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Twenty-five-year-old Aisha Bandado was in labour, experiencing pains from her groin. She had been pregnant for nine months, and it was time to deliver the baby. But Aisha would have to take a 14-Kilometres ride to Gidan Madi, a community in Sokoto, where the nearest Health centre was located.
Sadly, she lost the foetus before she could get to the labour room.
“The health officers prescribed 13 injections for her. Yet, she is still sick since then,” 68-year-old Aisha’s father, Bandado Muhammad, told this reporter.
Residents of Kalanjeni, a community in Tangaza LGA, where Aisha resides in Sokoto have for long lamented the lack of a Primary Health Centre in their community to take care of their basic health needs.
“It’s a stressful journey from here to Gidan Madi,” said Balkisu Zayyanu, a mother of two, describing how far they have to go in search of health care. “It’s better to have one hospital close to us here.”
THE LONGEST ROUTE TO HOSPITAL
On a cold morning, as dry harmattan dust swept through the place, Ummu Usman, 20, tried to lift herself from bed but her aching stomach and head did not allow her.
She reached out to her mother, who already predicted it to be labour time. Ummu, after all, has been pregnant for nine months. A doctor was called from Gidan Madi, 14 kilometres from Kalanjenin Basharu where she lived. He inspected her and placed her on a drip at the only dispensary in the village.
After 24 hours of several efforts of giving birth, the doctor referred her to general hospital in Sokoto, the capital of Sokoto state, for proper care, after he declared that there was a complication. Sokoto is 53 kilometres from Kalanjeni.
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No sooner than a marathon of tests was run on the already exhausted Ummu, at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH), that the doctors say her only option of delivering the baby was through a caesarian section.
“I passed out before we got to the hospital. I just woke up on the bed. I already gave birth to the child through a caesarian section” an obviously traumatised Ummu recalls.
Good-for- nothing health centre
In 2016, residents of Kalanjeni were pleased to see Isa Bashir Salihu, member representing Tangaza/Gudu Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives in their midst. He had visited the villages in the community to announce that the Federal Government had approved the construction of a primary health centre there.
Hearing of the new development, the residents were excited and hopeful that they would have access to good primary health, after many years of longing for it. But the excitement soon faded when Primary Health Centre was finally built and was put under lock and key, several years after the construction was completed.
“We were told they will bring some equipment to the hospital, but we’ve not seen anything since then,” Magaji Shehu Kalanjeni, the village head, said.
On November 28, 2016, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, (NPHCDA) awarded the construction of PHC in Kalanjeni, Tangaza Local Government Area of Sokoto, to ‘Bloomz Development Ltd’ for N22 million (22,337,438.80).
Documents obtained by this reporter revealed that the construction of the PHC was completed on 23rd January, 2017 — eight (8) weeks after the commencement of work as specified in the award letter, dated 28th November, 2016.
Babatunde Aboderin, the Managing Director of Bloomz Development, said the fund approved for the project was just for the construction of the hospital building and not for the provision of equipment. He noted that the project had been done and handed over to the government authorities.
Efforts to reach Hon Isah Bashir Salihu Kalanjeni, the former member representing the area in the House of Representatives were futile. Multiple phone calls on March 8th and 9th were not responded to. Also, a text message sent on Tuesday March 9th never elicited response.
Adamu Abdullahi Romo, the Executive Secretary of the Sokoto Primary Health Care Development Agency, said his agency is unaware of the project, until it is handed over to them for posting of staff and supervision –which has not been done.
“Whenever you see such hospitals, it must have been constructed as a constituency project. Now, except and unless they have been handed over, without doing so, they’re not ours and we cannot say anything about it. But whichever one is completed and handed over to us, then it has become our own”
He, however, promised to look into it. “We will definitely follow it and see what is happening” he said.
ONE VOLUNTEER DOCTOR FOR 20 BEDS COTTAGE HOSPITAL
Whenever a woman is in Labour in Bashire, a 35-kilometre journey to Tambuwal begins.
While some get there in a car, “others are conveyed on a donkey to Tambuwal”, said Hauwa’u Shehu, a resident.
Before the end of his tenure as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, now Governor of Sokoto State, initiated the upgrading of the only dispensary at Bashire village in Tambuwal LGA, into a Primary Health Care centre.
So, in 2014, NPHCDA awarded the sum N179,900,326 to ‘Quaise Nig. Ltd’ for the construction of a 20-bed Cottage Hospital.
The hospital was completed without delay and commenced work immediately, said Abubakar Atiku, head of Bashire community.
Residents of the community said they had had to travel several kilometres to access basic health care services, sometimes as far as Kebbi state which is about 252 kilometers to Sokoto, before the construction of the health centre.
“We suffered a lot before the construction of this hospital. We always had to take our patients to the General Hospitals in Tambuwal, Aliero and even in Birnin Kebbi.”
Although the people are happy that they have the health facility in their community, there is still a lot to be done there to make it fully functional.
According to Abubakar Umar, an official of the health centre, there are many challenges hindering the effectiveness of the project in the community.
Umar said since the completion of the project, the electricity transformer purchased is yet to be connected to supply power . He noted that the hospital runs completely on a diesel generator.
This reporter gathered that there is also a shortage of health workers at the hospital. Although there are a number of nurses and midwives, the only medical doctor is a volunteer staff who visits the health centre twice a week.
“We have only one volunteer medical doctor. His name is Dr. Jibrin. Some people from the Village had met with him, considering his expertise and the good work he has done at General Hospital, Tambuwal, to come help the Bashire people,” the official added.
Romo, who agreed to the shortage of health workers at facilities across the state, informed this reporter that plans are underway to recruit more health workers to fill them up.
“Indeed, not just that of Bashire alone, but across the state. We are now in the plan. His excellency (Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal) has given the approval to recruit health personnel to fill in the gap we are having in terms of managing our health facilities. And I believe it is going to take place very soon Insha Allah” he said
ANOTHER NON-FUNCTIONAL PHC WASTING AWAY
In Jema, Gwadabawa, Ubaida Hasan, a mother of 10 has never experienced safe labour and child-birth. When in labour of what should’ve been her 11th child, she spent about 4 hours waiting to get a vehicle that will drive her down to Sokoto, a 2 hours journey, to safely deliver her baby. But the journey was so long and stressful that she lost the child.
“I waited in pain for about 4 hours before we could get a car, even then I lost the child before we got to the hospital,” she said.
According to Ubaida, several women have lost their lives due to the lack of hospital closeby. “Many lost their lives on the way to Sokoto or Gada”, she said.
So, when Ibrahim Magaji, the Jema village head in Gwadabawa LGA, Sokoto east, heard about the construction of a new hospital in his community, he thought the trouble of carrying sick and pregnant women to far distance hospitals would soon come to an end.
The 55-year-old recalled how pleased he was, hearing that a portable hospital would be constructed in the community. Abdullahi Balarabe Salame, the member representing, Illela/Gwadabawa Federal Constituency at the National Assembly, had sent his entourage to ask that the head of Jema give a piece of land where the hospital was to be sited.
“It’s been over two years since the completion of the construction of the hospital,” said Ibrahim Magaji. But the hospital was still not functional as of February 2021 when the reporter visited.
According to the 2016 Budget of Change, the Federal Government approved the ‘Construction Of Phc (type 1) at Jema In Gwadabawa Lga Of Sokoto State’ for the NPHCDA. The contract was awarded to ‘Billion Global Concepts Ltd’ at N8million (8,830,295.08).
When contacted on the phone, the representative of Billion Global Concept declined a request for the details of the project. He promised to call back but never did and never responded to subsequent phone calls.
The Face-Saving Measure
Few weeks after the reporter’s first visit to Jema on January 10th 2021, some government officials brought some materials to the hospital and cleared the hospital’s premises. The items include beds, generator set, fridge, shelves, chairs, and fans, among others. The reporter’s second visit was on February 14th, 2021.
Findings revealed that Saidu Girkau, the Director of Health, Gwadabawa Local Government, promised to bring health personnels to this hospital in the month of March.
When contacted, Girkau said the project was completely handled by the NPHCDA. He noted that they were only waiting for the suppliers to fully commission the hospital.
“Recently, the hospital equipment has been brought to the hospital and it is going to be commissioned very soon,” he said.
Girkau, who said he met the hospital already constructed when he was posted, however, noted that the health centre is already functional and health officials have been posted to the hospital. He, however, said they await the official commissioning by the government.
“We already posted some people (to the health centre), because we have the manpower to take care of the hospital. The only thing remaining is that we are waiting for the highest authority to commission it.”
Abdullahi Balarabe, the lawmaker who moved for the construction of the health centre, said the lack of allocation of funds for the procurement of equipment stalled the commencement of activities at the health centre for two years.
“You know the budget is yearly. The year after the construction was awarded, I tried to include the procurement in the budget, but it was just recently approved” he said in a telephone conversation.
A resident of the village who holds the key to the hospital, Dahiru Mai Gadi, also confirmed that some officials came to the village and promised that the hospital would commence work on Monday, 8th March, 2021.
One week later, on Monday, March 15, 2021, Abdullahi Balarabe, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar were at the village for a handing over ceremony of the completed project to Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
Adamu Abdullahi Romo said his agency only got to have the record of the hospital after this handing over.
* This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.”