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A Bayo Ohu milestone

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By Ochereome Nnanna

FOR  years, the tragic absurdity persisted. Nobody knows the number of people who lost their lives as a result of it. Someone is shot by his enemies or opportunistic gunmen or is caught in a cross-fire.

He is still breathing. Good Samaritans (Nigerians) rush him to the nearest hospital where people who were trained to save lives work.

The victim is bleeding profusely. He is desperately pleading to be attended to so as not to die. Those who brought him to the hospital are also begging the medical workers to do something quickly. But all entreaties fall on deaf ears and deadened consciences. The victim is dying and he knows it merely by looking at the amount of blood he is losing.

Whenever this kind of scenario crops up the doctors and nurses on duty are afraid to intervene for two major reasons: (a) money and (b) police. A club mate of mine recently told of his shocking experience when he visited a sick relation at a prominent state government-owned health facility in Lagos Island.

He said he saw a teenager on the floor in one of the wards twitching and writhing. He was said to be suffering from tetanus infection which he contracted while playing football and stepped on a piece of rusted iron. His young colleagues brought him to the hospital but they had no money to deposit for his treatment. Nobody visited to pay, so no one attended to him.

On his enquiry, my friend was told that unless the victim came up with the N3,000 required to treat him his body would simply be deposited in the mortuary when he died. My friend said he quickly paid the said sum, and by the following day when he returned to see his relation, the boy had been discharged, having recovered.

On Thursday last week, Mr Gbenga Aruleba, who anchors his Focus Nigeria programme, announced that a young lady, the sole survivor of a road crash, was lying critically ill at the National Hospital, Abuja with severe head injuries. The lady had been in the hospital for five days and had only been given drips and no further medical attention just because no one had come forward to assume financial responsibility for her treatment.

How much is a Nigerian citizen really worth? Every other day, our President is flown to any foreign country of his choice for medical check-up and attention on public funds, but the people who supposedly voted him into power cannot even receive first aid in public hospitals unless they pay. There is something wrong with that.

In the case of those who come bleeding into an infirmary, medical workers withhold their attention because of police harassment. It came as a great surprise to many that this harassment is not based on any known laws of the land. It was just one of the poorly conceived means of ensuring that criminals wounded in shootouts with police do not escape. Little thought was given to those who might be innocent bystanders or even targets of enemy fire who somehow survived long enough to be taken before doctors and nurses.

The recent assassination of Mr Bayo Ohu, a senior editor with The Guardian Newspapers by yet-to-be identified persons, appears to have provided the critical momentum for the abolition of this inhuman practice. The high level of attention the media focused on this tragedy forced the Police to re-empower medical practitioners to treat victims while calling the attention of Police authorities to it.

We take consolation in the fact that our colleague did not die in vain after all. His death has become the watershed through which thousands of other lives will be saved in the future. For that we say thank you, Bayo Ohu. May God help you.

Journalists should learn a lesson here. Without the publicity given to this tragedy nothing would have happened, just as in the Godwin Agbroko and Abayomi Ogundeji cases. We must keep reminding the authorities of their duties to chase down murderers. We must make murder newsworthy once again. We must return homicide to the front pages. We must stay on them until they are solved. Once we lose interest so will the authorities.

Owerri roads in for better times
MANY people have been calling my number to complain about the bad state of roads in Owerri, the Imo State capital. I have a number of friends in government there, the most obvious of whom is Chief Pini Jason, who until he accepted to serve in the Ikedi Ohakim government, was an ace columnist with us in Vanguard. I passed on these complaints to him.

He assures that the Governor has ordered work to start immediately, even though the earlier plans were to wait for the rains to subside. Let me quote Pini Jason: “In Owerri Zone, the following roads are under construction: World Bank Umuguma Road (3km on-going); dualisation of Owerri/Orlu Road (4.6km on-going); dualisation of Owerri/Okigwe Road (8.2km on-going); construction/rehabilitation of Shoe Industry-Amaulu-Mbieri-Egbeada-Amauburu old road  (16.4 km on-going); construction of internal roads in Area “S” in Umuguma Housing Estate (5.4km on-going); construction/dualisation of Concord/Port Harcourt Road, World Bank Onitsha Road (2.9km on-going) and construction/dualisation of All Seasons Hotel Road (1.5km on-going)… total roads completed and under construction in just two years, 401.34km. Compare this to a total of 243.81 km from 1999 to May 2007″.

My job here is to pass on information between the complainants and the authorities. You be the judge.

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