Okerenkoko’s life saver in the throes of death
Residents of Okerenkoko, in Delta State community, have expressed sadness over the neglect of a free-for-all health facility, hitherto financed by ex-militant, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, better known as Tompolo.
Ekpemupolo kinsmen in Okerenkoko Community in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Local Council Area, lamented that they have had to endure very tough times since their benefactor was chased away from the area by federal authorities.
Coordinator of the cottage hospital, Dr. Clarkson Aghagha disclosed to The Guardian that the centre has performed about 400 successful life-saving surgeries on residents of the area, free of charge.
Residents, who corroborated Aghagha’s claim, lamented that the deteriorated nature of the health facility was responsible for the health challenges the community, and the entire kingdom now face.
Operated by the Tompolo Foundation, the facility suddenly closed shop owing to lack of funding.
They (residents) accused the Federal Government of chasing away their benefactor, thereby putting them in a precarious situation, and their health in serious jeopardy, as there are no health facilities to take care of the communities in the area.
A resident, who didn’t want his name in print said; “Our dark days, with respect to deteriorating health issues started when the Federal Government began to have issues with High Chief Oweizide Ekpemupolo. Now, he is no more around to fund the hospital. We are truly in a precarious situation. Children are dying everyday, the aged are also dying everyday and we are completely helpless,’’ he cried.
According to the residents, construction of the cottage hospital was started by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), but later taken over by the Delta State government, through the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), during the tenure of Chief Wellington Okrika, as chairman.
After Okirika’s exit, the facility was neglected for years, before it was taken over by the Tompolo foundation in 2013, about four years after the invasion of the Gbaramatu community, in 2009, by government security operatives, during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
“Since this clinic came into existence, it has been beneficial to us,’’ an elderly resident said, adding that, “The sick were always given adequate and effective treatment there. For instance, one of my neighbours, who was involved in an automobile accident was treated there. But for sometimes now, it has stopped functioning. We don’t have a place to go to for medical treatment. The children’s clinic, where our children were usually treated is no longer operating. We don’t know what is happening. So we are praying to God for the clinic to be made functional again because even non-indigenes also benefitted from the facility.
Currently, the whole community is pleading that the clinic should start functioning again, so that our children can receive treatment when they are sick,” he stated.
A female resident, Mrs. Beauty Samuel, also lamented that when the clinic was in operation, “everything there, regarding treatment was free, as Tomopolo was paying for them .We don’t know what is going on. It’s only God we are praying to, for an end to all these problems facing the clinic so that it can start functioning again.”
A security staff at the hospital, Mr. Ginuwa Deregbegba, whose means of livelihood hangs in the balance, said the current situation was brought about by the recent invasion of the community by some soldiers, who chased away some prominent personalities from the area.
Deregbegba, who has been working in the hospital since when it was run by DESOPADEC said; “I worked here for four years and some months. After DESOPADEC left, the Tompolo Foundation took over and I have worked with them since early 2012.
“Since he took over, treatment and feeding have been free and we had better pay before it stopped functioning all of a sudden. This is because of the current problems Tompolo has with the government and security agents chasing people in the community. Since Tompolo withdrew from funding the hospital because he is not around, nobody can do any work there. That is why the place has become the forest that it has become now. We are really suffering, and if someone is sick, before anyone is aware of the illness, death will strike. Many are dying. Even now my child is sick, and
I had to go spending money far away for him to stay alive. So we need the government to bring the hospital back to its former state,” Deregbegba pleaded.
Also expressing regrets over the present state of the clinic, Chief Alfred Sokoto, who is regarded as the oldest man in Okerenkoko community said that all has not been well with the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom.
Sokoto, who credited Tompolo with bringing the facility back to life, deeply regretted its sudden closure.
“Tompolo didn’t do any wrong with this clinic. As we are here, we are experiencing hunger, and as I am here, I can’t urinate. When this clinic was functioning, we were all very happy. But right now, nothing is working. My message to government is that it should restore the clinic because many people are suffering and dying. Tompolo was the one standing for our wellbeing in the whole of this kingdom. Therefore, government should allow him to operate the clinic for us,” Sokoto stated.
A youth in the community, Daniel Irowho, pleaded with the state government to revive the hospital and give the people of the area, the needed attention health-wise.
“We are not happy with the way the government is going about the hospital. Sometimes we have emergency situations in the community, and because the cottage hospital is not working, before we rush the sick to the city for medical attention, they usually give up the ghost. We want the government to do something urgent about the hospital. We are appealing to the government to let the hospital come back alive, so that if we have any emergency situation, we won’t have to go to the city, but effectively manage our heath issues in the community.”
Aghagha, who is Director of Health, Tompolo Foundation, told The Guardian that the foundation, a non-profit and non-governmental organisation has handled surgeries, including several Caesarian sections in the two years it has been in charge of the Okerenkoko Cottage Hospital.
He added that the foundation has spent over N300m in running the hospital.
“Our President (Ekpemupolo) formed the foundation on two thematic basis to handle the education and health needs of our people. We have handled over 400 surgeries free of charge. We don’t charge a dime for any treatment, drugs and cards. We have had over 10,000 persons from Warri, who have benefited from our free treatment also. The hospital has handled several cases of child deliveries, alongside cases of malaria fever and Cholera.”
He added that the foundation has also trained 50 science teachers and had given free books, sandals, bags, and school uniforms to over 15 primary schools in Gbaramatu kingdom, and other Ijaw communities.
“We have donated hospital equipment, drugs to hospitals within the Niger Delta enclave since the formation of the foundation,” Aghagha submitted.
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