By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
In my drive to judiciously evaluate and incontrovertibly unriddle the giant strides compendiously and steadily recorded in all critical sectors of the economy in the Southeast State of Ebonyi, the need for this second and concluding expository piece on one of the emerging and fast-growing economies of Nigeria becomes expedient.
Upon an invitation extended to me by the Ebonyi State Commissioner of Information, Barr. Uchenna Orji, who probably, may have kept an eye on my activities and media engagements spanning over a period of thirty years and counting, to do an independent assessment and explore the infrastructural development crisscrossing the nooks and crannies of Ebonyi State, under the administration of Engr. Dave Umahi, and inform Nigerians accordingly, I cannot but categorically state that aside Rivers State, under Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as Governor, the gale of legacy projects scattered in Ebonyi State and the speed with which industrialization is cropping up, is such that has never happened elsewhere.
In the first phase of this series, published a few weeks ago, I shared the bewildering experience I had upon arrival to Ebonyi. The litany of projects, beautiful city landscape, smooth roads, magnificent buildings, beautiful lightings etc, which stared me in the face forced me into utter consternation so much so that I was tight-lipped, the intervention of some government officials however saved the day.
Aware of my predicament, Hon. Okoro Enakwaechi a young but sound mind of Ebonyi extraction living in Lagos in reacting to my pitiable situation stated, “Iron sharpens iron. To many who understand your command of the pen, your invitation by the enigmatic information Commissioner of Ebonyi State, Barr. Orji, can never come as any surprise. As for your first hand assessment of the projects on ground, I can only add that your audience should endeavor to go and see things by themselves because no journalist on earth can completely capture the scope, quality and sophistication in infrastructural renaissance of Engr David Umahi in Ebonyi State on either print or electronic media.”
As if the counsel of Hon. Enakwachi” was not enough, my good friend and brother, Dr. Omenazu Jackson cautioned and stated, “Eze well done for on the spot assessment of Umahi’s projects, but how I wish International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights was involved in this Projects monitoring.”
In my contemplation of abandoning this assiduously task and running back to Rivers State where billions of taxpayers’ monies are wasted on Television adverts of bogus and nonexistent projects concentrated within two Local Government Areas to the determinant of the others, High Chief, Uhuo Ken Jegede, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information motivated me to stay, when he sent me the text below “Chief Eze, You have proved that you are a doyen and veteran in this field. More people like you are needed for stability and orderliness of the society therefore I’m not surprised at the superlative quality of the piece… it’s your vintage self. It’s worthy of publication in our national tabloids.
I doff my cap Chief, in salute, for your literary prowess.”
If a great fellow like Chief Jegede whom I have not met before until my arrival to the State could say this much for just one treatise, then I have no reason to abandon this task.
Conclusion on the Magic Wand of Governor Umahi in the Health Sector
The first treatise on this project was titled, “Umahi Set to End Foreign Health Tourism, Redoubles Efforts to Unveil World Class Medical Centre as Eze Embarks On Seven Days Projects Tour of Gale of Projects in Ebonyi State (PART ONE).
In this treatise, I exposed the vision of Governor Umahi to end foreign Health Tourism by initiating a world class Medical Centre when operational, power supply will be 24hours as it would have power from solar, generator and national grid. “the Medical College after completion, will have centres of excellence in cancer management, kidney transplant with dialysis centre, liver transplant, and other diseases. It will have the latest diagnostic equipment that can be rated amongst the best anywhere in the world. The technology to be employed is equally second to none.
The centre will be manned by the best hands anywhere in the world and the structures are classical”. The diagnostic equipment are coming directly from the manufacturers and almost all of them are ready. It’s going to be a centre of medical tourism, he emphasised.
With the appointment of an erudite, outstanding Scholar and seasoned Administrator, Professor Chigozie Jesse Uneke, as the Acting Vice Chancellor of the University, to ensure the smooth take off and effective management of King David Medical Science University, Uburu, Ohaozara LGA, by His Excellency, the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Chief David Nweze Umahi, FNSE, FNATE, it can be concluded that Nigerians will soon have the best Medical Centre in Nigeria.
The new Acting Vice Chancellor is expected to deploy his wealth of experiences to manage the new institution to achieve the vision of establishing the University by Ebonyi State Government.
The Basics and Foundation of Laying Solid Health Sector in Ebonyi State
The administration started by sending the following Executive bills to the Ebonyi State House of Assembly and assenting to them thereafter:
a. Bill for the establishment of the Ebonyi State School of Health Technology, Ngbo
b. Bill for the establishment of the State Primary Healthcare Development Agency
c. Bill for the establishment of the Ebonyi State Health Insurance Scheme, among others.
Throwing more light on the bills, Dr Umezurike stated: “To make sure our health foundation is very strong, and that is what we are doing, by strengthening the primary health care in Ebonyi. Ebonyi State, prior to this administration, was one of the few States that had not passed this law on primary healthcare.
The target of Ebonyi State Government under the administration of Governor Umahi is to have one standard healthcare in each of the 431 polling Wards. Five primary healthcare facilities are targeted at each council that give services 24/7, coupled with welfare and facilities and full complement of staff, including midwives and nurses. With these we will achieve the universal coverage.
The Vision behind the Setting up of the Virology Centre in Ebonyi State
This treatise will attempt to conclude the revolutionary and magic wand that Governor Umahi has employed to ensure that Ebonyians are well catered for in the area of health especially, with the setting up of the only virology centre in the SouthEast and the second in the whole of Southern Nigeria. This centre is used to test and treat various dreadful diseases including COVID-19 pandemic, Lassa Fever and similar deadly diseases.
The vision to set up the Virology Centre situated within Dr. Alex Ekweme Hospital Abakaliki started when the report of how Lassa fever has been a health challenge to the people of Ebonyi State.
Records have it that in 2005, Lassa fever killed five health workers while in 2008, it killed three health workers and affected many others and sadly, two of these three health workers were Medical Doctors. In 2012, it affected about 12 health workers with one person dead. In 2013, there was also isolated case where one person died. These affected numbers exclude other citizens we do not have their records.
This menace was a real terror and caused a lot of havoc in Ebonyi State and the major challenges in curtailing it was the fact that the treatment of this disease is very costly. The Virology Laboratory in the State, a Federal health Institution qualified to treat this ailment have just three rooms and no isolation ward. In this case, if we have more than three victims at a time, others are kept in the general ward thereby endangering both patients and health workers.
To worsen the situation, the State cannot also confirm the diagnosis of victims until samples are sent to Irrua Special Hospital in Edo State for confirmation of the diagnosis. It takes about five days to get the confirmation report from Edo which means treatment of the victim will be delayed and if proven positive the symptoms becomes very bad. If you commence early treatment the patient has chances of survival as the disease is curable and preventable provided the needful are done at the appropriate time
Umahi and his magic wand/ Construction/Equipping of Virology Centre
When the above ugly scenario and challenges was presented to Governor Umahi, he immediately charged the Ministry of Health to commence the building of a Virology Centre in Ebonyi State within a month and to equip it accordingly. Based on the Governor’s charge, the ministry has completed the construction and equipping of a multi-million naira modern virology centre in FETHA II, Abakaliki, where suspected cases of Lassa Fever and other acute hemorrhagic fevers will be diagnosed and managed.
This is the first of its kind in the entire South-east and the second in Southern part of Nigeria. This project started because of the Governor’s love for his people, who before this period has lost so many lives due to delays in sending and receiving sample results from Irrua Specialist Hospital in Edo State.
The ex-Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole commissioned the facility, stating that the establishment of the centre will definitely enhance a great partnership between Nigerian Government and the government of Ebonyi State, and will among other benefits, lead to the provision of more equipment and grants to the Centre.
Adewole expressed hope that the centre would help curb the menace of lassa fever ravaging the zone, assuring that the purpose of the centre would never be defeated.
To the glory of God, this Virology Centre was upgraded for the treatment of Covid 19 and Lassa fever. This made it possible for the State to be amongst few other States where the menace of COVID-19 was reduced to the barest.
Other Key Interventions in the Health Sector by Governor Umahi
1. Checking Epidemic Outbreaks
The Ebonyi State Ministry of Health since May 29, 2015, has put in professional competence in management of outbreak of epidemics in the state. It has strengthened the epidemiology unit and its emergency response unit to ensure that all cases of outbreaks are brought under control. This is evident in the way the ministry managed and controlled the cholera outbreak in the state. This deadly disease has been successfully controlled till date. The state government, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, have also approved that the treatment and diagnosis of malaria, in all government-owned hospitals, is free of charge. This has drastically reduced the morbidity and mortality associated with malaria.
Apart from setting up of the Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital & Faculty of Medicine, Uburu, aimed at ending foreign health tourism in Nigeria and the visionary setting up a Virology centre to tackle dreadful and deadly diseases, Governor Umahi went ahead to accomplish the following:
1. Reconstructed, equipped and modernized the 13 General Hospitals in various LGAs in the State with Doctors and Nurses quarters.
2. Built and equipped World Standard school of nursing & Midwifery in Uburu.
3. Establishment of Ebonyi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency.
4. Effective tricycle ambulance service system for emergencies.
5. Construction of Standard Accident and Emergency Ward / ICU at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki.
6. Ebonyi State University Community General Hospital Uburu.
7. Development of Blue Print on Health
8. Completion of 3 buildings at School of Health Technology Ngbo
9. Fencing of college of Nursing and Midwifery
8. Construction of School Block at EBSUTH Uburu
9. Construction of Hospital Block
10. Construction of Utility Block
11. Construction of 2 Senior Staff quarters
12. Construction of 2 Junior Staff quarters
13. Construction of 4 Hostel Blocks
14. Renovation of Elunwovu Health Centre to serve as a holding and treatment centre for Covid 19
15. Provision of new cold chain in MOH
16. Fencing of MOH premises
17. Elimination of Malaria through Distribution of 1.7 million bed bet
The Ministry of Health, in partnership with United States Agency for International Development (USAID), distributed 1.7 million insecticide-treated bed-nets, as part of measures towards preventing and eliminating the scourge of malaria. Malaria is still a major public health problem in Nigeria, and the Tropics, affecting about 5 million people across the globe annually, especially women and children
In the same vein, the ministry also attracted medical equipment worth N47 million from USAID in February 2016. EU-SIGN also donated N121 million worth of direct-drive solar freezers (38 in number) to the state, to support and strengthen immunization activities. It is worthy to note also that Ebonyi State took first position as the ‘Best-Performing State’ in malaria elimination in the whole country and our governor was decorated as USAID Ambassador.
18. Medical Outreach
One of the most recent achievements of this administration is the medical outreach, called Akubara-oha Free Medical Outreach, conducted at Ezzeama in Ezza South LGA and Agugwu-Uburu in Ohaozara LGA. The results of the exercises are quite successful. Over 2000 medical cases were seen: 98 surgeries, 26 tooth extractions, and 262 eye glasses issued to eye patients. Most of our people who because of economic situation could not access medical care were treated free of charge. The joy of these people knew no bounds as they prayed for God’s guidance and long live for the governor. His Excellency, having seen the success of these exercises and its attendant benefits, gave the ministry the mandate to conduct such free medical outreach in all the 24 constituencies of Ebonyi. The ministry is already concluding arrangements to kick-start the exercise. The whole essence is to ensure that the poorest of the poor get medical care of all ailments, and to reduce their disease burden and, ultimately, prevent untimely deaths to the rural people
19. Construction of Chest Clinic at Mile 4 Hospital
The ministry also, through our informal connection with Chevron and Agbami partners, attracted an ultra-modern Chest Clinic, for the treatment of drug resistant tuberculosis and other related chest pathologies. The construction, which is ongoing in the Mile 4 Hospital, Abakaliki, will be completed in the next three months
Though it is not possible to put in one or two treatises what the adminstration of Governor Umahi has achieved in the Health Sector, let me reiterate that to ensure qualitative and affordable health services in Ebonyi State; a School of Health which is in the forefront of teaching people the fundamentals of total health management was established thereby raising health officials that will help to manage health facilities in the state.
Governor Umahi Reacts To One Of The Most Significant Feats Of His Administration:
In his State broadcast commemorating his six years as the Governor of Ebonyi State on 29th May, 2021, Engr. David Nweze Umahi highlighted, “Significant among the things that we have done is the new University of Medical Sciences in Ohaozara which has been signed into law, passed by the House of Assembly, and by this, we are highly grateful to God, this University is not going to be cheap, it is going to be a very high profile University that can compete favorably with any University in the world, and we are projecting that the total income from this University at the end of the first two years will be about the average of 30 billion per annum, and so, this University will be able to sustain itself and sustain other higher Institutions in the State.
Finishing touches are going on now at the University and we are also trudging very highly at the International Airport. Some of our brothers in the South East have argued why Ebonyi State should have an international airport and that is the mind of those who don’t love us, they want us to go into second slavery but this has become the Nazareth not just of the South East but of the entire Country. Who is he that speaketh when God has not spoken and God has spoken that this is the Nazareth of this Nation and no man can stop it, and funny enough we are going to have the longest and widest tarmac in this Country, we are pushing ahead.
Let me conclude this treatise by quoting one of the greatest leaders of all time, Mohandas K. Gandhi of India, who asserted that: “It is health that is real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver.” And, in agreement, Robert Alan Silverstein, stated: “Good health is one of the most important ingredients for a happy and productive life. And, yet, many people do not have access to health care, but live in conditions that spread disease.”
Based on the above Governor Umahi’s love for humanity and his people need not be overemphasized.
I will, in the coming days, present my report on the Airport Project said to be one of the best in Nigeria alongside other projects that qualifies Umahi as not only a visionary leader, but also an exceptional and proud icon of the APC led Government.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.