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Sickle Cell Sufferers Protest Seizure of Care Centre In Edo
Indignant at what they refer to as the illegal takeover of the Sickle Cell Centre by Edo state government, persons suffering from sickle cell anaemia disease took to the streets of Benin protesting the government’s high-handed action of renaming of the Centre after the State Ministry of Health by the state government.
Storming the centre accompanied by family, friends and other concerned citizens, the protesters virtually halted all activities at the centre as they started several fires with used tires on the Reservation Road leading to the Government House.
The protest cause a gridlock on the major streets and motorists plying the route to connect Government House at Osadebey Avenue, Sapele and Airport roads had to take alternative roads to escape the ensuing logjam.
Speaking on the incident that led to the protest, one of the parents, Aisekhomen Abenoga said he almost lost his 27-year old son who is a Science Laboratory Studies finalist at the University of Benin as a result of the ministry’s decision to send home all out patients who come for treatment at the centre by 6.00 pm daily.
“We are protesting to create awareness that the sickle cell centre set up by law as a health centre to cater for the treatment of sickle cell sufferers has been converted into the office of the state ministry of health,” he stated.
He lamented that the ministry had “driven out our children out of the centre which is supposed to render 24-hour services, adding that the excuse given is that there is no space.
The Sickle Cell Centre was set up in 1990 with funds raised by the wife of the then governor of defunct Bendel state, Jackie Ogbeha.
By 2005, when the State House of Assembly enacted a law establishing the centre to serve exclusively for the treatment of sickle cell sufferers in the state, the state health ministry had taken up a substantial number of rooms which were initially designated as wards.
A protest by the Sickle Cell Club in 2002 against this move elicited a response from government in a letter dated 25 October 2002 by the then Commissioner for Health to the effect that, “the use of part of the centre by the ministry of health was temporary.”
Dorothy Osuji, a lawyer, who chairs the Eric Edoja Foundation and one of the leaders of the protesters described as “preposterous” the decision of the state government to keep the temporary offices of the Ministry of Health in the Centre for thirteen years.
“What we are saying is that the government has confiscated the Sickle Cell Centre and decided to use it as an office instead of a centre which should have its own blood bank and retinue of doctors and nurses, well-equipped to deal with sickle cell challenges in the state,” she stated.