Workers trudge through foul-smelling mud in a trench seeping with clean drinking water and raw sewage in one of the Harare neighbourhoods hardest hit by last year’s cholera epidemic.
The repair work is a race against time to patch the city’s sewage system before the rainy season begins in November, when health workers fear the water-borne disease could erupt again.
The three-metre (10-foot) deep trench cuts through Usuf Austin’s driveway and runs the length of his block, forcing his family to leap across the hole to get into their house.
But he’s happy for the crew to replace the leaky pipes blamed for fueling the epidemic that killed more than 4,200 people and sickened nearly 100,000.
“The sewage was coming out day in and day out, 24 hours a day” when cholera first struck in August 2008, he said.
“This sewage water mixes with the rain water during the rainy season,” he added.
The epidemic erupted last year as post-election violence swept Zimbabwe, already crippled by a decade of economic decline blamed on controversial reforms by autocratic President Robert Mugabe.
The country’s collapsing public infrastructure added to chronically overburdened sewer systems and water shortages. This in turn gave free rein to the diarrhoeal disease, which is easily preventable with clean water and proper sewage but thrives in places without proper sanitation.
The crew on Austin’s road is one of dozens tearing up streets around the Zimbabwe capital, including much of the city centre, in a donor-funded drive to fix the worst of the sewer problems.
Raw sewage still trickles along street sides in working class neighbourhoods like this one, but the onset of rains could easily turn it into streams.
The work is gruelling under Zimbabwe’s tropical sun, as the crew use pick axes and shovels to dig the trenches by hand, without protective gloves or masks.
“We have to go to the houses to ask for gloves, even shovels,” said Titus Sibanda, 35, the crew’s foreman. “All the people on these streets, they help us.”
Zimbabwe declared an end to the cholera epidemic at the end of July, and only five cases have been reported since then, in a rural district where periodic outbreaks are common.
What distinguished last year was its epicentre in Harare, which accounted for most of the victims.
Residents of the capital had been used to reliable, clean drinking water and had never had to take cholera precautions.
But leaky pipes left raw sewage seeping into the water supply. Mounds of rubbish, accumulating by the day, have also become a common landmark on the outskirts of most poor suburbs as authorities lack fuel or spares to keep dump trucks on the road.
Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown last year left hospitals and clinics without money for basic medicines and supplies, while doctors and nurses went on strike to demand their wages.
The result was the worst cholera epidemic anywhere in the world in more than a decade.
Most of the response was led by aid agencies, who shipped in water treatment tablets and medicines, and set up emergency cholera clinics.
The UN Children’s Fund has warned that a new outbreak is “almost inevitable” when the rainy season begins in November, as an estimated six million people have little or no access to safe water and sanitation, the main driver of cholera.
“Unfortunately we do believe that cholera has become endemic within Zimbabwe,” UNICEF’s chief of health Mickey Chopra said recently.
“There’s not been enough time to repair that infrastructure, so we are preparing for a cholera outbreak in the rainy season.”
But Health Minister Henry Madzorera said Zimbabwe is better prepared this year. Doctors and nurses are back on the job, so clinics are running again. Education campaigns have highlighted the importance of boiling water, washing hands and other prevention measures.
“You’ll notice in Harare there is a lot of excavation happening. The water supply is going to improve,” he told AFP.
“We encourage people to take hygiene measures,” he said. “But the rainy season is coming, we may have a few problems.”
All the pipes that need replacing will never be fixed before the rains, the crew foreman in Highfields said it’s important for the public to see efforts are being made.
“People need to see things working day to day,” Sibanda said. “Harare is going to come back.”
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
Group Urges Buhari To Inaugurate NDDC Board
Following the delay in the inauguration of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) substantive board, the Ijaw Interest Advocates (IIA) has again asked President Muhammadu Buhari to take charge, absolve himself from the minister’s delay tactics and inaugurate the NDDC Governing Board.
In a statement, President of IIA, also known as Izanzan Intellectual Camp, Amb. Salaco Yerinmene, told Buhari to immediately inaugurate the NDDC substantive board to avert the looming crisis in the region.
According to him, “for long, we have observed that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godwin Akpabio’s tactics to perpetrate illegality in NDDC is for personal financial gains.”
The president of the group, Salaco, who said Akpabio has done more harm to NDDC than ever, accused Akpabio of toying with the commission, adding that Buhari should distance himself from his activities if he was not selective in the fight against corruption in the country.
The Ijaw advocates added: “Akpabio is only a supervisory minister and that does not mean he alone owns the commission. Major stakeholders, well-meaning leaders and people of the Niger Delta are supposed to be part of the NDDC but today Akpabio has sidelined them.”
The group queried what the minister is doing with the money that comes to NDDC because contractors are not paid as contractors have pulled out of site.
It would be recalled that the Association of Contractors of the Niger Delta Development Commission (ACNDDC), had last Thursday, embarked on a protest march at the premises of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Abuja, and decried the ongoing mismanagement of monthly funds accruing to the commission, and appealed to the Federal Government to pay outstanding debts it owes NDDC contractors.
Salaco regretted that “the commission has been largely engaged with internal matters and has been redundant since Akpabio took over two years ago and one will expect that so many saving would have been made but empty treasury is the reality.”
The group, however, warned that “some key stakeholders who have been involved selflessly and silently in making efforts for peace in the region are almost giving up gradually on their peaceful roles mainly because of lack of sincerity from the Presidency. Well-meaning Niger Delta persons, groups, traditional and government authorities have made inputs by advising the President to ignore Akpabio and do the right thing.”
Salaco regretted that “the multi-national companies are now suffering silently, they have been exposed to confront host communities on their own. Nigeria as a major oil producing nation cannot meet up their OPEC production quota just because of some selfish individuals who want to line up their pockets with funds meant to sustain peace and development of a sensitive region like the Niger Delta.”
Izanzan Intellectual Camp, therefore, advised that “President Buhari should not take the role of stakeholders, mostly the various ethnic nationality representatives who are silently maintaining peace in the Niger Delta region for granted. It is in the best interest of the government led by President Buhari to Ignore Akpabio, and do the bidding of the people for peace, development and progress of the region especially now that the unrest deliberately fuelled by Akpabio is yet to explode.”
It would be recalled that Buhari had promised the nation on June 24, 2021, while receiving the Ijaw National Congress (INC) at the State House in Abuja, that the NDDC Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted.
The president said: ‘‘Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedevilled the NDDC, a forensic audit was set up and the result is expected by the end of July, 2021. I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.”
However, the forensic audit report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari since September 2, 2021, prompting the Ijaw National Congress (INC) to caution that “any further delay in the inauguration of the NDDC Board is a clear betrayal of trust and display of state insensitivity on Ijaw nation and Niger Delta region.”
Police Nab Three Dowen College Students Over Sylvester’s Death
The Lagos State Police Command, yesterday, arrested three students of Dowen College in connection to the death of Sylvester Oromoni Jnr.
Lagos Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, also confirmed that three out of the five students were already in custody, while two were currently at large.
This is as one week after the death of 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni Junior; the Parents’ Forum of the school has demanded justice and also a change in the school management.
It would be recalled that late Sylvester Oromoni had mentioned five senior students allegedly responsible for the injuries he sustained when he was attacked at the Dowen College.
Sylvester was allegedly attacked by senior students of Dowen College, where he reportedly sustained internal injuries that resulted in his demise.
Over 100,000 had signed petitions to prosecute the perpetrators of the sad incident.
The Lagos State Government has since shut down the school, while the police have also commenced investigation into the matter.
However, one week after the death of 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni Junior, the Parents’ Forum of the school has demanded justice and also a change in the school management.
The parents also demanded a change in hostel teachers and the installation of CCT cameras in the school.
The decisions were reached at an online meeting. In strong words against the death of the 12- year -old student, the parents said justice for Sylvester is justice for all and insisted that those involved should be brought to book.
A statement, yesterday, signed on behalf of the parents’ forum by Aituaz Kola-Oladejo, Waheed Adeoye, Oluwaseun Bolanle Ajila and Kingsley Kema Agu, reads: “This will not only bring this unfortunate incident to a closure for the family but will also serve as a deterrent to other juvenile delinquents in all schools in Nigeria.”
The parents demanded a change of school management team, hostel teachers, installation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in all strategic places and overhaul of the school security system.
They decried the incident, and urged the school management team and other stakeholders to cooperate with the authority in the ongoing investigation into the death of Sylvester.
The parents’ forum agreed to organise candlelight on today, at Dowen College, adding “the lighting of candles is to pay tribute to a life ‘passed’, and keeping the light burning signifies that the memory still lives on and burns bright.
“Dowen College parents are startled and deeply saddened by the unfortunate incident that led to the death of Sylvester Oromoni. Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased and pray to God to give them the strength to bear the irreparable loss.
“As parents of Dowen College students, we are still in shock and could not come to terms with this incident and the accounts so far provided by the school management, students and the media.
“We are, however, temporarily relieved by the swiftness with which the authorities intervened and commenced investigation towards unravelling the cause of Sylvester Oromoni’s death.
“We urge the school management team and other stakeholders to fully cooperate with the authority in the ongoing investigation. While we would have loved to bring Sylvester back, if humanly possible, unravelling the cause of his death and bringing whoever was responsible or might have contributed in whatever way to book, will not only bring this unfortunate incident to closure for the family but will also serve as a deterrent to other juvenile delinquents in all schools in Nigeria.
“On our part as parents, we will work more closely with the school (management/board) to ensure that necessary measures are put in place to prevent recurrence of this unfortunate incident and stamp out bullying in any form from the school.
“We will also continue to appeal to parents, through all available means, to show more interest in what their children do and who they associate with in school and at home.
“We appeal to the public to see this incident as an inflexion point, not only for Dowen College but also other schools in Nigeria, as recent events have shown that bullying, molestation and other vices among students are common in our schools.
“Therefore, we rely on the authorities for justice regardless of the social status of whoever is involved.
“What happened to Sylvester could have happened to any other child in the school. To many of the traumatised students, Sylvester was a classmate, a roommate, a schoolmate or a friend.
“We, therefore, earnestly ask for a resolution that will bring some relief to the bereaved family, other parents, students of Dowen College and the public. These should include a change of the school management and hostel teachers, installation of Closed Circuit Television cameras in all strategic places and overhauling of the school security system.
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