Rated as one State with comparatively better infrastructure, Akwa Ibom’s basic health infrastructure is unchecked and crumbling. In this report, Steve Jebose Investigates a purported 50m naira ($138,310) contract award by the Federal government for the construction of a type 3 primary healthcare centre in Akwa Ibom South.
As early as 9am, the entrance and corridors of the primary healthcare centre, Essien Udim was already covered with waiting patients. It is Tuesday, a day set aside for expectant mothers who converge for the routine anti-natal session. The nurse; a diminutive light skinned lady, who looks in her 30s stood to address the women and expectant girl-mothers. The nurse rendered her speech in less than 30 minutes, then began to call for questions. She took more questions from the women about what kind of diet to take during pregnancy and how to prevent mosquito bites.
Done with the anti-natal session, the women approached the nurse for treatment. At the Essien Udim Primary healthcare centre, no medication is administered, it appears to be more of counseling and references for medication at pharmaceutical shops referred to as chemists.
The nurse who also acts as the matron of the clinic refused to grant interview or answer questions: “I am not authourised to speak on the matters of the clinic, you can go and get information through the ministry of local government affairs” she said, hurriedly dismissing this reporter.
This health centre was constructed through contract funding from the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHDA at the sum of 17m naira ($47,026). The project specified that the clinic is a type 1 clinic. Built and commissioned in 2016, the clinic; a room with 2 adjoining small office space is already wearing the look of an old building for lack of maintenance, it has only 2 staff working as full time staff, and a volunteer from the community. “No drugs here o, they only tell us to go to chemist and buy, even ordinary panadol” said a young woman called Atim, who was attending the ante-natal for her third child.
The condition of Essien Udim primary health centre is a reflection of most of the basic healthcare facilities across the State. They function far below capacity, administering nothing but counseling and reference, and no adequate staff.
The consequence is expressed by Atim: “our community does not have any hospital, we were happy when they built this one for us, I have been patronizing this place since that time, they are trying but the only thing is that there is no medicine here, anytime you come, they will tell you to go to the chemist to buy medicine”.
This contradicts the terms of the contract; which specified the ‘construction and equipping of type one PHC”. Idiongesit Udoh, one of the young women at the clinic also corroborated the no drug claim: “we come and complain to the nurse, she will check you and tell you what is wrong with you and write medicine for you on paper to go and buy in chemist” said Idiongesit. The clinic does not have toilets or any seen source of water.
The federal government through the National Primary Healthcare Agency, NPHA recently celebrated construction of over 1000 primary healthcare centres across the country. It was part of the 500b naira($1.383b) intervention aimed at strengthening basic healthcare delivery at community level. However, investigations into some of the health centres constructed reveals poor contract execution.
Like Essien Udim centre, many other centres lack manpower and such basic amenities as toilets, water, power supply and basic medical equipments.
According to documents obtained from the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, there are several constructs awarded for the construction, refurbishment or rehabilitation of primary healthcare centres in Akwa Ibom. For instance, one contract award document read: 28th November 2016.
The contract award sum of 57, 323,952 naira (Fifty Seven Million, Three Hundred and Thirty Two Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty Two Naira only. The particular project location was not specified. It is given as Akwa Ibom South Senatorial, an area covering 3 local governments and over 116 communities.
Projects such as this appear suspicious as no particular location is referenced. It will take travelling the entire 116 communities within the Southern Senatorial district of Akwa Ibom to be able to confirm the authenticity of the project. When approached for comment and better clarity on the location of the healthcare centre which had already been completed on paper, NPHDA declined official comment.
$1 = 361.5 naira