Investigation: How Farmers/Herdsmen Conflicts Cause Setbacks To Agriculture

Farmers and Fulani herdsmen crises linger as a chief problem to the development of agriculture among local farmers in Nigeria. Odimegwu Onwumere uncovers that as a result of this, hundreds of thousands of lives, billions of Naira worth of property and farm produce are lost to the clashes, and the authorities seem not stoical in applying lasting restrictive measures against the nuisance

“When we talk to the Fulani herdsmen over the gratuitous destruction of our crops by their cows, they would point guns and arrows at us. And this is why we hardly question them in our farms, because we do not want to die.”

Those were the words of Mrs. Nkechinyere Nwosu, the wife of the Ekwu I of Umuekwune-Ohoro, Igbo-Etche, Etche Local Government Area (LGA) of Rivers State, while leading the women of the community in a peaceful protest recently, to the palace of the monarch to register their plight in the hands of Fulani herdsmen and correspondingly call on Governor Nyesom Wike of the State, not to tarry in saving them and their crops.

Known as nomads from the northern part of Nigeria traversing towns and villages in the southern part of the county with their cattle for the purpose of grazing, some school of thoughts were of the scrutiny that the Fulani herdsmen resorted to violence, when rustlers started making a career of rustling their cows. Investigations by this writer, conversely, showed that the incessant reports by the herdsmen to the authorities in the hands of rustlers, which were attended to with wave of the back hand, pushed them to be carrying arms, not minding that illegal possession of arms is outlawed in Nigeria.

According to a source that would prefer to remain anonymous, “The herdsmen have reportedly encountered cattle rustlers as they move from place to place and made complaints to the relevant authorities who fail to investigate the issue, hence their purported reason for carrying arms about.”

The source further tinted, “During their journey, they frequently trespass farmlands owned by locals in their host communities, destroying crops and valuables. Attempts by farmers to prevent them from causing havoc are met with stiff and violent resistance.

“Most times, the farmers are overpowered, injured and killed, while others are evicted from their homes. Sometimes, the herdsmen are accused of taking these opportunities to steal, rape, raze houses and kill innocent members of the communities they pass through.”

Against this backdrop, a former Military Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, at a forum organised by Search for Common Ground, Nigeria, in collaboration with Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development on October 30, 2017, said that Nigeria loses 13.7 billion dollars annually as a result of farmers-herdsmen conflicts in Benue, Kaduna, Nassarawa and Plateau States.

{Abdulsalami Abubakar}

Farmers And Their Ordeals

While some women and men farmers who have encountered Fulani herdsmen in Igbo-Etche have stories of alleged rape, killing, destruction of their crops meted out to them to tell, the senator representing Nasarawa West Constituency in the National Assembly, Senator Abdullahi Adamu equally noted in a public presentation, saying that disputes between famers and herdsmen typically arise from disagreement over the use of possessions such as farmland, grazing areas and water.

A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae experienced this “disagreement over the use of possessions” when he was abducted by some Fulani herdsmen during his 77th  Birthday on September 21, 2015, at his Ilado farm in Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State. Sources said that until the conviction of the abductors in April 2017 in the persons of Abubakar Auta, Bello Jannu, Umaru Ibrahim, Masahudu Muhammed, Idris Lawal and two others, Falae was released after paying N5m ransom four days after his abduction. Farmers in Igbo-Etche nonetheless believe that the herdsmen have ulterior motive, because they prefer their cows feeding on crops than grass. This, however, has led to incessant complaints by the villagers.

Cry Of Farmers Across The Country

Across the country, farmers have been lamenting the deadly stumbles-upon with Fulani herdsmen in their farms. Many of the farmers weep about the sorrowful attacks the Fulani herdsmen have made as a career against them.

For example, in Ogun and Oyo communities, especially in Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State, there has been heightened tension for over 12 years, when herdsmen numbering nearly one thousand started using the Eggua boundary every December to April for grazing.

In most cases, the herdsmen authoritatively venture into homes of their host communities and open the barns to feed the cows with maize, yam, cassava and others found in the barns. Like the women of Igbo-Etche, if the inhabitants of Ogun and Oyo communities ask questions, the herdsmen would pull out their guns and cause troubles.

{Woman crying after 13 were killed in Taraba herdsmen reprisal attack}

School Farms Not Left Out

Then-again, just in September 2017, the Vice Chancellor, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, Prof. Igbekele Ajibefun lamented what he described as illegal moves by the Fulani herdsmen in grazing their cattle in the institution’s farm sites.

Ajibefun disclosed this while speaking at a security forum organized by the “Ondo State Police Command to interact with stakeholders including security agencies, heads of institutions, royal fathers, religious leaders, artisans, students, farmers, cattle rearers, hunters and other concerned persons and groups, in Akoko South West Local Government area of the State.”

In his words, “We are aware that the issue of security is very complex. And because we don’t want to make it more complex, we have been trying to manage our experience with Fulani herdsmen each time they intrude on our campus.

“It is a very bad situation the way they invade our farm and destroy the place. I would like to appeal to our security agencies to come to the aid of the university by finding a lasting solution to the problem.”

Heads Roll For Cows To Feed

Reason for this is not farfetched: In some views, the Fulani herdsmen when interviewed have said that they’d no option than making sure that their cows feed.

The outcome of this is in the statistics provided by the Institute for Economics and Peace, saying, “1,229 people were killed in 2014, up from 63 in 2013 and Benue State seems to be the hardest hit in the farmers and Fulani herdsmen conflicts in recent times.

“Barely five days to the end of Governor Gabriel Suswam’s administration in May 2015, over 100 farmers and their family members were reportedly massacred in villages and refugee camps located in the Ukura, Per, Gafa and Tse-Gusa local government areas of the state.”

It was further noted that in July 2015, “Suspected herdsmen attacked Adeke, a community on the outskirts of the state capital, Makurdi. Last December, six persons were killed at Idele village in the Oju local government area. A reprisal attack by youths in the community saw three Fulani herdsmen killed and beheaded.”

Counting Of Damages Continues

In some localities like Asa, Agon-Ojodun, Ayetoro, Ogunpa, Kodera and Igbonla, the locals said that they have been sacked in many occasions by the herdsmen when they resisted them feeding their cows with their farm produce.

From Ayete, a lethargic town in Ibarapa North Local Government Area, Oyo State, to the 10 local government areas in Oke-Ogun, the story is the same. In many occasions, the authorities’ interventions have yielded little or no result.

The House of Representatives had encouraged all stakeholders to an open hearing in order to tackle what it once illustrated as “incessant clashes between herdsmen, farmers and their host communities’’.

However, explorations revealed that just in February 2016, “40 more people were killed (as a result of a clash between herdsmen and farmers in Benue State); about 2,000 were displaced and not less than 100 were seriously injured.”

The source added, “Most recently, more than 92 Nigerians were massacred by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Benue and Niger states. Also, before this time, there have been reported attacks by the Fulani Herdsmen in southern states of the country, including Enugu, Ekiti and Ondo States.”

Calling Herdsmen To Leave

There is a belief that some farmers in some communities across the country have said that they do not want the herdsmen in their communities. This, though, has generated some rebuttals suggesting that since every Nigerian has a right to reside in any part of the country without prejudice, the call against Fulani herdsmen is uncalled for.

According to a source that would not want the name mentioned, “The solution is not for the herdsmen to leave the communities. There are a lot of political intrigues attached to the development and some people create mischief out of it.”

The source enthused that some elements want to create an impression that the clashes between herdsmen and farmers are prevalent in the present administration forgetting that from time immemorial, before democracy, herdsmen and farmers have been fighting.

Among All Odds

Some communities and their traditional rulers are not sleeping on their oars in making sure that agriculture is boosted in the country, no matter the over $13.7b that have been reported lost to farmers and herdsmen conflicts yearly.

The Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru H. Momoh, Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo, even with the fears of farmers and herdsmen clashes, braced up on Sunday, June 18 2017, to advise all the 25 village heads in the kingdom to influence their wards, to embrace farming. In the highlight of this, Momoh motivated that his traditional council had donated 5,000 hectares of land: Being their support to the federal government agricultural project, in order to revolutionise agriculture.

According to the monarch, “We have allocated some hectares of land to the Federal Government for the planting of cashew, cassava, maize and groundnut, and we are expecting them to come and inspect the land.’’

Checks revealed that over 200 women have been encouraged in Auchi to go back to agriculture in the tone of N5 million. According to Momoh, “Because of the Fulani herdsmen issue, we gave out some money to farmers to ease them of the threat of Fulani herdsmen who threaten them in the farm.”

Dissenters Over Ranches

In making sure that the stalemate between farmers and herdsmen are resolved across the country, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Audu Ogbeh had assured that some States, which included Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, Gombe, Katsina, Taraba, Niger, Adamawa, Jigawa, Sokoto and the FCT, among others, had provided hectares of land for the business of ranches to control clashes between farmers and herdsmen in their States.

According to the Honourable Minister, “The way forward is to strive to attain self-sufficiency in animal protein by checking constant exposure of our cows to long distance trekking in search of pasture which affects their productivity.

“This administration has therefore set out to establish ranches to be planted with high quality improved tropical grass and legume species. We shall provide irrigation for all year commercial fodder production to enhance settlement of pastoralist and ensure cattle, sheep and goat improvement through an expanded breeding programme that would use artificial insemination.’’

But Dr Mohammed Ahmed, a former Chief Executive Officer of the National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom, Plateau, was afraid that a typical Fulani herdsman wouldn’t accept the initiative.

According to him, “Ranches are capital intensive; government must ensure that there is enough water and all-year-round grass for grazing. The herdsmen must also be encouraged to cut grass in the rainy season and store same for use during the dry season in addition to being educated on how to manage limited space.

“I am not sure that the typical Fulani man in Nigeria will happily embrace a ranch, but with the current realities, settling them in one place is the best way out, especially if they can have what they want where they are settled.’’

While government has taken a move for ranches, Alhaji Sale Bayeri, the spokesman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Plateau, the sunshade body of the Fulani herdsmen, said, “The herdsmen will not accept ranches; we shall prefer to explore our traditional grazing routes/reserves.”

That was contained in a media chat last year with MACBAN’s National Legal Adviser, Mohammed Bello Tukur, saying, “stakeholders should rather demarcate routes and cattle resting points with support from technical and financial partners.”

According to the source, “MACBAN rejects the setting up of ranches and supports the establishment of grazing reserves; we want government to create a ministry of livestock development to ease the establishment of the reserves.’’

Chief Audu Ogbeh {The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development}

Local Farmers Must Be Included In Ranches

Some farmers nevertheless said that if government wants the scheme to succeed, local farmers must be included.

In the views of Sen. Jerry Useini representing Plateau South, “We just woke up and heard that cattle ranches will be established in parts of Plateau. Such decision cannot be popular because no one was consulted and neither was any wide enlightenment carried out.’’

This was even as Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau said, “No human policy or plan can be perfect, but we want those with reservations about the ranches to suggest something better. It is not enough to just oppose what is being worked out since what we are doing is in the interest of peace.’’

According to Mr. Timothy Golu representing Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam in the House of Representatives, “Ranches are far better than grazing reserves if we are to check incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen, but we must be able to listen to what the ordinary farmers feel about what is being worked out.

“We must carry the farmers and traditional rulers along in carving out the affected areas. We must carefully work out and ensure payment of compensations; otherwise we shall only be breeding another recipe for even worse crises.”

Against this influence, the Minister of Interior, retired Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau was of the view that herdsmen and farmers’ gridlocks are a threat to national peace.

According to him, “The effect of this conflict has been loss of life, dislocation of people and communities and the disruption of socio economic activity. Even more importantly, it is a threat to the integrity and peaceful co-existence of the Nigerian state. The objective, therefore, is to identify any laws and regulations that impact on the conflict; this will in turn inform the design of a definitive policy intervention.”

On the contrary, the authorities have done little or nothing to arrest the farmers and herdsmen standoffs. Once more, the standoffs have infused fears into the women and men farmers in the areas to attend to their farms, thereby causing a setback to their agricultural productivities. This is due to unyielding peace agreements that some states have signed in respect to farmers and Fulani herdsmen conflicts. There’re also the rejected cattle ranches proposed by the Major General Muhammadu Buhari government.

However, for Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue, “The ranches remain the generally acceptable practice and will serve as the permanent solution to the unending clashes between the herdsmen and farmers.’’


Odimegwu Onwumere Makes Finalist In West Africa Media Excellence Awards

By G.U Chukwu

At the maiden edition of the West Africa Media Excellence Awards held on Saturday night, October 28 2017, at the Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel, Accra, Ghana, your dogged and multiple award-winning journalist Odimegwu Onwumere emerged finalist with his article published in The Nigerian Voice, Nigeria.

Onwumere emerged finalist in the Anti-Corruption Reporting Category. According to a statement issued by a three member judges of the awards in the persons of Ms. Sophie Ly who is an experienced Senegalese journalist, media trainer and media development expert; Mr. Lanre Idowu who is an accomplished and highly respected Nigerian journalist, editor, author, publisher, media owner and trainer; and Ms. Elizabeth Ohene who is a veteran Ghanaian journalist, over 400 published stories that were sent in by journalists from 12 countries across West Africa, 15 journalists made the finalists from six categories.

Conversely, in the well competed awards, Jesusegun Alagbe of The Punch, Nigeria, won in the Anti-Corruption Reporting Category.  But Onwumere was elated that his name was not among those who entered for the awards but were not finalists, adding that having made a finalist showed that he is doing better in his chosen career than the poor leaders in Nigeria.

He added that objective journalism pays better than an oppressive government anywhere in the world, especially such that Nigerians have come to endure in the recent times in the name of democracy.

Onwumere said that objective journalism is hated by oppressive leaders but journalists inclined in objectivity in their reportages would stop at nothing to expose the highhandedness of the looting leaders and keep in touch with the different communities of their ill behaviours.

He, therefore, called on moneybags and the authorities to help journalism and journalists in this clime by pumping in money to sustain them. He, nonetheless, thanked those who have helped in one way or the other in making him the renowned journalist he has become today.

G.U Chukwu, Owerri.

October 30 2017.

How A Lady Embarrassed A Man For Approaching Her

BEYOND RELIGION AND CULTURE: Her gait was enchanting much as it was alluring when Kelvin my friend who was riding a bicycle on the cool evening saw the abundantly beauty on Saturday, September 30 2017, crossing the dangerous Oyigbo Express Junction, Rivers State, where security men stationed at this place have turned to terror of a sort, after the IPOB’s September 12 imbroglio.

He then made a move. The young lady suspected to be in her middle 20s was a beauty to behold, but her carriage was a misplaced one. “Hello, lady,” Kelvin said on getting to her, walking side by side now, with her. The lady kept a long face and neither replied Kelvin.

“Goodeveing, Lady,” Kelvin added. The lady in a very low but arrogant tone replied. “Goodevening,” she said.

“Thanks,” Kelvin replied. “I could not resist, at least, coming closer to you when I saw you passed somewhere, along this road.” The lady was yet to respond. Kelvin was rolling his bicycle by that hands and had followed the lady to a distance. “Stop embarrassing yourself,” the lady later talked and kept her long and pride-full self.

“That’s an overstatement,” Kelvin retorted. “What is the embarrassment in seeing a lady and walking after her?” Kelvin asked, but the lady did not say a word.

“Is it that you don’t like men coming after you or you are looking down on me because I’m coming to you with a bicycle?” Kelvin asked. The lady was a bit remorseful on hearing Kelvin spoke. She turned and looked at Kelvin, but this was the point he had to turn back. “I will be leaving now, so that I don’t embarrass you further,” Kelvin said, and left.

When Kelvin narrated his ordeal in the hands of the lady to me, I did not need a soothsayer to conclude that she was in her arrogant self because Kelvin didn’t come to her in a Venza or the other. But Kelvin she looked down on was well educated, mannered and stunningly wealthy.

At least, he had about 5 different storeys. Each is not less than 2 decks. He had some companies and what not. A young man in his early 30s. “The lady, perhaps, didn’t know the meaning of embarrassment,” I consoled him. “I think it was expected of her to have told you that she’s married or not interested in your overtures than the other way she took.”

It is pertinent that we learn how to approach people and how to respond to people. Pls, what kind of lady is this?

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Media Consultant based in Rivers State.

How Being A Journalist Saved Me From Nigerian Police

BEYOND RELIGION AND CULTURE: The notorious security agents stationed at the popular Oyigbo Express Junction in Rivers State after the September 12 IPOB impasse apprehended me today (September 25). The reason was that I stopped and was rolling my bike by hand just near one of their vans. They said that I ought to had stopped somewhere that was not even well defined in their language to me. They later asked me to pack my bike but one of them, on looking critically at the ID card on my crest, said, “So, you are a pressman. You are among those talking rubbish at LUV FM of our excesses here.” I kept quiet. But one of them seemed to know journalists better. “Leave him to go, these guys are dangerous,” he told his colleague. I was still quiet. Later, I took my bike and left. When I got to my family house and narrated this story, neighbours praised my job as my rescuer. “If not, those police guys would have asked you to bring 10k before you will pick your bike,” one of the neigbours said. “What the police and SARS are doing at that Oyigbo Express Junction is pure extortion ranging from seizing people’s phones, arresting and molesting innocent people in phantom search for those that disarmed some of their colleagues of 3 guns and burnt their car.” The stories of heinous things the security agents are doing at the Oyigbo Express Junction were much. The stories reminded me of a brother, Wonder Generator, who saw me early in the morning and was telling me of how the SARS seized his bike simple because there was no plate number on it and asked him to go and bring 10k.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Media Consultant.

{PRESS RELEASE} Wike: When Are We Going To Hands Down In Oyigbo?


Wike: When Are We Going To Hands Down In Oyigbo?

Four days from today would make it two weeks that a special security agents were stationed at Oyigbo, Rivers State, precisely, at the popular Express Junction, after the September 12 2017 supposed impasse in the area that was fingered to be an IPOB affair.

{Wike During 2015 Rivers Guber Campaign}

Even before the security agents came to the place, the least chaos that erupted had settled down and the residents were out for their normal businesses. However, the rather prolonged stay of the security agents at the Express Junction makes it look like there is a war going on in the area, which should not be so.

If you are riding a bike, you are forced to roll it by the hand to pass the Express Junction. Pedestrians are not left out of the security nuisance: They are forced to hands up while crossing the Express Junction.

And the question is – how long are we going to see this in Oyigbo? – a place that has been as peaceful as the cemetery from the time immemorial. The worrisome aspect of it all is that the security agents are converting the Express Junction to what we are yet to understand: The often shots of gun in the air by the security agents are embarrassing just as they do not send good signal to the Government of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

If there was a cult rival in Oyigbo, that would have been a different thing. The idea would have been that the security agents must fish out the culprits before they retreat to where they were deployed from. But in this case, Oyigbo is peaceful before and after the September 12 bottleneck.

I hereby call on the office of Governor Wike to call the security agents to order, to allow residents and passersby to walk freely without any form of molestation by the security agents.

It does not add up that Oyigbo residents should be raising their hands up before they walk the Express Junction. In a sane clime, this security method does not represent the wish of democrats in a democracy.

The practice by the security agents can be attributed to pure intimidation given that in a democracy, the “people shouldn’t be afraid of their government,” one Alan Moore, V for Vendetta would say, “Government should be afraid of their people.” But in Oyigbo, the people are being intimidated to be unnecessarily afraid of the government, which invariably was not the mindset of Governor Wike.

We should not allow anti-intellectualism and anti-democracy become a recurring decimal in the political sphere in this country. Let the governor read Mahatma Gandhi, “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

Notwithstanding, if the security agents must stay, let the residents and passersby be allowed to walk freely without raising their hands up and the motorcyclists, not rolling their motorcycles by hand before they cross the Express Junction.

The continued mandating of people to raise their hands up and motorcyclists to roll their machines by hand, do not achieve positive gains to the government of Governor Nyesom Wike, but a bad name.

Oyigbo is not known for charlatanic maneuvers, so the residents shouldn’t be subjected to ridicule and inhumane features in the name of security checks. Let the governor withdraw the security agents to allow people go about their normal businesses. The security agents’ presence at Oyigbo Expressing Junction is not only intimidating the residents but also halting individual businesses.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Mobile: +2348032552855. Email:

Date: September 22 2017.

Hundreds Of Thousands Dying In Nigeria Due To Vaccines and Immunisation Gap

By Odimegwu Onwumere

In this report, Odimegwu Onwumere writes that meningitis and other vaccine-avertable diseases have become somewhat a recurring decimal in Nigeria and in some countries of sub-Saharan Africa that include Senegal, Niger, Chad, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso which make-up ‘Meningitis Belt’ due to poor innovative approach to delivery of vaccines

By April 17 2017, Nigeria lost about 800 lives and had 8,000 cases of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis, CSM, in six states of Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Sokoto and Yobe due to embarrassing vaccine approach, informed the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). Since 1996, there are data showing that meningitis and other vaccine-avertable diseases have killed thousands of people in Nigeria and by extension, in some sub-Saharan African countries of Senegal, Niger, Chad, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso which make-up ‘Meningitis Belt’ due to poor delivery of vaccines.

Checks reveal that no fewer than 11,000 people were killed by meningitis alone in Nigeria in 1996 and by 2009, 600 people died. Like a recurring decimal, this dangerous disease that science says is “caused by viral or bacterial infection, and marked by intense headache and fever, sensitivity to light, and muscular rigidity and most affected age group is 5-14 years of age” impinged on approximately 10,000 people in 2015, and exterminated over 1,000 people in Nigeria.

The world is embarrassed by the outdated vaccine delivery systems in the country, because Nigeria prefers to buy vaccines from the international market instead of set up vaccines manufacturing plants for local consummations. The highlight of this is that records show that Nigeria only delivered (1.3m vaccine doses for a country that has a population of over 180m people) during the recent impasse. These vaccines, according to media reports, about 800,000 doses were mostly ordered from United Kingdom.  Yet, according to Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, “Too many children still lack access to lifesaving vaccines because of outdated and inefficient supply chains.”

Dr. Berkley was of the belief, saying, “There is need to drive change and deliver comprehensive improvements now, countries won’t have the systems in place to protect the next generation of children, particularly the most vulnerable.”

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) was caught up in vaccines and immunisation ruckuses in July 2013. The then President of the association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele frowned that the Federal Government (FG) failed to curtail the sprinting of hepatitis in the country due to its overdependence on foreign delivery of vaccines. At the occasion of the 2013 World Hepatitis Day, Enabulele said, “Hepatitis virus A, B, C, D and E were accountable for the millions of death in the country, because they caused sensitive and unremitting infections and inflammation of the liver, the government did not bellyache.”

If the country had been vaccines conscious, these deaths could not have occurred. In the light of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) in one of its reports, held, “Vaccines prevent an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year, but an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global immunisation coverage improves.”

The international body supposed that in 2015, an estimated 19.4 million infants worldwide did not receive routine immunisations. What that suggests is that Nigeria, which includes the countries of the world, is awful in the way she sees to vaccines and how they are handled. The hullabaloo is that this oil rich country prefers to order vaccines from the Americas and Europe during outbreaks, whereas in the advanced world, such methodology of delivery of vaccines has been regarded as outdated and compromising that put the lives of people in danger.

The argument is that health and immunisation are not regarded with the attention they needed in Nigeria. According to news, “President Muhammadu Buhari submitted a budget of eight billion naira for the funding of routine immunisation and polio eradication. But the budget that came back from the National Assembly was cut by about 50 per cent. There is need for the legislature to understand the intricacies of immunisation financing and support fulfillment of the government of Nigeria’s commitment to sustainable immunisation at all levels.”

Dr. Aminu Magashi-Garba, Lead Project Director of the Routine Immunisation Sector of the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family, who is also Coordinator of the Africa Health Budget Network was befuddled in the above commentary on April 22 2016 in Lagos, when he succinctly declared that the budgetary allocation for routine immunisation including eradication of poliomyelitis was slashed by the National Assembly during its review and passage of the 2016 budget. This could have formed the view by Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa.

Dr. Moeti said, “We must act to close the global immunisation gap. Achieving the Global Vaccine Action Plan goal of universal access to immunization by 2020 would benefit the health of millions of Africans.” This is given that pundits have said that the best ways to save lives of  children, condense cost of healthcare and give the children the prospect to live up to their aptitude is through  immunisation.

But according to Magashi-Garba, the cut in the budget meant, “We are going to have shortage of vaccine procurement this year and early next year if enough funds are not available for the vaccines to be procured completely. This also poses a problem because the funding was tied to two international commitments and it will also create a serious challenge in the sector in ensuring that all eligible children are immunised.”

Unlike Nigeria, most countries are “implementing changes and adopting new technologies like solar ‘direct drive’ refrigerators and redesigning delivery systems.” Against this influence, Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH, sounded in the following comments as if he had Nigeria at heart, “There are too many places in the world where vaccines are still not reaching the people who need them most. We need to apply the same ambitious investments to vaccine delivery as we apply to vaccine development.”

In the advanced world, the innovative approaches are being put in place to help augment vaccine ease-of-use and publicity. But Nigeria is still gasping for the air on where to source for vaccines during emergencies. Hear Dr. Robin Nandy, principal advisor and chief of immunisation at UNICEF, “Expanding the use of freeze alarms and rigorous temperature monitoring is critical to ensuring that all children have access to potent, lifesaving vaccines. In the long-term, we must work toward the development of products that can better withstand temperature variations.”

However, the WHO has been concerned that 1.5 million children that include Nigerians who are yet to receive life-saving vaccines they need, do not have access. Hence, April each year is mapped out by the international body to create this attention.  But on May 25 2017, at an award ceremony on health innovation given to Alma Sana, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the NGO introduced a bracelet that was launched by Glaxosmithkline.

The bracelet was said to be worn on the leg or wrist of infants to remind mothers the type of vaccines they have given their children and the time they need new vaccines. While speaking at the rite, wife of the Senate President and founder of Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Toyin Saraki, believed, “We need to work towards adapting a vaccine dependable Nigeria. One of the problems faced with vaccinations is most mothers forget to take their children for immunisation and this bracelet is supposed to help tackle that issue since the bracelet will be on the child from first vaccination till the age of one.”

While the bracelet is believed to “deal with the problem of timeliness, completion of vaccine doses and that of wider coverage to know the extent immunization has been covered in a locality.” According to Dr. Jean Marie Okwo-Bele, director of WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals, in commenting on a study, “For too many countries, it is nearly impossible to collect and harness data to forecast vaccine requirements and deliver vaccines when and where they’re needed. But there are innovations such as electronic data systems that are being piloted and scaled up in developing countries that could and should be more widely adopted.”

Last year, Dr. Orin Levine, the director of vaccine delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation suggested four innovative ways of vaccines delivery during the world vaccine week. Inter alia, Dr. Levine said that first, for vaccines to be safe and effective; they need to be kept cold, hence the invention of Sure Chill refrigerator, which is said to be using “hydro and solar power to keep vaccines cold for days without energy and are being used in more than 30 countries and have become an important tool in humanitarian response efforts when distributing vaccines for cholera or measles can be especially critical.”

In spite of this, Dr. Levine added, “Immunisation is one of our biggest public health success stories, but safe, effective vaccines don’t deliver themselves. With consistent, visible support from national and local leaders, every community can have 21st Century systems that reliably deliver lifesaving vaccines to everyone who needs them.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State, Nigeria. He contributed this piece via:

Pregnant Women Blending With Traditional Delivery Homes

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Checks have revealed that Nigeria constitutes 2% of the world’s population but contributes 10% of the world’s maternal mortality due to spent healthcare system. Odimegwu Onwumere notes in this report that as a result of the apparent failed healthcare system, most women have resorted to traditional delivery homes with the attending dangers

Despite the promise by the present government of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, which came into power in May 29 2015, to establish the 17 agendas on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) index, that include providing good health and good living to all and sundry, Mrs. Joy Ebi, 28, a trader at the Oyigbo Main-market in Rivers State, would prefer to die instead of go to government hospitals for a child birth

Ebi patronizes native delivery homes whenever she’s pregnant. Her three children were delivered in the homes. She would also patronize the native home as she’s pregnant for the next baby. This is in spite of advice from neighbours and relatives to the contrary. However, Ebi seems relaxed in the native delivery homes. She gives her reasons that she feels relaxed, accommodated and loved by the attendants unlike those in the hospitals.

“I’ve my reasons for going to native homes otherwise called quacks, to be delivered of my babies whenever I’m pregnant,” Ebi says. Adding, she enthuses that the native delivery homes attendants are kind unlike those of government hospitals.

“The native delivery homes are receptive, caring and charge little or no money unlike the government hospitals that pose above life and most times deliver women of their children through caesarean section (CS) just for money, whereas most of the women could deliver normally,” Ebi adds.

This is even as pregnant women who patronize government hospitals lament of high costs of delivery in government hospitals. According to newsmen, “One striking thing is that the charges in these hospitals are not uniform even though they are all run by the Ministry of Health.

“The policy of compulsory blood donation is also a source of worry. Pregnant women are complaining of high cost of ante-natal and delivery services.

“Some are asked to pay N12, 500 for registration while their husbands should donate blood, or pay N10, 000 for a pint of blood.

“This is excluding the money for your drugs and other laboratory tests. If you undergo CS, it will amount to over N200, 000. That’s too much for most of us.”

The rural women seek for delivery homes miles away from their abodes that often lead to some ‘putting to bed’ along their villages bush paths. It is believed that poverty is the reason for their action, because they cannot pay for the apparent mountainous bills pregnant women incur in government hospitals. But poverty is not the blight with Ebi. She is a university graduate and a trader of note in the city.

Apart from the traditional homes, many pregnant women attend religious places for prayers and also choose them as where they would give birth. Chris Ewokor in 2016, reported to BBC Africa from Cross River State, saying, “Twenty-seven-year-old Ransom Linus Martin, four months into her first pregnancy, has come to the Land of Promise church near the city of Calabar for prayers, but it is also where she will be giving birth.”

Ewokor added that Martin was not alone in her choice upon that campaigners were headlong to end the practice in southern Nigeria, where many believed that they could be delivered of their babies by ‘God’.

“They do fasting and prayer here, and if you are pregnant you need to go to the place where there is God and there is daily fasting and prayers,” Ewokor impinged Martin, adding, “At the hospital there is nothing like prayer. They don’t pray. They only give you injections. But as you pray at the church, you get closer to God. On the day of your delivery, God will help you and you will deliver successfully.”

Notwithstanding, some medical pundits are of the view that at the government hospitals, their immemorial snowballing neglect and defective funding have made them equal to native delivery homes that are being operated individually with contemplative resources.

Reporting, Pricewaterhouse Cooper, a global thought leadership organization noted, “The Nigerian elite class spends $1 billion on medical tourism and their child bearing needs, while the majority bottom poor are left to die in public hospitals or endure the uncertainties of delivering through traditional birth attendants which often end in fatalities.”

The highlight of it is that the dangers of pregnant women giving birth in this clime cannot be overemphasized. In the view of a 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) report, there were a predictable 814 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Nigeria. “About half of those deaths were caused by two conditions: uncontrolled bleeding after childbirth, or postpartum hemorrhage, and pre-eclampsia,” said the source.

In a meeting held with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Wednesday, September 28 2016, the Executive Director of the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), Professor Babatunde Osotimehin who was a former Minister of Health in Nigeria, and the Permanent Secretary of the UK’s Department for International Development, DFID, Mr. Mark Lowcock bemoaned that Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate has levitated to 10 percent where about 111 women die on day-after-day footing.

“Nigeria constitutes 2% of the world’s population but contributes 10% of the world’s maternal mortality,” said Osotimehin. UNFP also stated that in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman has a 1 in 16 probability of dying during pregnancy or childbirth. The WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) data believes that Nigeria’s maternal deaths record is a disaster, if not the highest globally.

“Even though, maternal mortality worldwide has decreased by nearly half in the last 15 years, Nigeria still faces a heavy burden, leading the world in the total number of maternal deaths per year. In 2015 alone, 58,000 Nigerian women lost their lives to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes,” said the data. Those who know better add that corruption, negligence and injustice have been the major factors debilitating the Nigeria’s broken healthcare system.

On the other hand, newsmen of a leading broadsheet in Nigeria had this to say, “The Nigerian Association for Reproductive & Family Health (ARFH) and the international NGO, PATH, revealed in a 2016 study how a lack of access to three basic medicines is increasing the threat of Nigeria’s two most deadly pregnancy complications: postpartum hemorrhage and pre-eclampsia/eclampsia.”

The source went further, “As of March 2016, there were 13 oxytocin products and four magnesium sulfate products registered in Nigeria that had not yet been judged to meet international quality standards. This increases the risk that maternal health products are poor or unknown.”

But while speaking in Uwanse village of Cross Rivers State, Ewokor explained that Dr. Linda Ayade, the Cross River State governor’s wife was appalled by the practice “of a church or traditional home birth” therefore she was crusading for a stop to the practice given her experiences in the government hospitals.

In her words, “I have worked in hospitals in Nigeria and I have first-hand experience of pregnant women being rushed in at critical times when they can no longer be helped. Some are even confirmed dead on arrival, and it happens quite often. I have taken it as an obligation to save lives and reduce incidences of maternal mortality relating to child birth and delivery, knowing what it means for a mother to die and leaving children behind.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State, Nigeria. He contributed this piece via: