© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
BUILT BUT FORSAKEN: How Akufo Health Centre has become a refuge for goats
BISOLA (not real name), a young mother of three, has lived in Akufo, a town in Oyo State, all her life. She nearly died when she gave birth to her last born on a Sunday two years ago as she had to be taken to Adeoyo State Hospital, about 30 kilometres away. The situation was further worsened by terrible road conditions and scarcity of taxis.
For her, each childbirth is a story of pain, cries, and disappointment. Each birth reminds her of the Primary Healthcare (PHC) Centre which is only a couple of blocks away from her house but has been grossly underused and later abandoned for years. Today, the facility lies in ruins and has been occupied by thick growth of bushes, wasps and, above all, goats.
The rehabilitation of the thirty-year-old centre is one of the numerous projects, kick-started in 2008, under the Conditional Grants Scheme (CGS). Oyo State government, in collaboration with the federal government, refurbished the PHC centre and provided two additional structures, complete with laboratories, equipment and a generator.
The CGS was birthed with a 2005 pledge to the Paris Club of Debtors in which Nigeria committed to spending Debt Relief Gains of $1 billion on pro-poor projects and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In 2008, according to a statement released by the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, the scheme’s focus was on health, water and youth empowerment. Also, state governments were engaged to foster an understanding of local priorities and were required to provide counterpart funding to amplify the impact. That year, Oyo State received N1.8 billion from the federal fund.
A group of civil society actors who paid Akufo a visit in June 2017, however, discovered that the health centre has been left unused, and was deteriorating fast. The ceiling was already sagging, the sickbeds were threadbare, the reception desk was crowded with old documents, and nearly everywhere was covered in dust and cobwebs.
Hammed Olabamiji Thomas, the Alakufo (traditional ruler) of Akufo, during an interview with The ICIR, called on the government to salvage what is left of the of decaying health centre on which it spent a lot of money. He was surprised that despite the amount invested by the government, no medical experts were assigned to manage the centre.
If anyone was sick or pregnant, the person would have to be taken to Apete, Ologun-eru, Eleyele, University College Hospital Ibadan, or Adeoyo State Hospital — each, several kilometres away.
“I wrote to the University College Hospital and they replied that they will begin using the centre,” he recalled.
Alakufo said he gave a copy of the hospital’s response to the Local Government Chairman, who promised to support.
Micheal Egbedi, a Christian missionary who was transferred from Abeokuta, Ogun State, to Akufo in March 2017, also expressed disappointment at the neglect of the centre.
One year after, little has changed…
In August, 14 months after the initial visit, The ICIR gathered that the Ido Local Government Council eventually assigned one health worker to manage the centre. She was not around at the time of the visit because she had travelled for the eid-l-adha festival. Sources said she goes to the centre every day — except on weekends.
But nothing has changed. And the abandoned facility has become a resting place for goats. At the time of the visit, two goats lounged comfortably at the entrance, unfazed by the intruding visitors.
Hinges on the main doorway were already falling apart and the doors no longer fit together. The beds were still threadbare and furniture was covered in dust. The pill containers on the reception desk were empty, and the equipment lay disused.
The two additional structures built a decade ago also remained utterly abandoned, and surrounded by overgrown bushes. Goat droppings littered the floor, and the ceilings were covered with hornet nests.
A middle-aged woman, who had just had her bath inside the health centre using water from a drum, was washing clothes at the time of the visit. Though the facility serves other purposes, she said the desire of members of the community is that the centre works properly.
Adedosu Rahman, the hunter who secures the community, including the health centre, said materials, including a huge diesel generator, were supplied to the new buildings but no staff operates there till date. Nothing works any longer — not the borehole, not even the door locks.T
Alakufo identified substandard road conditions as part of the problem, as sick residents are unable to swiftly get to neighbouring towns for treatment.
“If our council were functioning as it should, they would have done something about the road,” he said.
‘The bush is our public toilet’
The abandonment of their primary healthcare centre is not the only health challenge Akufo residents are facing. There is no sanitary facility available for public use; therefore most people defecate in the surrounding bushes.
“Our toilet here is bush,” Egbedi told The ICIR, adding that only one borehole serves the entire community.
Adedapo, a retailer in the community who also sells drugs, revealed that residents who buy from her often complain of diarrhoea, as a result of open defecation and a generally poor hygienic lifestyle. Other complaints include malaria, cough and cold.
The Alakufo also complained about the same problem. People in urgent need to defecate could soil their clothes before getting to the bush, he observed. He said it will be a welcome development if a public toilet is constructed, even if people will be levied before use.
He added: “We pray to God to direct the attention of the righteous ones left on earth to this community so they can make an abiding difference in people’s lives. So far, we have not seen anyone.”
No response from Oyo state govt.
Toye Arulogun, Oyo State Commissioner for Youth and Sports, was not in his office on August 29 when The ICIR reporter visited him. Emails sent to his official address on August 31 and those of Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo State governor; Azeez Adeduntan, Commissioner for Health; Tolu Sadipe, Special Adviser to the Governor on Projects; Tope Fajana, Special Adviser to the Governor on Sustainable Development Goals; and Ismaila Alli, Secretary to the State Government, were not replied.
An emailed enquiry sent to James Akintola, Special Adviser on Infrastructure, returned a mailer daemon and was not delivered. Likewise, Wahab Oladejo, chairman of Ido Local Government, did not answer calls.
Abandoning projects after completion is a perennial problem in Nigeria. The ICIR reported for instance, in 2016, how primary healthcare centres across the country worth over N2 billion remained unused for various reasons.
This report received the support of Building Nations Initiative (BNI), a youth work and community development agency headquartered in Ibadan, Oyo State.