NDDC PRIMARY PUPILS’ IMMUNIZATION IN A’IBOM …THE REAL STORY
Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) embarked on immunization of pupils which covered 15 Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State earlier in 2018.
The purpose not far-fetched from their vision which seeks to assure lives considering the mortality rate of children between the ages of 3 and 11 years who are vulnerable to communicable diseases due to the fast spread by close proximity.
According to report, http://www.nddc.gov.
ng/news_id7y.html, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in collaboration with the Akwa Ibom State Government few months ago embarked on immunization exercise of Primary School pupils of Hepatitis B infection and typhoid across 15 Local Government Areas of the State.
This is actually in line with the vision of NDDC which is to create enabling environment for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
However, Bassey Anthony writes that NDDC is determined to facilitate the sustainable and rapid development of the Niger Delta into a region that is socially stable, politically peaceful, economically prosperous and ecologically regenerative.
Despite this, NDDC has been hunted by the ghost of substandard or shoddy engagements when it has to do with service delivery to the citizenry which flogged-off confidence on the Commission’s capability to live to term with their vision.
During the week-long immunization exercise, expectations were that pupils of Primary school in 15 Local Government Areas of the State which covers half of the 818,588 population of primary school pupils, according to Universal Basic Education online profile, must have been reached. If not in total, but a significant number of these Primary School pupils must have benefitted from the programme.
This reporter did not hesitate to brace the rain jumping from one bike to the other visiting Public Primary Schools in the State including the ones specifically mentioned in the NDDC report as beneficiaries of the immunization exercise.
On arrival and meeting with respondents throws more light on the exercise as they gave insights which either butresses the fact that NDDC might be serving as “Cash-Cow” to some persons at the detriment of the masses of which purpose they were meant to serve; or as a body busy offering well-meaning programmes and services but in counterfeited form.
Is it true that NDDC contractors are not paying attention to quality but quantity of coins that drops in their pockets?
At Government Primary School, Ikot Ntuen, Uyo, (a supposed beneficiary of that NDDC immunization programme according to NDDC report) the Headmaster, Mr. William Udofia said the immunization team which visited the school was from Uyo Local Government Council and was on Measles Vaccination Campaign not Typhoid or Hepatitis B if actually was NDDC as reported.
“A team visited the school sometime last term but was during the holidays and sport week where the children were not disposed for the exercise. The team left and has not returned. The one we know that visited the school was that from Uyo Local Government Council on Measles Vaccination Campaign,” Mr. Udofia said.
Speaking to one of the pupils, Ekemini Peter Isong said he has not taken any injection or medicine from any nurse or doctor.
“Aunty no nurse or doctor has come to give me drugs in school,” he said this with streak of fear on his face.
His guardian, who happen to be his grandmother confirmed Ekemini’s report that she has never gotten any information about immunization from any quarter or NDCC considering that she trades her wares close to the school during school hours and after; even during holidays.
“This is where I sit to do my small business everyday even when the school is in session or not. I have never gotten that kind of information or my child telling me about that kind of a thing.”
Also, other pupils confessed that they have not been given any vaccination by NDDC.
A class teacher of Government School, Ikot Ntuen Oku, identified as Madam Comfort simply confirmed the earlier assertion by the pupils but noted that some individuals, not from NDDC, visited the school sometime in the year and pupils of Primary one were given injection after due consultation of the School authority.
The Headmistress of St. James African Church School, Okopedi Itiam, Uyo, Mrs Agnes Udo opined that the pupil of the school were given vaccination by Primary Health Centre, Mbiabong and was on Measles, not NDDC as speculated. She however said the supervisor of the team was one Mrs. Matilda Akpan.
The reports from the Head Teachers of Christ the King Primary school; Methodist Primary School, Itiam Etoi; Lutheran Primary School, Itiam Ikot Ebia further confirmed the stance of Government Primary School, Ikot Ntuen and St. James African Church School, Okopedi Itiam. They were not explicit about NDDC visit to the school on immunization which was in collaboration with the State Government on Typhoid and Hepatitis B. Rather they said visits were made to the respective schools by other sectors either for Polio or Measles vaccines.
The Headmistress of Qua Iboe Church Primary School, Eket, Mrs. Veronica Ekong said, “I can not say if it was NDDC that came to immunize our pupils as different teams visit the School from time to time. But I am sure we have not been immunized of Typhoid and Hepatitis B before if that was the vaccine NNDC embarked on,” she said.
At Primary School Enen Ekpene still in Eket LGA, Mrs Elsie Assang, the Head Teacher said she has not received NDDC team yet rather it was the State Government through Ministry of Health that administered polio vaccine on the pupils recently.
Government Main School Afaha Eket gave no variant account concerning the NDDC Typhoid and Hepatitis B immunization exercise.
The pupils, parents and quardians of Methodist Primary School Oron said they are only serviced by the Primary Health Centre which is within the School as NDDC has not visited the school on Typhoid or Hepatitis B immunization. They stressed that the vaccine their children took part recently was in Church not even in school.
In Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area, the revelation is not varying.
At Methodist School Ibiakpan, Ikot Ekpene LGA, the Head Teacher there said the immunization exercise which his pupils took part was between 0-6 years and was for Polio by State Government not NDDC.
Methodist Central School, Anwa Udo Akai; Government Primary School; Holy Child Catholic School; Methodist Township School; Methodist Central School, Utu Uyo Road, all in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area confirmed no NDDC visit rather they have been visited by other sectors and State Government for immunization on other ailments not Typhoid or Hepatitis B.
AKWA IBOM STATE GOVERNMENT’S REPORT
Contacting the Commissioner for Health Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Dominic Ukpong on phone said he was not aware of State Government’s collaboration with NDDC to immunize primary school pupils against Hepatitis B infection and Typhoid.
In his words, “I am not aware of any NDDC collaboration with our Government. No one from NDDC has ever spoken to me or asked me questions on health in the State.
“If there is any plan by NDDC to immunize pupils, this is news to me. If they mean well, why would they do that without any communication with me as the Commissioner of health in the State. Isn’t that Strange? Dr. Ukpong queried.
In a one-on-one interview session, the Commissioner said, “As far as Ministry of Health is concern, I have not experienced any collaboration with NDDC since I came here. No NDDC person has called or spoken to me about any project that they want to carry out in the Ministry or in the State. Or anyone visited here in respect to health. I am representing the Government, so if there was any State Government collaboration with NDDC, I should know. There is none and they can not prove there has been any.
“I recalled that the former management of Ibom Specialist Hospital called Cadio-Care Medical Services had mentioned one time that NDDC had promised them 60KVA or 100KVA Generating set, you see I can not be very certain. If they came to me, normally, I would have known the exact capacity and I would have had the records of it here. Now, I could not authenticate that because (1) That hospital is own by the State. It is not a Federal Government Hospital. Therefore, if you want to do anything in that hospital, you have to contact the State. Cadio-Care Medical Services was not the owner but hired Managers.
“Let me make it even more clearer, if you felt that you wanted contribute to the health of the State, naturally what you do is to talk to the State asking where is the health-need of the State. You can not even come to the State and begin to talk to the communities without reaching out to the government of that State. The people who know their health-need is the State. In some cases, final recipients of health services might not know exactly what is best for them,” the Commissioner said.
Reaching out to Corporate Affairs Manager of NDDC, Akwa Ibom branch, Mr. Ime Udonte said he was not aware of the programme and could not comment on it.
Effort to reach Mr. Sam Frank, Commissioner representing Akwa Ibom State on NDDC board; and the Director Corporate Affairs, Mr. Ibitoye Abosede proved abortive as the later failed to pick calls or answer to questions sent across his mobile line to verify if actually the programme took place. If so, at what amount and the contractor who handled it.
However, findings have proven that the little or no confidence of the people on NDDC engagements is no mean joke.
It shows that apart from other factors like misperception of routine immunization; Influence of religion; rejection of routine immunization as it happened last year; shortage of vaccines and immunization supplies, political problems seem to mostly challenge immunization process in the State and the country especially in a political era like this.
Even as the people are vulnerable to communicable diseases and willing for a rescue, the gap between the Akwa Ibom Government and NDDC headed by a person of the opposition party in the State, clearly shows political influence on NDDC service delivery to the masses.
If the project was truly undertaken by the Commission and the State Government not consulted as claimed by a report published on NDDC online portal, then there is a clear indication of placing parochial and political interest above the well-being of the masses which is in dissonance of the Commission’s vision and purpose. It is glaring that there is far departure of the Commission’s community involvement and effective awareness as there could not be clear records proving the existence of the programme anywhere except the report on NDDC portal.
Aside the assumption that citizens adjudged NDDC projects as sub-standard, isn’t the masses responding to stimulus?
It is clear that someone must have allegedly pocketed Millions of naira budgeted to tackle the health needs of the people of Niger Delta under the subhead without rendering the expected services.
Is this a reflection of shabbiness on other areas of NDDC intervention programmes? Are many taking a chance on NDDC as a ‘Cash-Cow’?
Who probably was in charge of this Immunization programme and where has the funds diverted to.
It is clear that services rendered by NDDC does not commiserate with the funds allocated for the contract.
The adage “Health is Wealth,” behoves that the well-being of the country is determined by the health of her citizens. As such health issues of the people should not be toyed any guise by any sector of the country.
If truly NDDC was meant to salvage the Niger Delta region of the country, it is time the management of the Commission itself and other concerned bodies at the Federal level ask questions about their interventions programmes as the present administration seeks to curb corruption to the barest minimum.
Is time NDDC go back to the drawing board, righting the wrongs and back on track of their purpose to ensure lives are improved by offering projects and services for sustainable development in Akwa Ibom State and other Niger Delta areas of Nigeria.
(First published on 4/6/2018 in The Nigerian Pulse Newspaper.)