By: Manasseh Mbachii  On the 15th of November, 2010, IDS Limited, a construction company, was contracted to design and to construct the Cancer Screening Centre for the Benue State Government for an initial contract sum of N111 Million naira and later revised to N138 Million naira due to delay by the government in honouring contract agreement.  The project which was to last for a duration of 12 months was supervised by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. The contractor told this reporter that  a payment of 77 million naira, representing 70% mobilisation fund, was released between November 15, 2010 to March 2012 under the administration of Senator Gabriel Suswam.  However, the construction of the Cancer  Screening Centre was not completed due to delay in the payment of outstanding fees as agreed by the contractor and the Benue State Government.  In November, 2015 the wife of immediate past Benue State Governor, Mrs. Eunice Ortom announced that her husband, Samuel Ortom would complete the Cancer Screening Centre Project initiated by his predecessor. Mrs Ortom made this disclosure while speaking at the 2015 breast cancer awareness campaign held at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi. On the 16th of July, 2016, Mr Tahav Agerzua, who was at the time, Special Adviser to Mr Ortom on Media and ICT announced that the Ortom administration had released N80 million for the completion of the project.  Investigation by this reporter however revealed that out of the N80 million reported to have been released, only N34 million was paid to the contractor, IDS Limited. Details of the payment made available to this reporter shows that the contractor received N12 million naira on the 26 October, 2016, and N22 million naira on the 14th of June, 2019.  Terver Akase, media aide to former governor Samuel Ortom could not provide answers when questioned on the remaining N46 million released by the Ortom administration, after previously directing this reporter to contact the project contractor for details. The cancer project which was aimed at reducing medical tourism embarked upon yearly by citizens of the state has over the years received budgetary allocation from the Benue state government. For instance, in 2021 and 2022 the state budget, about N12 million was approved for the completion of the cancer project. Findings by this reporter however revealed that the approved N12 million naira was not released to the contractor. When this reporter visited Pauline Maka Women Development Centre, Jonah Jang Crescent, High Level Makurdi, where the cancer project is located, it was observed that the cancer centre is completed but not in use for the purpose it was built. This reporter observed that the project is now housing Family Worship Centre, a church owned by Pastor Sarah Omakwu. It was also observed that the cancer project is in a dilapidated state, having some of its windows fallen off and electrical appliances disconnected. When contacted, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Joy Adole said the project has not been handed over to the ministry. “The cancer centre has not been handed over to us. We have drawn the attention of the current administration to the project. The contractor however said the government is still owing him. And, until his outstanding balance is paid before handing over the project to the ministry,” she said.  When the contractor, Architect James Ugo was contacted, he explained he was contracted to design and to construct the Cancer Screening Centre for the Benue State Government under the Ministry of Women Affairs & Social Development, on 15th November 2010.  He said, the contract was awarded for N111 Million, and revised to N138 Million naira due to delay by the government in honouring the contract agreement.  “Cancer Screening Centre is the project I was involved in from the inception. I was requested by the former First Lady, Yemisi Suswam to design and to construct. The initial contract sum was N111 million naira, and revised contract sum is N138 million naira. My outstanding balance from the contract sum is N15 million naira, and outstanding claims from the last time I calculated is N18 million naira due to delay in honouring valuation certificates as per contract agreement. In total, the government is owning me N33 million naira,” he said, adding that the balance keeps increasing. Mr James further revealed that he leased the cancer centre to Family Worship Centre, Makurdi Branch adding that the government should determine and honour outstanding claims amounting to N33 million as per agreement.  “Since dilapidation has set in due to non-use of the facility, the government should prepare a dilapidation schedule and re-award the contract as a renovation contract to us or any other Contractor. However, we give our word that, if paid our outstanding claims, we can go ahead and renovate the building at no additional cost to the government. When the government is ready, I will ask the people to leave, repaint, wash and clean. If there is anything that has fallen anywhere, I will just touch it and handover the keys,” he concluded. How Woman Dies in Benue From Cancer Sickness Mr James who lost his wife, Margaret Ugo, to endometrial cancer in 2021, said he never knew his wife would be a victim of cancer after he was commissioned to execute a cancer project adding that if cancer screening centre was in operation, it would have saved his wife’s life. “My wife, Margaret Ugo died of endometrial cancer in 2021, so I know the importance of cancer screening centre. Before this project was commissioned, there was a cancer awareness organised at Aminu Isa Kontagora. I never knew that I was going to be a victim of cancer after I was commissioned to execute a cancer project. The project that would have saved my wife’s life. By the time she was diagnosed with cancer, she was already bleeding,” he said. Cancer has remained top of the list of diseases that are indiscriminately reducing the welfare and wellness of persons across the world, particularly, in developing countries like Nigeria. Statistics provided by the World Health Organisation’s 2020 report shows that cancer tops the list of killer diseases with nearly 10 million deaths. Nigeria has one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the world, with approximately four out of five cases resulting in death, according to the Global Cancer Observatory. A cancer patient who did not want her name mentioned said it took months before she was diagnosed with cancer. She said there was no special cancer screening centre, so it was difficult to diagnose. “My husband never knew what was wrong with me. We moved from one hospital to another until I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in Abuja. I am now receiving treatment at Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi.”  He said. Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Government, Tersoo Kula, said he would get back to this reporter on what the current government is doing to complete the centre. “We shall get back to you,” Mr Kula said but he hasn’t as of press time.   This report was produced under the UDEME project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID). Edited by Kemi Busari.

By: Manasseh Mbachii The Nigerian climate has been irregular over the years, alternating between periods of extremely dry or rainy seasons and seasons of drought and excess flooding, which affected agricultural activities and caused a loss of shelter. Economic sectors such as agriculture, fishing, and forestry are more predisposed to the adverse effects of climate change. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) disclosed that flood disasters in 2022 left 2.4 million persons displaced and 662 lives lost. Overview of climate in Nigeria Nigeria has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: wet and dry. These seasons have varying lengths of rainy and dry seasons, depending on the geographical location. For example, the southern part of Nigeria has a longer period of rainy season (March to November) than the northern part (May to September). The dry season is prevalent in the north, coupled with high temperatures that may reach an average monthly value of 38 degrees Celsius, while the mean temperature in southern Nigeria hovers around 32–33 degrees Celsius. In the north, the harmattan wind, which is a dry and hot wind, blows longer than it does in southern Nigeria. Causes Of Climate Change In Nigeria Although natural hazards like volcanic eruptions contribute to climate change, scientists have now discovered that certain human activities are also responsible. Environmental scientists associate climate change effects with the depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere. The ozone layer prevents the heat from the sun from reaching the earth at high intensity. The ozone layer is depleted when certain gases are released into the atmosphere by humans and natural factors. These glasses are carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, chlorofluorocarbon, and similar. These greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, where the heat from the sun is trapped on the earth’s surface. This gradually leads to excess heat, depending on the depletion level and quantity of the gases emitted over time. Human activities Emission of greenhouse gasses from vehicles: Some vehicles emit greenhouse gases such as sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide from their exhaust. Burning of hydrocarbon products: This releases carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere. Deforestation: This refers to cutting down trees, usually for agriculture. Trees form a protective barrier against the heat from the sun, and cutting them down affects this purpose. Industrial emissions: Industrial activities and equipment produce greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere instead. Climate Change Effects and Nigeria Low crop yield: In Nigeria, crop production depends on location and climatic conditions. Crops that need rainfall to grow are abundant in the south, while those that don’t need rainfall grow more in the north. Excess rain and drought associated with climate change affect the natural distribution of crops in Nigeria and reduce their production in large quantities to meet the population’s demand. For instance, climate change may cause stunted growth of crops grown in Northern Nigeria because these crops don’t thrive in soils flooded with water from excess rain. Likewise, some crops cultivated in southern Nigeria may wither during prolonged drought periods because these crops need rainfall to grow. Food shortage: Food scarcity is a consequence of low crop yield, which is characterised by inferior quality and quantity of food crops because of harsh climate conditions. Therefore, food crops are poorly distributed to other geopolitical zones where they don’t grow. For instance, tomatoes are produced in large quantities in the north, and if this declines due to unfavourable climatic conditions, other locations in Nigeria will experience reduced supply. Reduced livestock production: Livestock animals like goats and cows feed on grass to grow. and their products, such as beef or milk, are affected when these animals don’t feed well. Irregular climatic conditions destroy the farmlands these animals graze on. Also, flooding promotes the growth of pests that attack these farm animals and further depreciates their overall commercial value. Loss of income: Agriculture is one of the major contributors to the Nigerian economy and a source of income for some Nigerians. These individuals are either rural dwellers who are full-time farmers or urban dwellers who are part-time farmers. Climate change destroys farmlands and hinders income generation from agriculture and livestock farming at national and personal levels. Public health crisis: Climate change increases the burden of diseases in Nigeria, especially malaria. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant waters, and they spread to cause malaria. Life-threatening malaria complications are common among all individuals, young and old. This can put a strain on areas such as public health and nursing. Also, wildfires and dust storms occur during drought, and these environmental hazards cause respiratory illnesses in some individuals. Climate change increases the number of diseases and causes preventable deaths among Nigerians if left unchecked. Decreased hydroelectric power supply: Nigeria generates a significant amount of power from its hydroelectric dam, Kainji Dam. Climate change causes unpredictable rainfall and drought patterns that reduce the water level in Kainji Dam and other smaller ones.

By: Manasseh Mbachii  Makurdi, the Benue state capital, is at risk of an epidemic outbreak due to poor waste management in the metropolis. This is in spite of the millions approved for environmental improvement by the Benue State government. Through the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, the state government in the 2021/2022 budget, approved 198.2million for the acquisition of land, waste containers, septic tanks, medical equipment, garbage trucks, payloader, and waste collection vehicles to remediate water pollution in the state capital. Despite budget approval to the Benue State Environmental and Sanitation Authority (BENSESA) to curb the menace of poor waste management in the state capital, very little progress has been made as Makurdi residents continue to face a growing waste management crisis due to poor waste collection in the state capital. Residents who spoke with this reporter shared a heartfelt story of painful diarrhea and persistent typhoid fever accompanied by bouts of severe stomach cramping and stooling caused by the regular consumption of contaminated water. In Wurukum, Makurdi South, a sinister sickness gripped the family of Terfa Comfort, a food vendor, with unfamiliar illnesses, primarily marked by diarrhea and typhoid fever. Mrs Terfa stated that open-dug wells in Wurukum are polluted, and reeked of the environment due to unapproved refuse dumpsites in an undeveloped commercial plot of land in the community. She further lamented that the obnoxious odor from the refuse site had negatively impacted her health and food business.  “This refuse site has been a health hazard to my family. My children are the ones mostly affected by typhoid due to improper waste disposal. I also experience low patronage due to the odor that takes over the atmosphere from the waste site,”she said. When this reporter visited the High Level Market in Makurdi, the center of the state capital, to assess the sanitation and hygiene of the people, It was observed that the community was littered with waste. Residents and shop owners adorned a section of JS Tarka Foundation with heaps of refuse. Gift Odo, who sells kitchen utensils at the High Level Market, stressed that the odor emanating from the refuse in the axis had exposed her to consistent stomach disorder. She lamented that the situation has chased customers from patronizing her. “You can see and smell things for yourself. From the odor, I have constant stomach cramping. Sometimes, customers would want to buy something but because of the odor, the person will just drive away. Nobody cares to come to pack the refuse, even though we paid taxes,” Ms Gift said. In Akpehe, a 48-year-old mother of four children, Akaayar Judith, said her children have been suffering unexplainable illnesses every time they drink water collected from an open-dug swell. “My children just started stooling, while the youngest was complaining of stomach pain. I bought medicine for them but nothing changed. When we went to the hospital, we were told that the water we were consuming was harmful. The doctor said waste contaminates groundwater as well as pollutes nearby open wells,” she said. Investigations by this reporter however showed that residents are in the habits of indiscriminate dumping of refuse in available spaces especially markets, drainages and open space in residential areas due to nonavailability of waste containers. Expert weigh in A clinical epidemiologist and public health expert at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Terkaa Bitto, explained that decay from uncollected waste infiltrates water sources through the overflow of septic tanks and sewage. He warned that viruses, bacteria and fungi from such waste are cataractogenesis, which could affect unborn children through mothers with cognitive defects. “When there is an overflow of septic tanks and sewages, the viruses could be easily washed into public open wells. Pathogens from the waste could be blown into the air and become airborne viruses and bacteria which humans can easily inhale. Some of these bacteria have short and long-term effects and can stay in the human system and cause neurological defects in children. The ramifications of improper waste disposals are huge,” he said. Doctor Bitto, said that the best measures for proper waste management are to create waste segregation and recycling centers. A professor of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry at the Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi, Professor Ishaq Eneji, warned that there could be an epidemic outbreak if there is no immediate remediation to checkmate further contamination of water, especially in River Benue. “Most of the waste are hazardous chemicals and their possible health risk in the environment  can cause neurological and kidney damage while persistent organic pollutants can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and cause cancer.” State government’s reaction The Benue state Ministry of Environment and Water Resources could not respond to questions on the multimillion naira waste management projects, after an official letter of enquiry was submitted to the ministry.  “Your letter is with us. When we look at it, if there is any reply we will get back to you”  Mr. Ali Efu, permanent secretary, ministry of environment and water resources, said. Several attempts to speak with the Benue State Environmental and Sanitation Authority (BENSESA) were not successful, as officials declined comments. However, a staff member who pleaded anonymity told this reporter that the agency does not have the funds to effectively manage waste in the state capital.  “When Gov. Hyacinth Alia came here and ordered the agency to clean up the town, the secretary borrowed money to fuel vehicles,” the staff said. This report was produced under the UDEME project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID). Edited by Kemi Busari.


Jairus Awo

Jairus Awo is a Nigeiran Muiltimedia public interest journalist. He believes in the power of the media as a catalyst to development and societal growth. You can tip him an idea on [email protected]

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