Health centre projects remain abandoned in Kano as childbirth fatality rises
By Yakubu SALISU
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OVER 100 women die annually during childbirth in Garun Sheme District, Kunchi Local Government Area, LGA, of Kano State due to lack of a functional healthcare facility, an investigation by our correspondent has shown.
The situation is not different in Lamba District, where scores of pregnant women also die because they cannot access prompt medical services during labour and delivery.
But residents and community leaders insist that the lives of many pregnant women could have been saved if there were functional healthcare facilities in the affected communities.
District Head Garun Sheme, Kunchi LGA, Kano State, Mal. Haruna Abubakar, said, being a suburb, the area is neglected in terms of development, adding that it has always been a nightmare for people of the community any time a pregnant woman is in labour, as she has to be moved to Bichi, Kazaure or Kano metropolis in order to have access to quality health care services, thus exposing them to prolonged labour.
“We have lost women in this community because whenever a woman is in labour we have to start thinking of how to get a vehicle to move her out of our remote village, and many don’t make it before they see a doctor due to complications,” he observed.
Abubakar stated further that various village heads under his jurisdiction report at least 6 to 7 deaths every month resulting from childbirth complications, and at least 100 every year.
“As you can see, we live in the remote part of the town, there are no any signs of developments here, no good roads which makes movements in and out of this area difficult, so in case of any emergency health situation we have to move to Bichi, Kazaure or Kano Town,” he said.
Although there are two outpatient hospitals 10 kilomiters away at Rigana and Gidan Misau, deplorable nature of roads washed away by erosion makes it difficult to get there on time and the best option is to head to Kano or the other nearby towns.
The district head said the PHC project located at the center of the community in Kesawa was a sign of relief to them with the hope that when completed, there would be no more travelling to have access to good medical facilities but their hope was dashed as the project suddenly came to a halt about eleven years ago.
“We woke up one faithful morning to see the contractor’s boys handling the contract removing the doors, windows and roofing of the building which was almost completed and when accosted, they explained that the contractor has not been paid for a while that was why they had to remove their materials,” he said.
“We were all happy when the contract started. After the building materials were dismantled, we were told that the contractor stopped getting funds to complete the contract and ever since that incidence, the contractor is yet to return to site”
Abubakar lamented that all their efforts to hear from relevant authorities both at the state and federal levels proved abortive as letters and series of visitations yielded no result.
Halima Sani, a mother of four who resides at Garun Sheme, explained that their plight in terms of access to quality health care is better imagined than explained.
She said lack of a health care facility that can easily be reached by the people of the village has lingered for too long with no hope in sight.
She called on relevant authorities to come to their help and alleviate their sufferings especially the women who loses their lives at childbirth or their infants due to lack of proper medical care and attention.
Another housewife in the village, Hafsat Sale Muhammad, said many of them resort to the use of traditional medicine because of the stress they go through to get medical attention from the hospital.
The development, she said, has led to complications in some cases, fatal results due to the side effects of consuming such unregulated traditional medicines.
Hajiya Hafsat further said that the absence of conventional hospitals in the village has contributed to high patronage of the traditional medicine which experts warns of its side effects as most of them are unregulated and not certified by any regulating agency.
Contractor says he is not to blame
When contacted, the contractor, Samuel Ejiofor, explained that he was forced to abandon the project due to lack of payment.
According to him, his company, Trustcon Nigeria Limited, was awarded the contract by the Association of Local governments of Nigeria (ALGON) sometime in 2007 through a private consultant, MATHAN Nig Limited, at the sum of N28 million.
However, Ejiofor explained that the contract for the construction of a 27 – room hospital and a doctor’s residential quarter came to a halt in 2009 as a result of lack of release of funds, which left him with outstanding payment and despite promises for variation, nothing has been done till date.
The contractor, who declined further comments, said any other information needed should be sourced from the ALGON.
In the same vein, the village head of Lamba, Haruna Isa, Kunchi LGA of Kano State revealed that the 15 – room Primary Health Care facility was expected to be completed in four months. However, the work was abandoned at the last stage.
“The hospital work was expected to be completed in four months, that is from sometime around December 15, 2019 to March 15, 2010.
The building got to the roofing stage and all the doors and glass windows have been properly fix but since then nothing else has been done.
It’s been ten years since the contractor left the site and we are yet to see anyone come to complete the finishing touches”.
Like the case of Garun Sheme, Isa said in case of any health emergency, the sick has to be transported to Bichi town, 15 Kilometres from Lamba or Kano Metropolis, which is about 116 kilometres away.
“The building like you saw has gotten almost to the last stage as it has been roofed with doors and windows all fixed but since then, nothing else has happened.
Any time we have any emergency that cannot be handled in the only small outpatient health facility we have, we have to run to the next Local government close to us which is Bichi otherwise, we go to Kano town”.
The village head pleads with relevant authorities concerned to come to their aid and complete the project so that the people of the community can begin to enjoy services to be rendered by the facility.
Isyaku Isa, chairman of the Ward Development Committee in Lamba, stated that the project was facilitated by their House of Representative Member, late Ibrahim Muazam Bichi but the work stopped while he was still in office.
He said many women have given birth in the car on their way to the next town and some time to get a vehicle to convey a sick person is a serious challenge.
According to him, from the beginning, all equipment and other inventories for the hospitals such as mattresses, drugs, test kits and every other thing needed to run the hospital were provided and are presently in a store under his custody but due to the long period of time taken, the drugs have all expired.
Speaking further, isyaku stated that the whole community was confused as to how a project for which every material needed for its operation was provided from the unset would be abandoned and despite all efforts to get to the root of the problem, no success has been recorded up till date.
Asabe Mukhtar, who also shared her experiences, revealed that her sister Zainab had once given birth in a vehicle while on their way to Bichi Hospital.
“My sister Zainab once gave birth in the car while moving her to Bichi.
Although we have one hospital in our village, but it is not enough to handle all cases that’s why we have to move to neighbouring towns in case of complicated cases,” she added.
Contractor says government refused to pay her
The owner of Setbat Nigeria Limited, contractor that handled the job, Hajiya Halima Omidele when contacted said she stopped work when the government stopped funding the project.
“I bided for the contract with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and what stopped the work was payment delay and accessibility to the place was something else.
“I stopped where payment stopped, and when I went to make subsequent enquiries about when the remaining money would be released, I was told that the contract had been reassigned to someone else”.
Omidele who promised to provide further information from the beginning of this investigation, however, became evasive, giving excuses up till the time of filing this report.
However, when this reporter visited the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency headquarters, Abuja, on the Oct 5, 2020, he was directed to submit an Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, request for information on the project to enable the agency to reply.
As demanded, the FOI request was sent but no reply was received which prompted for a second letter as a reminder, all to no avail six weeks after.
In the same vein, during a visit to the Associations of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) head quarters at 6th floor WAEC Building, 10 Zambezi Crescent, Off Aguiyi Ironsi St, wuse Abuja, this reporter was informed by one Leonard Onachukwu Papee, the protocol officer, that the National President who doubles as the Chief Accountant and resides in Lagos is in custody of the file containing the needed information as such, no information was available at the head office in Abuja.
A FOIA request was subsequently sent requesting information on the Garun Sheme contract but no reply was also given three weeks after. In the request letter dated October 14, the agency was asked to provide information, including the name of the contractor, contract amout, amounts released so far as well as the contractor’s address. The agency declined providing the requested information.
When contacted, Hon Sani Bala, Present Member representing Kunchi/Tsanyawa Federal Constituency at the National Assembly said it is unfortunate that such an important project would be abandoned.
According to him, one of the projects was a special intervention project through ALGON, which was poorly handled leading to wastage of public funds with no one in particular to hold responsible due to what he described as irregular procedures of executing a project.
Bala further stated that he could not have done much on the issue of the project because members of the House of Representatives from the state only get N40 million as constituency project funds due to their large number, unlike other states with few local governments and House members.
However, Sani promised that as a result of these investigations he would collaborate with the incoming local government chairman from the district to ensure that he includes the completion of the abandoned projects as part of his priorities.
He stressed that the only way out is for the state government to take over the project from the local government.
Sani expressed delight over the investigations which he said has drawn his attention to the abandoned projects and would now ensure the state government come to the aid of the people from the affected villages instead of waiting on the Federal Government that might never answer them.
* This investigation is supported by the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.