Duguri, headquarters of Alkaleri Local Government Area in Bauchi State is a town that has become synonymous with snakes.
Last year about 42 snakebites were recorded between May and November, which resulted in five deaths, according to Adamu Suleiman, Secretary of Duguri Ward Development Committee.
Findings by Arewa Voice showed that snakebites became rampant in the area after the devastating flood that ravaged most communities located along the coastline of River Benue in October 2012, which washed away houses and brought lots of snakes with it.
Tucked away in her Duguri village -136 kilometres from Bauchi metropolis (the seat of government) is 18-year- old Rabiatu Adamu, a snakebite victim who was bitten by a poisonous snake during one of her visits to her father’s farmland to fetch firewood.
Miss Adamu said that she thought that she had stepped on thorns, but would later learn that she had been bitten by a poisonous snake.
While narrating her touching story, Rabiatu who looked exhausted, having suffered for eight months without proper medical attention, was busy chasing flies with a hand-held fan from the wound she sustained on her foot as a result of snakebite.
She said that apart from the devastating pains of the snakebite she said also of great concern to her was the inability of her father raise the money needed for her medical treatment at either Kaltungo, Gombe State or Plateau State.
“I was in the bush to fetch fire-wood when I felt like I stepped on thorns. I came home thinking I stepped on thorns in the bush but four days later, we realised it was a snake bite.
“At a point, I almost lost hope because I thought I was going to die. As you can see, I am still suffering from the snake’s venom and the wounds it has caused on my leg,” she said.
Rabiatu is relying on the assistance of the only female traditional herbalist offering ‘treatment’ in the village.
She added: “The treatment she gives is very cheap; you only need to pay N10 and provide two chickens to get treated.
“We have no one to support us except God. For the past eight months, I have been unable to do anything for myself. I feel like I am a burden to the household these days. Unfortunately the snakebite clinic, which was started a year ago, is now nothing but an empty, uncompleted building.”
As Rabiatu continues to feel the excruciating pains from the snakebite, Adamu Samaila, her father who said he has been devastated since October 2020, stated that he shares in the agonies his daughter: “I am emotionally troubled because I wake up every day to see her terrible condition,” he said. “And I feel devastated because I don’t have the means to foot her medical treatment.”
According to Adamu, fetching firewood to support the household has been an age-long routine for his children, including Rabiatu.
Adamu further said that since the time of Isa Yuguda’s administration, his community has struggled to get a snakebite clinic, which luckily has now been started by Governor Mohammed’s administration, but yet to be completed, thereby posing a lot of concerns for him and the community.
“Governor Mohammed’s administration started building a snakebite clinic for us, but somehow the project was stopped. We are disappointed that the project has been abandoned halfway. Now we are only left with an empty building and dissipating hope about the possibility of having a snakebite clinic here,” Adamu added.
Hurera Ibrahim, the herbalist ‘treating’ victims of snakebite in Alkaleri claimed that she was chosen by her late father who instructed her to carry on the noble chore of treating victims of snakebites shortly before his demise.
She said that she has been ‘curing’ victims of snakes from Alkaleri, Kafi, Daji, Rimi and Balele where snakebite has become the order of the day, while also noting: “I can keep about 10 victims of snakebites in my house and treat them.”
Hurera explained further that for the past 40 years, she has done nothing other than treating snakebite patients for as little as N10 and two chickens in accordance with the instruction handed over to her by her late father.
“The only thing I collect from the people patronising my service is N10 and two chicken; but where a patient cannot afford to give N10 and two chickens at the end of a successful treatment, I ask them to leave the fee and I source for the required chicken and slaughter for them.
Flaunting her ‘extensive knowledge’ of snakebite, Hurera noted that different kinds of snake poisons require different herbal mixture appropriate for the venom.
“I can boast of 10 different types of anti-snake venom herbals, which I apply to various cases of snakebites being reported to me. If the venom accumulates around the abdomen of the victim, there is a specific herb I give to such patients. If a snakebite victim cannot pass urine, I give a different herbal mixture to restore their ability to pass urine,” she added.
However, Hurera lamented that the antidote for venom from some type of snakes commonly found around Manta-Bala Village is extremely difficult to find because in most cases before victims report to her house from that axis, some of them die on the way, while the few who survive the venom usually experience serious bleeding from all parts of their bodies.
The herbalist said that she was excited with government’s initial plan to build a hospital in the community because of the rate at which snakes kill people in her surrounding communities.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Rilwanu Mohammed said that the government is aware of the situation which was why it initially started building a snakebite clinic in the area.
Mohammed, however, noted that the Governor ordered that the project be halted since a new standard general clinic by African Development Bank is ongoing in the area, which will have a section for snakebite victims.
His words: “The structure is there, but the take-off is the problem. What prevented that project from taking off is lack of accommodation for personnel; you know the place is far from the town so they wouldn’t want to stay there.
“We, together with African Development Bank, are constructing another primary healthcare centre. There are three apartments under construction for doctors and nurses so that there will be staff retention there. We want to join it with the primary healthcare where there will be accommodation for snakebite patients, that’s what the Governor said.”
Incidentally, Duguri district is the home town of Bala Mohammed, the incumbent governor of the state who appears to be making efforts to alleviate the pains of his people. But for the villagers whose lives are constantly threatened by poisonous snakes, help cannot come soon enough.