It was a ray of hope for the residents of Oke-Aga when the construction of a public health facility began in their community. Sadly, their brewing joy soon disappeared; the project never saw the light of the day.
For many years, the residents of the Oke-Aga area of Igede-Ekiti in Ekiti state lacked access to proper health facilities. 2015 brought some hope when the then lawmaker representing Ado-Ekiti/Irepodun/Ifelodun federal constituency, Michael Bamidele, facilitated the construction of two health centres for N24 million. One at Oke-Aga community in Igede Ekiti and the other at Iropora-Ekiti, a neighbouring town.
After that, Ayodele Oladimeji, the lawmaker who succeeded Mr Bamidele, nominated a fresh N12 million project to complete the facility at Igede-Ekiti in 2016. Both projects were placed under the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) supervision.
Meanwhile, information from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation shows that all Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP) in 2015 and 2016 have been fully funded.
Inside Igede-Ekiti’s Forsaken PHC
When UDEME visited the location of the supposed PHC in the community in August, the sight of land, fast becoming a forest, dominated the view.
Amidst this dense bush lies a lone structure whose type and design could not be determined because of the bushes towering over the building.
Aside from this, community members say there is a foundation on another part of the land which has not been erected. When the UDEME reporter attempted to enter the bushes, a woman, Olorunsola Folake, cautioned that “there could be snakes inside the place.”
Mrs Folake, a petty trader whose house is close to the abandoned PHC, has lived in the community since 2012 and knew when the construction started.
“We were happy that growth has come into our street,” she said, describing her excitement when work commenced.
“But they just suddenly stopped coming to work. Till now, we don’t know what happened. We have not seen them. They have not come back,” she added, hitting her right hand on her left palm.
Like Mrs Folake, Adeoye Akin, a cocoa farmer and hunter whose house is also close to the site, testified to the commencement of the facility’s construction in 2015. However, clueless, he also did not know why it was abandoned.
Instead of human beings, trees now grow inside Iropora’s health facility
Based on the guidance of residents, UDEME’s reporter located a building painted blue on the outskirts of Iropora-Ekiti. From a distance, dry planks of wood could be sighted scattered on top of the building like a house visited by the wind. Thick shrubs have taken over the building, and only a water tank erected for the facility still stood tall as overgrowth had not reached its height.
With no one to caution him this time, this reporter made footpaths with his legs and entered the bush that led to the main building.
UDEME found trees growing inside the structure with their wide roots breaking the plastered floor. A part of the building is falling apart, and no pumping machine was seen in the borehole.
However, unlike Igede-Ekiti’s facility, this PHC was almost completed with a drilled borehole, painted walls and flooring. The roof, windows and doors are not yet to be fixed.
Oke-Aga community decry distance to other health facilities
Mrs Folake described the distance to other government health centres as a one-hour journey by foot but twenty minutes by motorcycle. She listed Comprehensive Health Centre, beside Local Government Secretariat, Comprehensive Health Centre, Aaye Street and Primary Healthcare Centre, Ilamoye along Ilawe road as the closest to their area.
In an interview with UDEME, the second in command to the king, Chief Emmanuel Adetona, corroborated her claim that pregnant women and children must travel “two to three kilometres on motorcycles” to reach the closest government health facilities.
“In cases where pregnant women want to be put to bed at night, it is usually difficult to convey them to government-owned health centres in Igede-Ekiti. But if that place is functioning, it would be easier,” he lamented.
Likewise, Chief Sunday Oladimeji, the secretary at the king’s palace, complained of the distance to other facilities.
“We in this area are suffering. If someone has a headache and doesn’t travel to Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido, or General Adeyinka Adebayo’s Hospital at Iyin, such can’t be cared for. We beg the government to contact the contractor in charge to finish the project,” he told UDEME.
Igede-Ekiti residents prefer government-operated facilities to private clinics
On the same street as the site of the abandoned project, there is a private health centre named “Mater Christicatholic Clinic”. It is owned by the College of Health Science and Technology, an institute also in that compound. Despite the presence of this facility, a minority of the residents patronise it. Among the reasons listed are “high cost and non-advanced services”.
A visit to this facility revealed that it was established in 2018 as a criterion for a course to be accredited at the institute.
Sitting at the reception, a female nurse who only identified herself as Bimpe. She was apparently the only person in the building at 1:50 PM on Monday, waiting for the second female nurse to resume her shift.
According to Bimpe, the facility has four staff members. The medical doctor is only present on Tuesdays, and their lab technician, who also teaches in the school, only comes around when beckoned.
When asked what she would do if there were an emergency, she described the type of clinic as “grassroots” that renders essential healthcare services.
“We only make primary health care services such as first aid treatment, mild illness treatment, antenatal, immunisation and lab services closer to the people.
We don’t carry a knife or oxygen, and that’s why it is for the grassroots. We refer when we can’t handle it. In fact, I was the only one here before they employed others,” she said.
“We tried to take charge but were incapacitated” Iropora elders
UDEME visited the palace in Iropora town, but the king was unavailable. Olanrewaju Osotun, a chief at the king’s palace, spoke on behalf of the community.
“That year, the lawmaker requested land to build the health centre, and we gave it to him for free. With how they rushed the construction, we were already happy that this was a lovely improvement. But they just disappeared and left it how you’ve met it. They have almost completed everything, including the borehole. But they were nowhere to be found,” Mr Osotun narrated.
After failed petitions to the lawmaker, Mr Osotun said the community roofed the facility and took ownership. Unluckily, they were short of funds after erecting woods on the building and left it that way.
“All the equipment and medicine meant for the place had been kept at our other maternity centre. The drugs have expired, but the equipment is still fine,” he added.
Contractor angry, lawmaker says “project is an unfortunate one”
In a telephone interview with Hon. Oladimeji. He faulted the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) for the continuous abandonment. He narrated how he, alongside Engineer Ola Ogedemgbe, the Igede-Ekiti’s project contractor confronted NPHCDA at its Abuja office in January 2017 before N1.5 million was paid. Before that, the contractor had received no payment for the work done.
He said, “It was early 2016, and I knew they (the lawmaker before him) started many primary health centres. But this one was done up to the German floor, but not a single naira was paid to the contractor. So, I saw that there was no need to allow such a thing to be wasted. That was why I now allocated money (N12 million) to do it in 2016.
“The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency only released N1.5 million to the contractor out of N12 million.”
“The question is what the agency used the remaining money for because such will not be returned to the government. It will be manipulated on their end. I’m saying this ‘factually’. However, I don’t know what happened later between the agency and the contractor.
“That project was an unfortunate one. If I had known, N12 million would have done something reasonable at another place,” he told UDEME.
When Mr Ogedemgbe was contacted through an SMS, he mentioned that the agency still owes him.
“They refused to pay us as at when due… They are still owing us the balance of work done.”
Other lawmakers, NPHCDA, refuse to comment
All efforts to speak with the former lawmaker, Hon Bamidele, were abortive. Phone calls, messages and emails sent to him received no response. This also made it difficult to know the contractor who executed Iropora-Ekiti’s project.
Similarly, efforts to speak with NPHCDA were unsuccessful. All email and phone calls were placed to Mohammed Ohitoto, the agency’s spokesperson, but received no response.
Why government projects suffer abandonment in Nigeria–expert view
In an interview with UDEME, Uadamen Ilevbaoje, the head of Tracka, a civic engagement organisation, identified the lack of citizens’ participation in budget processes; incapability of assigned execution agencies; non-specified project location; and inflated cost of projects as the causes of continuous abandoned constituency projects in Nigeria.
“Nigerians should continuously engage their representatives. The government should appropriate project execution to the right agencies as doing those will reduce having abandoned projects in the country,” he said.
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