During a recent ranking of
Global Health Systems of the United Nations member states by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Nigerian Health System was ranked 187th out of 191 member states ranked. This ranking looked at the impact of the health system on the member states population health using well accepted health indicators.
In developed countries, healthcare, education, and welfare of the population are accepted responsibilities of the government. This principle and concept has recently been consolidated by the United Nations (UN), declaring the provision of basic healthcare to the population of every country one of the Fundamental Human Rights. And Nigeria is signatory to this Declaration.
This article draws our collective attention to an expensive and wasteful national crisis with many silent victims. Let’s begin the review.
An America adage says, “you have to know where you come from in order to know where you are going”
The Nigerian two-tier Health System has its genesis from the colonial era when Nigeria was under the British Empire. During the Colonial days all British nationals and Nigerian politicians with any serious health condition in the country were transported to Britain for treatment. Meanwhile, functional General Hospitals were built and operated in the cities and some midsize towns, and British Missionaries also operated excellent Missionary Hospitals for the rest of the population in the remaining midsize towns.
Since independence in 1960 and for over 53 years, this relics of colonialism has remained in the Nigerian Health System. Today, the Nigerian politicians, top civil servants, military officers, current and retired, and heir families that constitute the “neocolonial masters” are routinely air-evacuated to Canada, Britain, France, Germany, South Africa, Middle-Eastern countries, Australia, and other European countries for all their medical care including, medical check up in the form of medical vacation at public expense while the rest of the Nigerian population makes do with ill-equipped, poorly maintained, inadequately staffed, and dysfunctional public health facilities, most of which are in very deplorable State.
Lest we forget, our national health infrastructure was neglected for many years under the series of military dictatorships some of who just allowed poorly trained staff to run these institutions due to severe brain drain and intellectual flight from the country for various reasons. The patients at these hospitals usually get a list of medical supplies including drugs, intravenous fluids and tubings, syringes, needles sheets, and disinfectants to come with at admission or family members must rush to get the items on the list while the patient is processed.
This “two-tier health system” as it operates in Nigeria is medically unethical, morally indefensible, and discriminatory by class. The Nigerian political elites invariably commit “moral hazard” overseas as they consume more medical services than if they had to pay the entire bill out of their pockets.
From Health Policy and Management perspective, this “two-tier health system” in Nigeria creates severe health disparities, and makes the totality of the Nigerian Health System appear disorganised, dysfunctional, uncoordinated, fragmented, duplicative in services, expensive, wasteful, and economically unsustainable, thus, the very poor ranking by the WHO (187th out of 191).
A quote from a recent policy paper from the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja is both instructive and substantiates most of the above mentioned health policy concerns, I quote, “the health status of Nigerians are in deplorable state with numerous problems including low motivation for health professional workers, a culture of corruption and little consultation between the Federal and the State authorities and between Federal Ministry of Health and other Federal Ministries” unquote. Given such self-assessment, do you wonder why Nigeria has the second highest maternal mortality in the world?”
It is imperative to state that there are enough accumulated blames in the 53 years of our independence to go around. We need to recognize that we can not waste any more time or resources. Everyone must sacrifice, specially our elected officials who remain the most beneficiaries of “the two-tier health system”.
Health care reform takes time to mature and for a reform to endure, it has to be a comprehensive overhaul and not patchwork of incremental healthcare improvements on the status quo. We know that our current health system is broken and needs fixing immediately. We ought to develop a comprehensive National Health Plan and stick to it, but right now, we do not have one. If we do, it should not be put close to the vest of the Minister of Health and his Federal Ministry of Health officials. Unfortunately, this Minister’s actions appears to favour “For-Profit” Health System solutions for Nigeria to a Universal Health System where healthcare is a right of all Nigerians and not to a privileged few. Data from WHO shows globally that, the nations with the best health Systems (France, Japan, Sweden, and Britain) also have the most cost-effective healthcare, and they are insuring the health of all their citizenry.
What every Nigerian must realize is that as a nation, we have wasted billions of US dollars (or Trillions of Naira) in Overseas Health Care the last 53 years on our “neocolonialists” (our political elites). These are resources we could have used to improve our national health infrastructure, purchased modern equipments for our health facilities, build adequate capacity, recruit, train, and retain the health professionals needed to operate the system. Hopefully, the next 53 years will be innovative and more visionary for the Nigerian Health System than the last 53 years.
Consequently, I make the following few of many recommendations:
*Regionalisation of the National Health System following the Six Geo-Political Zones/Regions and formation of Regional Health Systems and Regional Health Management Teams. For example, North Central Health System and the Niger Delta Regional Health System.
*Any reform agenda must comprehensively review all four-components of any health system namely: finance, insurance, delivery system, and payment. Imperative questions on these components are: 1) How will the reform be sustainably financed nationally, regionally, at the State, LGA, and community levels? 2) Can the National Health Insurance Scheme be rolled out immediately for all Nigerians as a National Universal Health Insurance Plan as in Britain? If not, why? There has been enough pilot studies of the scheme and it is time to get serious and stop wasting resources. The new health delivery system should have universal access to healthcare for all Nigerians and should be located close to where the people live. Finally, what type of payment system do we need for all the providers? Single-payer system as in Britain and Canada or multiple-payer system as they are trying to work out in the United States?
*Some form of health workforce brain drain Reversal Program must be developed and instituted to bring home Nigerian Health Professionals Overseas and stem the exodus of our “best and brightest health professional” graduates to foreign countries.
*Health Information Technology and Electronic Health Records (HIT-EHR) diffusion must be an integral part of any 21st Century Health Care Reform. Computers will help the reform go faster, smoother, reduce cost, provide accountability, transparency, improve patient safety, improve quality of care, with no more lost patient paper charts and records.
*Primary care and evidence based preventive care must be central to the basic health care for all with medical homes for chronic disease care. Primary and preventive care must be key to this reform agenda because data shows that 75-85% of any population only need primary care service in a given year and only 5-10% need tertiary (University Teaching Hospital) type care. Further, high ratio of Primary Care Providers in any population is associated with lower hospitalisation rate, and adults who have primary care physician as their regular doctors experience lower mortality and lower health care costs.
*Our federal proxy Health Agencies and Commissions must be streamlined and merged to work co-operatively with the regional, states, and local governments. The University Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centers will co-ordinate the healthcare in each state, down to the local government, and community levels through the Clinical Service Line (CSL)-Model chaired by their more skilled, competent, and highly trained chairmen and Chiefs of Service. The CSL will be Co-Chaired by a management expert for efficiency and effective management of the program and resources allocated to each Clinical Service Line.
*Every community in Nigeria needs either Community Health Centre (CHC) or Mobile Clinics for our Very Rural Areas coordinated from their LGA-District Hospitals. Each CHC must have Teams of Medical Home Primary Care Physicians with Health information -Systems-Electronic Health Records, Out-Patient Pharmacy, Medical Labs, x-Ray, Urgent Care, and a Birthing Center run by midwives supervised by doctors at their LGA District Hospitals. Each Clinical Service Line will have directors at the LGA-Hospitals and CHC coordinated from the University Teaching Hospital or Federal Medical Center at the State capital.
*Patient Safety initiatives and Patience Compensation for medical errors, accidents, injury, and death as a consequent of health care through no fault of theirs should be considered in the new health delivery system to be formulated.
*A National Healthcare Consensus Conference should be convened consisting of: 1) national, regional, state, and local legislative and executive branches of government: 2) representatives of the health professions, health industry, and labor: 3) experts in health economics, health policy and Management, budgetary processes, and health services administration. This should be a retreat of workshops, small group sections, and presentations for 3-4 weeks at the end of which a truly National Health Plan will emerge that will provide universal access to healthcare for all Nigerians executed (95-99.9%) in Nigeria by Nigerians to be implemented over 3-4 years that will eliminate the “two-tier health system”.
*While the foregoing reforms are taking shape, the Federal Ministry of Health should immediately buy health insurance in every country Nigerian governments transport Nigerians for cost-effective healthcare. It is well known that health services overseas is more expensive without health insurance than with one.
This comprehensive overhaul of the National Health System as proposed above will enormously expand the health sector of the Nigerian economy, creating thousands if not, millions of jobs nationwide, and thus, contribute to our economic growth and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the next rebasing of the Nigerian economy.
The National Conference and the National Assembly should carefully review our health system on national security grounds, the dysfunction of the current Nigerian Health System, and the waste of our scarce national health resources. They must not accept any patchwork of incremental healthcare improvement on the status quo if, there is no comprehensive reform agenda to eliminate “the two-tier health system” as discussed above. It will do nothing for the greater good of Nigerian healthcare, knowing what they do now, about the national need for universal health insurance and universal access to healthcare. .
As an expert in Population Health Policy and Management, I can say, it is not that Private (For-Profit) Health System has not been tried, it has failed woefully everywhere. This is why all European countries, Japan, Norway, Denmark, Australia, and South Korea have abandoned it since after the Second World War and embraced Universal Healthcare for its cost-effectiveness and provision of universal access to healthcare for all their citizenry. United States was the last industrialized country to change their health system and they too are in the process of making the switch right now. There are multiple countries with best practice of Universal healthcare Nigeria can emulate like Britain, Canada, Sweden, and other players that will help us get it done like WHO and the World Bank. Nigeria will not be reinventing the wheels here.
Consequently, the National Conference must forge a new direction and leave a legacy of transformative recommendations in healthcare for all Nigerians to experience for a lifetime that will bring Nigeria squarely into WHO standards that Ghana and South Africa have already achieved for all their citizenry. Why must our political officials have better healthcare than those who elected them?
Finally, the Conference should propose and the National Assembly should immediately merge “the two-tier health system” in Nigeria into a single Universal National Health Plan for all Nigerians executed in Nigeria by Nigerians most of who had their specialisation training overseas.
Prof. Amaye-Obu is United States-based Population Health Policy and Management expert.
Prof. Fons A. Amaye-Obu
2020 World AIDS Day And The Covid-19 Challenge
Since December 1, 1988, when the first World AIDS Day (WAD) was commemorated, the day has been one in which global attention has been on how to identify with people living with the virus, and creating awareness on how they could live healthily with it.
It has been a day in which governments, organisations and individuals across the world bring attention to the HIV epidemic, endeavor to increase HIV awareness and knowledge, speak out against HIV stigma, and call for an increased response to move toward ending the HIV epidemic.
For the first time since its emergence, this year has turned out to be when HIV/AIDS got the least attention globally, no thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic, which took the world by storm, affecting not just the health of the world’s population, but also the social, economic, and environmental well being of countries.
Although COVID-19 came to the fore in the last quarter of 2019, from February 2020 when it was declared a pandemic, virtually every other health concern took the back bench, including HIV/AIDS.
Consequently, as the world commemorates the 2020 WAD tomorrow there seems to be barely little to say about the pandemic in terms of spirited efforts made to check its trend in the world, including Nigeria, and, by extension, Rivers State. Attention has thus shifted more to the extent to which the emergence of COVID-19 may have affected the spread of HIV, and its implication to the lives of people living with AIDS.
Usually, WAD brings together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic. It accords the opportunity to show solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV worldwide.
This takes various forms through which awareness is created on identified areas of the pandemic considered to be detrimental to people living with the virus, how to live the best way with it, and how to prevent it, especially in the face of a considerable number of people still living in denial.
But this year is unique, in that it has two matching themes, all geared towards eradicating the impact of the virus while at the same time sharing the responsibility of eradicating the epidemic.
The themes are “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”, and “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility”. The implication is that there should be deliberate determination to continue in spelt out measures to prevent infection, and also check its spread among the populace, while also noting its effect on the people.
Expectedly, the focus on COVID-19 since it was declared a pandemic, which saw virtually all health facilities converted into care and support centres for COVID-19 patients across the world, several questions have been thrown up. Such questions include whether COVID-19 is worse with people living with HIV.
In response, researchers have stated that there is currently no evidence that people living with HIV are at a higher risk of being infected with Coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 illness.
In its presentation on “Global Information and Education on HIV and AIDS”, “avert.org” stated this in more explanatory manner:
“Our understanding of the risk of developing severe COVID-19 in people living with HIV is evolving. Current evidence suggests that HIV is less of a risk factor for severe COVID-19 than other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, or being over a certain age. The best way to stay healthy is by taking your anti-retroviral treatment”, it stated.
Another question commonly asked is: if people living with HIV are more at risk of getting ill. Here, researchers advise that people with compromised immune system should take extra precautions to prevent Coronavirus infection.
They identified such persons to include those with low CD4 count, high viral load, and those who experience a recent opportunistic infection, such as tuberculosis. The reason is that their immune system may not be prepared to deal with the virus.
This is also in cognisance of the fact that people living with HIV are more vulnerable to respiratory infections when their HIV is not well managed. The implication is that they need to be taking their anti-retroviral treatment as prescribed, especially during this COVID-19 times.
Meanwhile, in addition to adhering strictly to the established COVID-19 prevention protocols, people living with HIV are advised to ensure that they take their anti-retroviral treatment regularly and as prescribed. They are also to try and stock-up on their anti-retroviral treatment in order to have enough for at least 30 days, or more.
In Rivers State, in spite of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics from the State Ministry of Health reveal that between January and July 2020, estimated number of pregnant women stood at 193, 000, while number of pregnant women who attended Antenatal Care (ANC) was 12,809.
Number of women who were counselled, tested, and received results are 12,687, number of pregnant women who tested positive to HIV was 302, while number of pregnant women who newly started anti-retroviral therapy during ANC under 36 weeks of pregnancy is 257.
Also, number of live births by HIV positive women who delivered at health care facilities are 591, while number of HIV exposed infants born to HIV positive women who receive ARV prophylaxis within 72 hours of delivery is 499.
This implies that 92 of the HIV positive women who had their births in healthcare facilities were not placed on ARV prophylaxis. In essence, these women are most likely to infect their children with HIV.
The question, therefore, is why 92 women did not receive ARV prophylaxis: is it because the prophylaxis was not readily available, or that the women absconded, or decided to opt for Community Reproductive Health Influencers (formerly known as Traditional Birth Attendants – TBAs?).
The point here is, considering that within the period COVID-19 took the centre stage over all other health concerns in the State, as it has been in the globe, this may well be only one of numerous gaps the fight against HIV/AIDS may have experienced, thus emphasising the need for more concern for HIV/AIDS.
As the world marks this year’s WAD, therefore, there is the need for key stakeholders to genuinely appraise the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, in order to be able to ascertain the next step to be taken.
By: Sogbeba Dokubo
Oyigbo Saga: Premium Times And The Burden Of Objective Journalism
Our attention has been drawn to a viral social media post ostensibly put up by Premium Times on several of its verified social media handles including Twitter titled: Cooking, Oyigbo Investigations: Like Sanwo-Olu, like Wike https://twitter.com/PremiumTimesng/status/1330578311823626243?s=08
The post reads thus: “5ØÜ5ØÜ5ØÜ5ØÜ5Ø–Ü: PREMIUM TIMES will publish an investigative report on Oyigbo, revealing evidence of war-grade violence on defenceless and innocent people, extrajudicial killings, destructions and human rights abuses.
“This investigation by @Hazzanjustice (Taiwo Hassan Adebayo) is based on on-the-ground reporting, interviews with multiple sources, including witnesses, families of victims, military, mortuary and hospital sources and review of verified pictures.”
Without meaning to cast aspersions on the Premium Times brand, we are a bit surprised that they would first proceed to advertise this investigative report in a sensational manner that sends disturbing professional and ethical signals about its intent and purpose.
This is quite uncharacteristic of the identified style of Premium Times but then we recognise that sometimes, there could be exceptions to the rule.
The case of exception with this purported investigative report therefore further reinforces our suspicion that there could be more to it that goes beyond ethical and professional Journalistic service.
Again, the promotional blurb unambiguously presumes that the investigation has already been done and dusted with a judgemental conclusion.
This blurb reeks of highly opinionated, subjective and biased partiality against a particular party. Otherwise, how does one explain the meaning contained in this statement: “5ØÜ5ØÜ5ØÜ5ØÜ5Ø–Ü: PREMIUM TIMES will publish an investigative report on Oyigbo, revealing evidence of war-grade violence on defenceless and innocent people, extrajudicial killings, destructions and human rights abuses.”
Again, we find the obviously robust attempt to promote this investigation rather curious, especially coming in the wake of the expose by the Cable News Network, CNN on the #EndSARS peaceful protests and attendant events of October 20, 2020 at Lekki Tollgate.
This purported investigation by Premium Times, couched in the promotional phrase: “Cooking, Oyigbo Investigations: Like Sanwo-Olu, like Wike”, when placed pari-pasu with the trending CNN report, betrays the intention of the investigation and lends strong credence to the suspicion that Premium Times may have been contracted by some interests, to create a diversion from Lagos State and Lekki Tollgate to Rivers and Oyigbo.
Of course, we are not unaware of the reports of some shadowy organizations masquerading as civil society groups, which have been throwing out humongous figures of casualties in Oyigbo and painting gory pictures or unsubstantiated massacres and unproven extrajudicial killings.
This is no doubt a concerted effort to redirect national attention from Lagos to Rivers State and inserting Governor Wike’s name in their stories to give them some dubious relevance.
While this observatory article is definitely not an attempt in anyway to preempt whatever Premium Times is ‘cooking’ or has ‘cooked’, it is important to state the facts clearly as they relate to Governor Wike, Rivers State and Oyigbo Local Government Area.
First of all, Governor Wike is the duly elected Governor of Rivers State and Oyigbo Local Government Area is one of the local government councils in the State, which gives him the sole constitutional authority to ensure that peace, security and harmonious coexistence of indigenes and residents are maintained at all times.
The importance of this point is premised on Premium Times own admission that: “This investigation by @Hazzanjustice (Taiwo Hassan Adebayo) is based on on-the-ground reporting, interviews with multiple sources, including witnesses, families of victims, military, mortuary and hospital sources and review of verified pictures.”
We are therefore eager to know if in the course of its investigation, it also interviewed and interacted with the Chief Security officer of the State or any of his delegated officials to also get a first hand report of their side of the story. Any investigation that does not include this is completely null and void, misleading and made up of contrived falsehoods.
Let us state clearly too that in the aftermath of the gruesome events of arson and destruction that tainted what had been a very peaceful and nationally endorsed #EndSARS protests by Nigerian youths, all the states of the federation had been mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari to set up their independent Judicial Panels of Inquiry which had been one of the key demands of the protesters.
We are glad to note that not only did Rivers State set up its own Judicial Panel of Inquiry, but that Premium Times itself reported it copiously in its story by Cletus Ukpong, published on October 23, 2020, titled: “Wike tasks panel to probe if govt officials sponsor police brutality” and also in its November 9, 2020 report titled: #EndSARS: See the states that have set up panels of inquiry so far (in which Rivers State is number 26).
It would therefore be quite interesting to see if the Premium Times investigation also contains comprehensive reports and interviews from the Rivers State #EndSARS Judicial Panel of Inquiry, as Nigerians have already seen from what is transpiring with the Lagos Judicial panel.
Once again, while the penchant for mischief makers and truth twisters to whip up overblown sentiments and propaganda is very much at play, the clear facts of the #EndSARS protests in Oyigbo must continue to be stated clearly and unequivocally for the records and for posterity.
They are as follows:
On Tuesday 21st October 2020, an orgy of violence and destruction was inflicted on Oyigbo Local Government Area and some parts of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area under the guise of the #EndSARS protests. This evil, wicked and audacious action resulted in the unnecessary loss of scores of lives, including soldiers and police officers, and the destruction of police stations, court buildings and business premises.
Comprehensive security reports, corroborated by live radio broadcasts by their fugitive leader, applauding the mayhem and urging more destruction, revealed that it was the proscribed separatist group, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra(IPOB) that carried out these attacks
Not done with Oyigbo, they also visited physical violence on members of some targeted communities which, but, for the quick intervention of the State Government and the security agencies, would have resulted in some form of internecine bloodbath.
The State Government, in a statewide broadcast by Governor Wike, promptly imposed a 24 hours curfew in Oyigbo and the other affected areas.
If the curfew had not been imposed comprehensively and in the nick of time, it would have exploded into a full blown ethnic war in the community and across Rivers State.
As a matter of fact, all over Rivers State, Oyigbo town has practically become known as IPOB’s main operational base in which they have attempted to rename and from where they have become notorious for launching premeditated violence and terror.
The fact also remains that as a stranger element with strange political ideology, IPOB, which had already been proscribed and declared a terrorist organization by the Federal Government has no legal or moral right to invade Rivers State or any part therefore at its behest and hoist its sepratist flag; disturb public peace; and subject lives and property to violence or threat of destruction under any guise.
It is also germane to place on record, for the avoidance of doubt, that the IPOB attack was against the Police and the Nigerian Army.
Governor Wike responded by reinforcing the proscription of IPOB and its activities in the State through a legitimate Executive order and imposing a curfew on the community to save lives and secure more state property from being destroyed by IPOB.
Unfortunately for IPOB however, its attack was against the Nigerian Army, which constitutionally reports only to the Chief of Army Staff and the President of Nigeria who is the Commander in Chef of the Armed Forces and head of the Federal Government that proscribed it.
Not only was it confirmed that the IPOB hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protest, killed some soldiers, it was also reported that they stole some military rifles too and the leadership of the Nigerian Army, acting independently, instructed and directed the response and recovery operation of its stolen arms on its own mandate and authority.
Let us also state that Rivers State was the most peaceful State, amongst all the States and in spite of the various social media provocation, during the #EndSARS protests. Governor Wike in collaboration with security agencies ensured that the protesters peaceful until IPOB and its hoodlums hijacked the peacefulness of the process.
We would therefore expect and even demand that the Premium Times investigation, whose promotional intro does not even reflect the primary agent, instigator and perpetrator of the shedding of the innocent blood of 10 soldiers and policemen and the burning of courts and police stations, should squarely apportion blame to the necessary culprit in this matter, for a balanced and impartial representation of the real situation.
Any report which deliberately refuses to call out and chastise the real troublemakers in our society, will be totally unprofessional and an unfortunate disservice to the noble ethics of investigative Journalism.
It is thus in recognition of this professional demand that we recall the highly competent and comprehensive work done by the doyen of modern Nigerian Journalism, Chief Dele Momodu on the Oyigbo situation. He not only robustly interviewed the key figures in the story, including Governor Wike, for which he received great praise and commendation from all quarters, he also bravely undertook an on the spot, fact finding mission to Oyigbo.
Like the seasoned veteran investigative journalist he is, he even broadcast his fact finding tour to Oyigbo live, for the avoidance of doubt and the findings of that mission, which may not be agreeable to some sepratist refuseniks, speaks volumes to counter the misinformation about Oyigbo and Governor Wike, which has been making the rounds.
Lastly and very critical to whatever investigation or report that may come out from Oyigbo is the fact that several key figures who are central to the matter, have already spoken and given their verdict on the situation.
On Sunday, November 8, 2020, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike held a historic meeting with South-East Governors, the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo and the Igbo Community in the State at Government House, Port Harcourt.
The backdrop of the meeting was the rife propaganda proclaiming an unsubstantiated massive extra-judicial response to the recent carnage, destruction and killings unleashed on Oyigbo by IPOB.
Chairman of South East Governors Forum, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, who led the delegation said that the visit was not at the instance of Governor Wike but was initiated by the South East leaders to find out the truth of what transpired in Oyigbo.
He said: “We are here to interact with you. We saw a number of things in the social media about Igbos in Oyigbo and as leaders, we put heads together and requested to meet with Governor Wike. We can claim here from your own accounts and as your leaders back home, that all what we read in the social media are all lies.
“I find it nauseating that IPOB could go to Benue and Rivers States to hoist its flag and claim the territories belong to the Igbo people. Igbo leadership are opposed to this stance by IPOB.
“I have lived in Rivers State for quite sometime. My children were born in Rivers State and I can tell you that in all these years there has never been any form of discrimination against us in Rivers State.
“Let us call a spade a spade. Ndi-Igbo have massive investment and infrastructure all over the country and somebody wants to start a war for us so that Igbos will be slaughtered again. Who brings war upon himself?
“Let me tell you something. We Ndi-Igbos do not support any form of criminality so I urge you not to buy into anyone who is a criminal from our side. We feel so free with our host Communities and have lived happily with them without any form of discrimination”
Umahi who also recalled an incident in his Community a few years ago sounded a note of warning: “Soldiers do not tolerate seeing a civilian handling a gun not to talk of stealing their rifle.”
In his own comments, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state, whose boundary with Rivers State is Oyigbo Local Government Area stated that it will be unfortunate if the Igbos wage war in Rivers, because that will be like waging war on itself.
Ikpeazu also warned Igbos to be wary of the Information they get from the social media and recalled how Aba would have been set ablaze a few years ago when some miscreants posted in the social media that people from a particular ethnic group had invaded the State and if not for Divine intervention, the fake information would have resulted into an ethnic war.
Spokesperson and Eze Ndigbo in Rivers and Bayelsa, Eze Maduagu Ajaele and Lady Regina Uwakwe, in their reactions, commended Governor Wike for his wide spread infrastructural development in the State, noting that he had created an enabling environment for Igbo businesses and families to thrive.
Also speaking, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, showered encomiums on Governor Nyesom Wike, describing him as a champion of restructuring of Nigeria and a man who loves justice.
He also warned that the leadership of Igbos cannot remain aloof while some misguided few who did not experience the brutal reality of the last civil war continue to fan the ember of disunity.
Indeed, any investigation on Oyigbo that does not capture the views of the traditional rulers, who are the custodians of the communities, will be erroneous and incomplete. This is because the Chiefs themselves, contrary to the misleading propaganda in the public space, have begged the Defence Headquarters not to withdraw soldiers deployed to Oyigbo in order to prevent remnants of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), from regrouping.
The chiefs under the aegis of Ogbakor Oyigbo, made the appeal to the military when the Publisher of the Ovation International Magazine, Chief Dele Momodu, visited Oyigbo, to assess the situation in the area, and also urged all those who deserted Oyigbo to return as normalcy has been restored.
A high chief, Eze Ukwu III, Louis Okorie said that the community chiefs do not approve the withdrawal of soldiers from Oyigbo and expressed serious concern that if soldiers are withdrawn from Oyigbo, IPOB anarchists would unleash violence in the area.
“The Ogbakor Oyigbo General held a meeting and said they will not allow the removal of soldiers from Oyigbo. We thank Governor Wike for imposing the curfew which has calmed down the situation in Oyigbo.”
Another Chief, High Chief, Lisbery Onyegorom said: “We were surprised by the level of destruction by the IPOB. We are Rivers State and Niger Delta people. Our people are not members of IPOB. I am not aware of any Oyigbo indigene who is a member. We don’t allow that.
“Now, that the IPOB have killed some soldiers, all of them have ran away. The Army is investigating and fishing them out. Most of the IPOB members arrested have given vital information about the remnants. We are in support of the Governor’s ban on IPOB activities.”
Chief Onyegorom also frowned at the allegation of extrajudicial killings levelled against Nigerian Army by some persons working for some extraneous forces playing petty politics with the Oyigbo issue.
“We are solidly behind our Governor’s effort to maintain peace in Oyigbo. The Governor did not say, go and kill people. The Army came on a rescue mission . That’s what they came for. It is the deployment of the Army that gives us comfort to remain here. Let the Army stay until we are sure of peace in Oyigbo.
On his part, the Chairman of Oyigbo Local Government Area, Prince Gerald Oforji said most of the negative information peddled in the media on the situation in the area are unfounded.
“Today, I am very happy for the visit by the Ovation family to assess the wanton destruction carried out by the IPOB. Today, they have come to assess and see things for themselves based on lopsided information they have been getting concerning Oyigbo. I believe with what they have seen today, the world, can confirm that most of those negative information posted against Oyigbo, against Rivers State, are unfounded
No doubt, the last word on any investigation on Oyigbo must go to the indefatigable Chief Dele Momodu, who has contributed so much to expand the frontiers of journalism in Nigeria, while maintaining the noble ethics of the profession in its finest investigative and reportorial tradition.
He said: “The way they describe Oyigbo as if there is massacre, there is no massacre going on. I believe, we have moved round extensively, nobody has told me not to move to anywhere. A lot of people have challenged me that I can not come to Rivers and visit Oyigbo.
“So, I am here. For me, it is a mixture of sadness and joy. Joy, that I’m able to come here in peace, because the impression I got was that nobody could come here at all; that everywhere has been taken over by the military and people are been massacred. I have gone round. I went to the market, I have gone to the police headquarters that was allegedly burnt down.”
Indeed, we magnanimously refer Premium Times and @Hazzanjustice (Taiwo Hassan Adebayo), to his seminal article titled: “As Peace Returns to Oyigbo, My Candid Observations” published in his PENDULUM BY DELE MOMODU, column on November 21, 2020 edition, of This day Newspaper.
This is highly recommended before concluding any ‘cooking’ investigation on Oyigbo.
As an international brand, Premium Times has the social responsibility to be factual, honest and dispassionate instead of allowing itself to be sucked into cheap propaganda and misleading falsehoods.
Nsirim is Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
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