peace and unity in Bwari.
Inside Abuja learnt that the rally for peace was an effort meant to restore the peaceful ambience among the two major indigenous tribes, the Gbaygi and the Koro.
These two tribes started locking horns over which tribe was more qualified to produce an heir to the first class traditional stool.
While the Gbaygi who claim to be the original inhabitants has the “Etsu Bwari” chieftaincy stool, lower in the ranks of chiefs, the Koro, otherwise known as the Hausa/Fulani in the area, and also said to be settlers in Bwari chiefdom, have the “Emir or Sarkin Bwari”, a first class chieftaincy stool.
Inside Abuja‘s investigation also show that the Gbaygi, who were said to have slept over their rights in the Chieftaincy equation, wanted the perceived distortion of tradition to be addressed, after the death of the former Sarkin Bwari.
They claimed that it was an abnormality for Bwari to have two opposite chieftaincy stools.
Their expectations of having the situation reversed and getting the government recognise the Etsu Bwari, a Gbaygi man , as the paramount traditional chief was dashed to pieces when the Federal Capital Territory Administration went ahead to replace the late Sarkin with his son, almost immediately.
The peace rally
One thing that has elicited joy and celebration in the ancient town of Bwari was the resolve of the youths never to allow politicians use them achieve their political points.
Convener of the peace walk and one of the youth leaders, Nehemiah Zaka, said the youths unanimously resolved to walk round the town to show a sense of unity and love. He said the youths were tired of
being used by selfish politicians to cause violence, destroy property and kill people.
“Old things that have passed away” while pursuing peace for all, is the new interest that will outlast this present generation.
“We need peace. That is what has always brought us here. We want to be leaders of tomorrow irrespective of our religion, tribe or belief. God can’t be mocked for creating all of us together.
“Where there is no peace, there will not be development. All we need is peaceful coexistence among the citizens and also say no to those calling for RevolutionNow but let there be PeaceNow. The program is going round the Area Councils in Abuja and there will be a general peace summit when the new minister resumes.
“We need peace in Bwari and promise to engage stakeholders to promote peace and also plead with stakeholders to stop sponsoring youths for personal and political interest”, Zaka added.
The youth unanimously marched to the palaces of the two traditional rulers to establish their resolution and also demand for peace.
At the palace of Esu Bwari, HRH Ibrahim Yaro, JP, while addressing the youth, he said he was appreciative that youths have finally discovered that they were being used to foment violence in the FCT, especially Bwari.
The royal father, represented by the Dami Dami of Bwari, Chief Timothy Dakoyi, tasked the youths not to forget that they would be the ones leading the country in the future, advising them to stay away from drug abuse and cultism, reminding them of their responsibilities to their children and families when they have them.
He said: “I thank God you now understand that you are the fathers and leaders of tomorrow and have decided to amend your tomorrow. Stay away from drug abuse and cultism. It will not help you”
“When you become fathers and are behaving like this, how are you going to train and take care of your children tomorrow?”
He therefore charged them to spread the message of peace across the territory and the nation, so that there would be the needed peace in the country for sustainable development.
On his part, Sarkin Bwari, HRH Awwal Musa Ijakoro, also expressed gratitude to the youth for standing for peace in Bwari and Nigeria. The royal father, who was represented by Madakin Bwari, Alhaji Mohammed Danbaba Angola, corroborated the Esu, stating that the elders could not have any meaningful life without the youths who would also one day become elders.
He pointed out that Nigeria belonged to all Nigerians irrespective of religious leaning. Ijakoro advised the youths to take advantage of their upcoming peace summit to sensitize themselves on the imperative of peace, even as he reminded them not to allow a repeat of experiences of the past years, when the city was unguided in crisis prior to festive periods.
“Do not allow this your programme to crash. Let it move from strength to strength because it is a very essential programme that will keep the peace we currently enjoy in Bwari.”, he noted.
Another youth leader, John Anyebe, stated that the youth were the pillar upon which the country was built, warning against destruction of youths in whatever form, for whatever purpose.
Assuring the Esu and Sarkin of their commitment to peaceful coexistence in the FCT, Anyebe said: “As nation builders, we want to sustain the peace in the FCT. We do not want violence, because we cannot forget the two incidents of 2017 and 2018 when Bwari was brought to a halt because of violence, which unfortunately led to huge loss of property and lives.”
Inside Abuja gathered that the Federal Capital Territory Administration ( FCTA ) demonstrated utmost joy over the development and sent a representative to identify with the ‘ Peace Initiative ‘.
Director, Youth Development, Federal Capital Territory Administration, Hajarat Titilayo Alayende, pledged continued support of her organization to every effort targeted at ensuring peace in the FCT and called on the residents, especially the youth to crave for peace instead of revolution.
Alayende, who was represented by a Deputy Director, Youth Development, Kumsal Wuyep, also advised the youths to always work together and speak with one voice over national issues involving them.
Protests, blames over Jukun/Tiv crisis
The rivalry between the Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups in Taraba State has resulted in violence and bloodshed, leading to different groups trading accusations. REGINA OTOKPA reports
The two ethnic groups have lived together in relative peace for centuries. They have so many similarities in terms of language, culture, occupation, dressing and way of life that one would not believe they could be at loggerheads at any time.
But here they are shedding each other’s blood as protagonists of what has now become known as the Tiv/Jukun crisis.
The root cause of the crisis is still a subject of speculations but the fact that these two neighbours are at war is no longer in dispute. Incidentally, the crisis has spread into the academic community, resulting in the forced closure of the Federal University, Wukari in Taraba State.
In recent days, different interest groups have taken to the media space, seeking to present their own views about the crisis.
At a press conference in Abuja, the Tiv Youth Council (TYC), alleged that some prominent sons of the state were deeply involved in the persistent wars between the Tiv and Jukuns in Taraba State, which has intensified lately.
President of the TYC, Chivir Msuaan, who made the allegation on Monday in Abuja, while questioning their silence over the deepening crisis which has claimed hundreds of lives, said influential and political bigots were funding, training, inciting and arming the Jukun militia with sophisticated weapons, military kits and strategies.
Msuaan urged security agencies to thoroughly investigate the alleged involvement of the prominent persons and other factors fueling and motivating the Jukun militia to rape, maim, kill despite the several overtures at peace.
According to him, the ongoing ethnic crisis was a ploy to fuel national insecurity for political gains by discrediting President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. He urged the citizenry to disappoint such political calculations by shunning all forms of ethnocentric discriminations or biases, and to report all masterminds of violence and insecurity to relevant authorities.
His words: “The recent rape, maiming and killing of helpless Tiv students and staff of the Federal University Wukari is indeed one too many, deserving thorough investigation by the security agencies and enduring solutions to entrench peace.
“It is quite surprising that despite several attempts to extend the olive branch and make the warring parties embrace peace, the efforts have all fallen through midway with no results.
“The Jukun militia has remained irrepressibly resurgent, consistently coming up with sophisticated weapons, dreaded attack techniques and in several instances kitted as men of the Nigerian Army.
“The consistent tactics of the Jukun militia showed a streak of military training and a strong penchant to foment violence beyond primordial inclinations.
“This irrational development stirred our curiosity and prompted our team to conduct a scrupulous inquiry into the factors fuelling and motivating the Jukun militia despite the several overtures at peace. Our incontrovertible findings from this painstaking inquest revealed powerful individuals with political leanings funding, training and arming the Jukun militia.
“Their prime objectives aside ethnic dominance is to stir dissent against the government by raising the tempo of war to an inferno’s pitch, thereby fuelling national insecurity for political gains just to paint the President Muhammadu Buhari government in negative light.
“This worrisome trend has successfully been deployed surreptitiously by opposition political figures in flash areas to stir ethnic bile and generate needless tension across the nation just to give the government a bad name.
“To these fiendish pitchers against the government, no magnitude of destruction is too weighty so long as it tarnishes the reputation of the Buhari-led government.
“We therefore use this medium to call on the government to rise to the occasion and apprehend all these political players instigating and fuelling violence for cruel political gains.
“We herein particularly invite the relevant security agencies to immediately proceed with a thorough investigation of such individuals in the interest of peace and unity of the two ethnic groups.
“We strongly believe the Tivs and Jukuns can harmoniously live in peace as it was as if these political masterminds fuelling the war are isolated and dealt with. We believe that this government will spare no sacred cows in the quest for national peace and security.”
Similarly, a Civil Society Organisation under the auspices Guardians of Democracy and Development, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the crisis to avert further loss of lives.
The group, who organised a peaceful protest on Wednesday in Abuja to express their displeasure over the escalating ethnic crisis, were however confined to the Abuja Unity Fountain by a contingent of heavily armed security personnel to register their grievances.
Convener Guardians of Democracy and Development, Solomon Adodo, also pointed accusing fingers at individuals, whom they alleged were the masterminds of the war between both ethnic groups.
They insisted that none of the masterminds whom they described as “sacred cows,” should be spared in the quest to uphold the peace, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
Commenting on the recent incident that occurred at Federal University, Wukari and other sad incidents of killings in the state, the group claimed that they were privy to information that some individuals and their willing foot soldiers, have been inciting the Jukun militia arming and training them in tactical warfare to exacerbate the crisis between the Jukuns and the Tivs in Taraba State.
However, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), has expressed concern about the current conflict that has engulfed the Tiv and Jukun ethnic groups of Taraba State.
At a separate news conference in Abuja, the group urged the contending factions to sheathe their swords and embrace peace by exploring all available alternative means of dispute resolution.
National President of the MBF, Dr Bitrus Pogu, expressed regret that at a time when many communities in the Middle Belt Region and Southern Nigeria were facing an existential threat due to incessant invasions by terrorists and armed herdsmen, the Tiv and Jukun have unconsciously allowed fifth columnists to infiltrate them with a ‘divide-and-rule’ tactics aimed solely at distracting them from the real enemies of the Nigerian state.
Pogu also expressed worries because of the fight between the two groups in Taraba State, some “conflict entrepreneurs and detractors of the Middle Belt people” have found a leeway to make political capital out of the crisis by making desperate attempts to blackmail and drag the names of respected personalities and leaders of the Middle Belt into the conflict.
“Strangely, we have observed with total dismay the desperation with which some amorphous groups and individuals, including the Abuja protest that took place on Tuesday, are being sponsored to deliberately blackmail individuals into the current Tiv/Jukun crisis.
“While such procured groups and individuals are tasked by their paymasters to level unsubstantiated accusations against the aforementioned elders and leaders, wherein they called on the security agencies to probe their involvement in what they called ‘formation and arming of Jukun Militia’, making it appear as if the call was borne out of a patriotic and genuine concern, but they, however, unconsciously forgot to conceal their ulterior motives and quickly betrayed their evil plans by alleging that the crisis is aimed at portraying the government of President Muhammadu Buhari as incapable of tackling the current security challenges bedeviling the country,” he said.
Pogu said that the accusations against the individuals was not only laughable but a calculated attempts to drag them into the conflict and smear their names.
“Our findings reveal that both Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue and Governor Darius Ishaku, with their deputies, at different times have convened peace-building meetings to reconcile the two warring communities, with bright prospects on the horizon for restoration of normalcy.
“Our Forum has also made efforts to reach out to Gen Theophilus Danjuma, who also revealed the relentless efforts he has privately deployed without any form of publicity to ensure amicable resolution of the conflict between the two ethnic groups. By his antecedents, it beats our imagination how mischief makers will deliberately want to drag the name of the respected elder, into the mud, in spite of his patriotism and his unimpeachable track records of having fought for the unity of the country like no other. Whatever agenda that is playing out, and no matter who is behind this campaign of calumny, their despicable motives shall be exposed at the end of the day and their plans are bound to fail.
“While we are at a loss as to why these recruited groups have continued to smear the name of General Danjuma, we are also not unaware of the fact that ever since the Former Defence Minister called on Nigerians to resist the invasion of Middle Belt and Southern communities from terrorist Fulani herdsmen that are in collusion with the military, it became obvious that Gen Danjuma had stirred the Hornet’s nest when he told the world that the military was colluding with rampaging herdsmen terrorists to unleash terror on Nigerian communities. The recent killing of police operatives on a covert assignment to Taraba, who arrested and handcuffed a notorious multi-millionaire kidnapper, Alhaji Hamisu Bala (Wadume), has justified Danjuma’s allegations that the military is indeed colluding with terrorist elements to invade communities.
“While we grief over the senseless loss of lives and property, following the unfortunate atrocities between the Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups in Taraba State, we wish to commiserate with the families that lost loved ones,” he said.
Public hospitals: How extortion, hostility, hurt patients
There are growing concerns that public health facilities in the Federal Capital Territory are gradually turning into “torture” centres. DEBORAH OCHENI reports on some of experiences of parents
The human body is like a machine which is built to last for a number of years but requires regular maintenance for it to work at optimum capacity.
It is natural that human beings would, once in a while, fall sick and need medical care. At such periods when the body system witnesses a breakdown or malfunction, the best option is to seek help in a healthcare facility, popularly known as the hospital.
Ideally, a hospital ought to be a home for the sick (patient) to receive quality care, right medications and good rest in order to recuperate from an illness.
However, hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory are fast becoming places where the sick dreads to seek help.
A number of patients who have had the misfortune of falling sick and going to any of the General Hospitals in Abuja have returned home with tales of woes.
Indeed, a casual visit to any of the hospitals and an interaction with an average patient in the hospital ward , would reveal the pain, anger and feelings of dissatisfaction about the quality of services available in these places.
Inside Abuja visited some of the General Hospitals located in Maitama, Wuse, Asokoro, Kubwa and Nyanya and observed that these facilities had common challenges. They ranged from lack of sufficient manpower, inadequate facilities, poor attitude to work and high cost of accessing medical care.
Patients who rush to these hospitals on daily basis with emergency cases are often confronted with excuses such as no space, no bed, doctor is not around and we don’t have that drug among other challenges. Many patients, including pregnant women, accident victims as well as children caught up in sudden health crisis have lost their lives to these excuses.
Beyond these systemic problems, there is a new trend of extortion whereby a patient, apart from obtaining a hospital card for a fee to see a doctor and paying for admission into a bed space, is further required to provide certain items before accessing medical services.
At the Nyanya General Hospital, a patient is required to purchase and submit, a family size bottle of Morning Fresh liquid detergent; a canister of GBC air freshener; a jumbo pack of Omo washing powder; 100 pieces of latex hand gloves and a big size bottle of Jik bleach before the patient would be attended to at the Accident and Emergency Ward of the hospital.
In the alternative, the patient is expected to part with the sum of Five Thousand Hairs (N5,000), the monetary value of these items.
Idoko Johnson, who took one of his relatives to the hospital and was confronted with these demands, expressed frustration that a hospital would be asking a patient to provide such items as a pre-condition to accessing medical care.
Idoko described the situation as uncalled for and wondered why it must be the responsibility of a patient to provide such items after battling with the issue of unavailability of space at the hospital.
According to him, he had rushed his sister to the hospital because she collapsed at home and needed urgent attention, only for him to be confronted with several obstacles that compounded the situation of the sick person. He said that rather than creating unnecessary stumbling blocks, it could have been better if the doctors at the Nyanya Genneral Hospital had promptly referred them to another hospital if indeed they had no space to admit an additional patient on that fateful day.
“What was expected of the hospital management was to simply refer us to another hospital if truly there was no space to accommodate a patient in the hospital because of the emergency nature of her case. It’s not good to be pushed up and down and to be asked to buy some household items just to be given bed space in a hospital,” Idoko said.
Rose Eleojo, one the patients Inside Abuja encountered at the Accident and Emergency Ward of the Nyanya General Hospital, said she spent five days before she was able to get full medical attention at the hospital.
She said when she met the doctor on duty on the day she was rushed to the hospital, the doctor sent her to an appropriate ward on admission.
“Upon getting there, I was told there was no space to accommodate me but I sensed something funny because when I went back to the doctor to tell him that there was no space, the doctor followed me there and instructed that a stable patient (a lady) should be discharged in order to create space for me.
“As soon as the doctor left for his office, I was ignored for about three hours. I was feeling very dizzy, yet I was not given a bed to rest on until my sister got the items on the list they gave us. The items included Morning Fresh dish washer, a packet of hand gloves, air freshener and a lot more.
“I came to hospital that day as early as 7.00am. I saw the doctor around 2.00pm. I was given a bed at about 5.00pm and I was giving the blood around 9.00pm. I was disappointed at the huge amount that I was charged and I regretted coming here in the first place because the charges are high and you have to buy everything that they use on you and yet, they talk very rudely to patients. Only a few of them are polite in their interaction with patients,” she said.
For Doris Sule, another patient, the story is not too different from the usual sad experience. She lamented that despite all the items she provided, the doctor on duty couldn’t get detergent to wash his hands after examining her on the same day of her admission.
“Some of the staff here are very wicked. Imagine that I bought big pack of Omo, Morning Fresh, air freshener, Dettol, jik and other things before I was given a space. They refused to change my bed sheet when it had blood stains during my stay there. I had to sleep on bare mattress. When I complained, no one answered me. Rather, I was told that it’s my blood and if I’m not comfortable sleeping in it, I should go to my house because no one called me here. I felt really dehumanized getting that kind of service and I still paid for it,” she said.
However, a staff of the hospital who declined to disclose her names for fear of victimisation, said those requesting for the items were truly in need of them for effective service delivery.
She said that though some medical personnel do some unprofessional things in the hospital, the items they request for were needed because those are the things they work with to keep the ward clean and safe for everybody.
“Those in the Accident and Emergency Ward are working with blood and they constantly need to wash their hands and keep the place disinfected. The hospital is well organized just that we have three categories of staff here.
“Some are privileged to have connections that landed them here, others are here because they couldn’t get any other job elsewhere while the third group are qualified professional staff who know the etiquettes of the care giving. The problem patients have at times is poor communication by some staff who are not passionate about this job, especially those in the first two categories and it breaks my heart to hear hospital staff speaking rudely to patients who see health workers to be comforters.
“At the end, some patients leave the hospital premises sad and dissatisfied and that is affecting the image of the hospital. But in all sincerity, the doctors are trying as there are so much success stories coming out from the hospital,” she said.
A shop attendant at one of the pharmaceutical and provision shops near the hospital, said that patients usually troop into their shop to buy drugs, Dettol, Jik, tissue paper, air freshener, morning fresh and many other items prescribed by the hospital staff.
She confirmed that patients who failed to provide all these items or provide the monetary equivalent rarely get the needed attention in the hospital.
Agatha Iyalowo, who also runs a kiosk adjacent to the hospital gate, revealed that in the past, some patients were asked to buy the items in twos and that meant more business for shop owners who stocked these items.
“We used to sell very well then because these items are more or less as important as hospital cards to the patients. In other hospitals, some of these items are restricted to expectant mothers but in Nyanya here, almost all patients buy them and that makes us that are selling by the road side to have good sales because we already know what they will request and that is what we are selling here,” she said.
Sadly, Inside Abuja investigations revealed that some of these items bought by patients and taken into the hospitals often end up being smuggled out by the staff of the hospital who convert them to their personal use.
It appears that the hospital whose mission was to ensure the provision of safe, quality and affordable, access to healthcare services to all citizens has deviated from its primary responsibilities. While patients who are in dire need of help are subjected to financial and psychological torture, the care givers who are paid from the public coffers are feasting on the system.
A model health facility at Kuchinguro
The Federal Government recently launched a model health facility to provide residents of a rural community access to good quality healthcare and halting avoidable maternal and infant mortality. CALEB ONWE reports on the new hope in the horizon
Kuchingoro, a squatter settlement along the popular Musa Yar’Adua Express way, leading to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja was ignited with sparkles of joy last week. That was when the only healthcare centre in the place was chosen and equipped for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) programme.
Not even the heavy downpour that drenched everything within reach that Wednesday morning was able to stop the villagers from expressing their joy.
They rolled out the drums to welcome visitors who also defied the rain to come for the launch of the health centre.
A number of traditional rulers within the FCT also braved the rain to join their jubilant subjects at the occasion. It was evident that both the rulers and the ruled were in a haste to defeat maternal mortality and other health challenges which the health centre was equipped to address in the community. Inside Abuja gathered that the health centre was established as part of government’s efforts towards eradication of maternal mortality in Nigeria.
The Federal Ministry of Health had in July 2017, inaugurated a 34-member Task Force to accelerate reduction of maternal mortality in Nigeria.
Kuchingoro, was one of the rural communities in the country selected for the pilot project, under the BHCPF programme, a collaborative efforts of both the government, the World Health Organization ( WHO) and other international donors. The BHCPF, programme, was said to have been designed to provide pregnant women with free antenatal care, delivery and post natal care. It was also designed to provide children under five years with immunization and treatment for malaria, pneumonia, measles and dysentery as well all adults having the opportunity to access malaria treatment, screening for hypertension and diabetes and family planning.
Health experts who are promoting the BHCPF programme said that maternal mortality has remained unacceptably high in Nigeria, ranking among the highest in the world. The pace of reducing these deaths have been slow as many of the contributory factors remain unaddressed.
Available reports showed that between 2000 and 2015, the maternal mortality rate in Nigeria reduced from 1,170 deaths to 814 deaths per 100,000 live births (30.4% decrease).
Darius Jalo, one of the community leaders in Kuchingoro, said the health centre was an answered prayer of the residents of the densely populated settlement.
According to him, some women had died in the area during childbirth, while several other deaths have also been recorded from infant mortality.
“We want the government and other partners to remain committed to the implementation of this programme. We hope that drugs and other services will be very effective here”, Jalo said.
Jalo stated that the community had taken ownership of the facility and was prepared to secure it against burglary and vandalism. According to him, the community leaders have set up a local vigilance group to provide security in the area and ensure that vandals were warded off from the facility.
It was also learnt that Kuchigoro residents were not just happy that such health facility was constructed in their neighbourhood, but that certain healthcare services would be obtained at no cost to the people.
The inauguration of the facility, heralding the commencement of the programme in the nation’s capital was significant in many ways. The programme in FCT codenamed ” HUWE” an Ebira word, meaning, “Life” appears to have brightened the hope of the poor rural dwellers in Kuchingoro.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA ), Christian Ohaa, who was supported by his counterpart from the Federal Ministry of Health, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, said the BHCFP has come as a succour for the residents of FCT.
Ohaa was not happy that despite the efforts of government at all levels in Nigeria, about 70 per cent of total health expenditure was still being bankrolled by patients and other healthcare seekers.
He said that the outrageous ratio was far higher than the globally acceptable rate of 30-40 per cent .
The Permanent Secretary explained that the primary purpose of the fund was to support the effective delivery of Primary HealthCare Services and the provision of the Basic Minimum Package of Health Services(BMPHS) to Nigerians.
Inside Abuja gathered the fund also covers emergency medical treatment through adequate and sustainable funding that will be efficiently and equitably used to provide health services thereby ensuring financial risk protection in accessing quality health services for all Nigerians, particularly, the poor and most vulnerable.
Ohaa explained that FCT residents now have the opportunity to get easy access to quality health care services at little or no cost.
He said, that the facility would cater for antenatal care, delivery and postnatal care for all pregnant women.
It would also take care of immunization, malaria, pneumonia, measles and dysentery treatments for children under five years and malaria treatment, screening for hypertension and diabetes as well as family planning.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, who provided the perspectives of the Federal Government to the ideals of the programme, noted that residents of FCT will benefit from services worth N224 million over the next nine months.
This amount, he noted, was equivalent to payment for the management of one hundred and thirty-one thousand (131,000) women with normal deliveries, three hundred and seventy-three thousand (373,000) under-five childhood illnesses or two hundred and eighty thousand (280, 000) cases of malaria. In addition, sixty-two public sector facilities will become truly functional as a result of the program.
“Yet, slow progress on poverty reduction, health outcomes, literacy, and governance challenges threaten our development. As you may know, 70 per cent of total health expenditure in Nigeria is borne out of pocket. This is far higher than the globally acceptable rate of 30-40 per cent and remains a barrier to accessing care. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to reversing this ugly situation and promoting shared prosperity,” he said.
Abdullahi noted that ‘Huwe’ “will help reverse the poor health indices, death during childbirth will be a thing of the past, and our children will no longer have to die as a result of vaccine-preventable diseases or other common ailments, “
Also, access to health care will not be limited because of a lack of financial capacity to pay,” he said.
Inside Abuja also learnt that the implementation of the programme has a multi-sectoral effect as several agencies have a role to play.
In a goodwill message at the occasion, Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Mohammed Sambo, lamented that it was quite unfortunate that the fund was not appropriated for implementation until 2018.
“NHIS, therefore, encourages all implementing agencies and partners to give this programme the much-needed publicity and support as it can contribute to the reduction to high out of pocket expenditure and resultant poverty experienced by Nigerians in event of illness”, he said.
Acting Secretary, Health Secretariat in the FCTA, Musa Abdulraheem, said FCT got N114 million from the N12.7 billion released by Federal Government on one per cent Consolidated Revenue Fund, CRF.
The Health secretariat boss said the programme ws a landmark scheme targeted at improving the health sector in the Federal Capital Territory.
According to him, the BHCPF is an intervention by the Nigerian government to improve health outcomes in the country.
“The primary purpose of this fund is to support the effective delivery of Primary HealthCare Services , BMPHS, and Emergency Medical Treatment through adequate and sustainable funding that will be efficiently and equitably used to provide health services for all Nigerians, particularly the poor and most vulnerable.
“Section 11 of the National Health Act 2014 prescribes that the BHCPF would be funded through, Federal Government annual grant of not less than one per cent of its Consolidated Revenue Fund, commitment from benefiting states and FCT, grants by international donor partners and funds from other sources,” he said.
Devastated by flood, communities cry out
In recent days, several communities in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have been ravaged by flood and others are under threat of being visited by the same plague. The reality is that neither the rich nor the poor have been spared. CALEB ONWE reports
As the popular saying goes, water has no enemy. It also does not have friends and is no respecter of class or social status. When it comes as flood, it usually follows its natural course and sweeps everything and anyone it stumbles upon along the way.
It is for this reason that the Department of Development Control recently rolled out its bulldozers and pulled down several palatial buildings erected along the flood plains.
In many rural communities, in the densely populated Bwari Area Council, many farmlands have been washed away and the farmers have lost their means of livelihood. For instance, in Mpape-Durumi, Galuwyi, Shere, Igu and Kawu communities, farmers and farms are among the worst hit.
The residents of these communities do not have the best of social amenities but are happy people.
A visitor to these communities may not be greeted by colourful and delightful infrastructures but definitely will meet a people who struggle with odd circumstances and still clinch to overflowing happiness.
However, the happiness they have as their most cherished possession is gradually disappearing due to devastating flood, especially on the only available access roads that link them with other neighbouring communities.
Due to the flood and gully erosion, the major access road through which they bring their farm produce to the market has become a dreaded death trap. The floods have washed away the roads to the extent that moving either in a taxi cab or on a motorcycle could be considered a suicide mission.
Adams Boniface, a resident of Shere, said that movement had always been difficult around the area during tbe rainy season for fear of someone being swept away by the floods.
Boniface, who expressed anger that the condition of the roads in the area had been neglected for too long by government, said that poor condition of the road had become a nightmare.
“As you can see, once it begins to rain, we are afraid because nobody is sure of what will happen; people have been swept away by floods on this our road. We have lost our farm produce to the flood.
“We have not seen the help which politicians promised during the campaigns. We have to accept our fate since we have no other place to call our home,” he said.
In Durumi-Mpape, residents are pleading with the government to pay attention to their roads as the rainy season had always presented a lot of challenges to them. According to them, the rainy season might be a good omen for those who depend on the rain for farming activities but a bad omen to the rest of the people as it limits their freedom of movement.
Spokesperson of the community, Mr. Dauda Yusuf, pleaded with government to help and expand one of the bridges on the only road leading to their community as it was usually flooded each time it rained.
According to him, the little culvert bridge across the stream, between them and the neighbouring village is still manageable because the Chinese company that operates a quarry there, was helping to maintain it but might become impassable once the rains come fully.
One of the youth leaders , Zakka Nehemiah, called on the Federal Capital Territory Administration ( FCTA ) to pay attention to the roads in order to avert tragedies.
In an open letter to the FCTA, Nehemiah complained about the conditions of the access roads in the community and the threat flood posed to the people. He lamented that the communities were not just poor economically but neglected and abandoned by the political class, who always reneged on their electoral promises.
The visibly angry youth leader alleged that their political leaders were living in affluence, while their followers were forced to remain without roads and other basic social amenities that could improve their living standard.
“The communities are experiencing challenges, which have continued to disturb their hearts for a very long time. The elders of the community have tried to seek the attention of past and present governments of Bwari Area Council, but nothing has been done. It is as if we do not belong to the government of Bwari and the FCT.
“During the last election, they came to campaign for our votes. Our candidates for the local Area Council Chairman, House of Representatives and Senate came here and we told him our problems, which they promised to solve for us when the assume office. But, since they won first and second term, nothing has been done in this community.
“In view of the above, this community needs urgent attention from the government of Bwari Area Council and the FCTA as we are experiencing flood . We call on the Permanent Secretary, FCTA, FERMA and all other governmental and nongovernmental organizations at all levels to come over for help”, Nehemiah noted.
How to end farmer-herder crisis
In view of the continued farmer/herder conflicts in the North Central (Middle Belt) and other parts of Nigeria, some experts recently gathered in Abuja to brainstorm on the way out. REGINA OTOKPA was there
The workshop was focused on the Socio-Ecological Analysis of Farmer-Herder Conflict in Nigeria and the Sahel. It was organised by the Forum on Farmer and Herder Relations in Nigeria (FFARN), otherwise known as Search for Common Ground (SFCG) in Abuja.
For some years now, FFARN has been working with key stakeholders to find a permanent solution to the violent conflicts between farmers and herders in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria.
The recent stakeholders’ conference was convened on the heels of the suspension of the Ruga Settlements Programme floated by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and the controversies trailing the policy.
Project Leader, FFARN, Ms. Olubukola Ademola-Adelehin, who addressed discussants at the opening session, identified that part of the controversy that the Ruga Settlement Programme generated was due to poor or inadequate communication. She stressed that the Federal Government needed to communicate its policies aimed at addressing the herders and farmers conflict clearly and in a way that people listening could understand it.
Ademola-Adelehin said that for a policy to gain acceptance, the citizens must be made to also see the benefits they could derive at the personal level, community level and even to the country as a whole.
She said that a permanent solution to the conflict would require an economic and developmental plan that is able to integrate the interest of the farmers and herders. According to her, any proposal from government must be in a way that it’s integrating the livelihood of farmers and pastoralists because when these are separated and treated in isolation, there would be suspicion of exclusion and marginalization by certain stakeholders.
She further explained that the essence of the workshop was to identify key issues driving the farmer-herder conflict and the parties involved in the conflict. The discussions from the workshop, she said, would guide policy makers at the local, state , national and even international levels to have a holistic view of the conflict in order to make appropriate interventions.
“This forum is very unique as it brings in together experts from academia, from practitioners and policy to look critically and analysis on policies that can inspire government to look at these issues holistically and want to put in peace structures to ensure that the issues are addressed,” she said
Executive Director, West African Network for Peace building (WANEP), Chukwuemeka Eze, noted that the Ruga policy was introduced within the context of divergence of opinion, multicultural background, and more importantly within a context of trust deficit.
Eze, who is the co-lead Facilitator, stressed that it was important that before policies were introduced, the education that goes into the content of the policy and the workability of the policy should be made clear to everybody from the moment of policy design.
“In so doing, people understand the processes and people are able to make inputs, so that when it gets to the public domain, those who are supposed to challenge it or the beneficiaries will be on the same page,” he said.
Eze also advocated that government should also work to see the inclusion of women in discussions ahead of policies aimed at addressing the conflict.
“The process of inclusivity means that nobody should be left behind. Women constitute over 50 per cent of the world population and anybody under the illusion that they should be left out of the peace building process in any community is actually making the process itself difficult. The impact of conflict on men and women are different and when talking about gender based peace building approach, everybody is important,” he said.
Peace Building and Developmany Adviser to the United Nations (UN) in Nigeria, Mr. Zebulon Takwa, regretted that the ongoing clashes has caused the Federal Government billions of Naira which could have been deployed to key sectors of the economy.
Takwa observed that the farmer/herder conflict in Nigeria was avoidable but lamented that the investments on peace building in Nigeria and Africa as a whole has been rather too little. He said that there is a strong need to work harder within the limits of the available resources to prevent future conflicts.
In charting a new way out of the mess, Takwa recommended the use of the Socio-Ecoligical Analysis, which has been missing in most of the recommendations for a sustainable solution to the farmers and herders relations.
“Prevention can come during conflicts. Government should prevent further killings, the toxic discussions between communities around it should be prevented. Government should engage inclusive discussions to get workable solutions,” he said.
Takwa also called on all Nigerians to be part of the peace-building processes. According to him, a peaceful society is the responsibility of all. “When we have the spirit of inclusivity, the spirit of accepting one another, we will begin to look at things differently.”
At the end of the three-day programme, FFARN briefed journalists on the contents of the four policy briefs through which it recommended key solutions to the protracted farmers and herders conflict. The policy briefs, which encourages seeking a common ground in the Farmers and Herders Relations in Nigeria include: ‘Past is Prologue: Criminality and Reprisal Attacks’; ‘The Implications of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law on Farmer-Herder Relations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria’; ‘Responses to Conflict between Farmers and Herders in in the Middle belt of Nigeria: Mapping Past Efforts and Opportunity for Violence Prevention’; and ‘Seeking Security and Stability: An Analysis of Security Responses to Farmer-Herder conflict in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria’.
There were heated debates on the policy documents, particularly on aspects that tended to hold the media partly liable for the perennial conflict. The media was blamed largely for allegedly giving the conflict an ethno-religious colouration. Media practitioners were accused of consistently profiling the Fulani herdsmen as the aggressors and the crop farmers as victims.
However, the media acquitted itself at the roundtable with facts, figures and empirical evidence that most newspaper houses as well as radio and television stations have been reporting the conflict with due regards to upholding truth and social responsibility.
LG boss tasks varsity on admission, employment of natives
Mr Abdullahi Sabo, Chairman, Kuje Area Council, FCT, has appealed to Prof. Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, Vice Chancellor (VC), University of Abuja, to give special attention to FCT natives while considering those to admit or employ.
Sabo made the call on Saturday, during a public lecture and celebration of the overall best graduating student, Miss Adamu Talatu of Chemistry Department, who had a CGPA of 4.82 in the 2018/19 academic session.
“This institution is supposed to be a catchment area for natives of FCT, but they find it difficult to gain admission even when they have the required points to study courses of their choice.
“The natives are also denied employment in the university; they hardly get slots no matter how good their grades may be.
“Talatu Adamu is the best graduating student of University of Abuja in 2019; this little girl is from a remote part of Kuje. She has proved that dedication and hard work leads to success, irrespective of social and economic background.
“We are pleased with this girl and the Kuje Area Council is offering our dear Talatu Adamu an automatic scholarship to any University of her choice, for her postgraduate studies.
“We believe that there are many brilliant children like Talatu wasting away in remote areas of the FCT. I want to use this medium to appeal to the new VC to consider our children during admission and employment processes,” he said.
An overwhelmed Talatu, who thanked her parents for their love and support during her studies, called on the Federal Government to give adequate priority to girl-child education in the country.
“The girls in FCT want to learn; they want to explore their talents. All they want is the opportunity and the support to achieve their dreams and make Nigeria proud,” she said.
Talatu called on Philip Aduda, the senator representing the FCT, and the Kuje Area Council, to strengthen and widen their scholarship schemes, so as to reach more children from poor homes in the FCT.
Agric biotech club debuts in school
The campaign to change perception about Genetically Modified Organism ( GMO ) and also deepen awareness on agricultural biotechnology has been taken a notch higher with the launch of ” biotech and biosafety club” initiative in secondary schools in Abuja.
The promoters said the club would help to erase negative information about GMO among secondary school students and as well as equip them with relevant knowledge about the benefits of biotech technology.
Deputy Director, National Agricultural Biotechnology Development Agency ( NABDA) and Country Coordinate of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology, Dr. Rose Gidado, said there was need to begin the GMO awareness campaign among the younger generation, so that the negative perception and cold reception can be changed.
The club, which debuted in Highgrade International School, Mararaba, a surbub in the Federal Capital Territory, was said to be first of its kind in Nigeria.
Gidado said it was designed to promote advocacy for the use of biotech in Nigeria. The choice of the school, she said, was due to the brilliant performance of the students during a competition organized by Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
She said that the students displayed high knowledge on biotechnology, hence the need to support and encourage the school management to do more in promoting agricultural biotechnology .
According to her, NABDA has put in place some measures to ensure that the activities of the ideals of club were sustained in the school, while plans to extend the initiative to other schools in the country were underway.
“What we are expecting from the club is intensive awareness campaign by the club, starting from the students who will help to educate others about biotechnology and biosafety. This initiative was conceived to change the negative perception about GMO.
“We want to let them understand the benefits of biotechnology. Negative information about GMO is very high in Nigeria. We have countries like the United States of America, Brazil, Canada and others that have attained food security through biotechnology.
“We have some measures to ensure that the club is sustained after the graduation of the present members of the club. We shall be furnishing them with relevant information and updating their knowledge for them to carry out the campaign.
“The school management has assured that the club would be sustained. The graduation of the current students will not affect the sustainability of the club, because the proprietor of the school has taken ownership of the initiative.
“We started this club here because of the brilliant performance of the students at one of the competitions organised by NTA. We also followed up with a visit which further convinced us that the school needed the support”, Gidado said.
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