Jun 15, 2013

Traditional Bone Healers and Healthcare Delivery

It is the responsibility of the different tiers of government in Nigeria to work towards ensuring an effective healthcare delivery in the country. An effective healthcare delivery does not end in mare provision of adequate healthcare centers, medics, drugs and equipment  but one that ensures that the services these centers provide are affordable.

The area of bone healing is one where the affordability can be extremely challenging due to the nature of the injuries that often require unusually long periods to heal. Despite the huge resources of our nation, large populations of the people are in plights of miserable poverty and the affordability of modern healthcare remains a frightening challenge. 

A private orthopedic hospital in Jos, the Bima Orthopedic Hospital for instance, charges between N3000 and N5000 per day for private and amenities wards respectively. Given that bone fractures often take months and at times years to heal, this underscores the huge impediment that majority of the populace faces in this area of healthcare. On the other hand, government hospitals are always without drugs. The patients only take prescriptions from the public hospitals but buy the drugs from commercial drug vendors outside the hospitals with the risks of running into bogus drugs and their evil effects. Furthermore, public hospitals are most often closed due to one industrial action or the other. Doctors often share their time between the public hospitals and their own private clinics, a situation indicative of shortages of manpower. Most times, the doctors refer patients from public hospitals to their own private clinics where the charges are astronomical.

As said before, the widespread poverty makes the situation worse. The minimum wage of N18 000 enjoyed only by a few workers at the state and federal levels of government employment is not paid by private small and medium scale enterprises that employ the majority of the population. N18 000 can barely feed a family of two. The result is that most Nigerians do not have savings for unexpected financial expenditures.

While private bone-healing centers like Bima charges totals of between N270 000 and N450 000 for a period of three months of hospitalization, there are traditional bone healers that charge as low as N30, 000 and N40, 000, covering total charges for the period of hospitalization. By this, the traditional bone healers are helping the nation to accomplish the goal of healthcare delivery to the poor.

To what extent does the government recognize the noble contribution of these native healers? Bida Alheri traditional healing center, located at the Rahol Kanang Suburb of Bukuru town in Jos-South of Plateau State, is one of such alternative healing centers. The director of the center, Mr. Bitrus D Pam, says that despite their contribution, the government do not seem to know of their existence and the role they are playing towards helping it to actualize its goal in the health sector.

First, he says, their as people who are making an impact on the health sector of the country contribution needs to be recognized. There is also the need for the government to try to find out what their difficulties are and see how it can support them to overcome some of the challenges and improve their capacities. Some of these challenges include the lack of X-Ray machines and modern beds. Another problem that his healing center faces is adequate funds to recruit additional workers the place desperately needs. He is confident that if the government can take off part of the burden he faces, his center could with reduced burden be able employ the more hands it needs. Dr. Pam narrated that when patients come in critical conditions, he does not insist on deposits prior to giving them his attention. Some of the patients have, sadly, abused this gesture by absconding without paying their bills the moment they get well again. This, he says, is one of the major challenge his center faces. Doctor Pam showed dozens of hospital cards belonging to such runaway patients. Between May and July of 2012 alone, 26 patients have absconded without paying their bills that add up to about N400 000. That, he says, is a staggering amount of money that would have helped his clinic to meet up with some of its financial obligations and get things going with relative ease.

The News Tower tried as much as possible to reach the Plateau State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Fom Dakwak, to find out whether his government is aware of the roles of these native centers and to what extent they have recognized their contribution. All efforts along this line, however, proved abortive.

The Persistence of Street Justice in Nigeria

Even in traditional African cultures, there have been standard and acceptable legal procedures in addition to cases of persons taking the law into their hands which the culture also frowned against. This is because every African community had a judicial council where legal matters are heard and judgment passed. Thus if any form of justice was administered outside of the accepted legal council, it amounted to taking the law into one’s hands. The problem in Africa however, was how to draw a conspicuous line between accepted legal procedure and what was not acceptable. In addition to this, the heads of traditional African courts were kings who were autocratic. There were also no rooms for appeals. Most often, what was paid as fine belonged to the king. As a result, punitive measures were often disproportionate and selfish. These shortcomings were the weaknesses the modern legal practice was supposed fix.

The line between guilt and innocence is so obvious that even a two-year old can see it. It explains why even toddlers fight. However, the line between who should and who should not establish guilt and pass judgment is, sadly, hazy. As a consequence, the result has been acrimoniously, far-reaching. Thousands have been either maimed or killed and possessions in the order of billions of naira have been lost.

In October 2012, four students of the University of Port Harcourt were walked completely nude and eventually burnt alive in a neighboring village on suspicion of being armed bandits. As it turned out, the students were innocent.
Street justice is not new in Nigeria. When a petty thief is arrested in northern Nigeria he is beaten to death except where a policeman arrives fast to save him or a respected individual pleads with the mob. In the south the thief is beaten and then set ablaze while still alive. The case at the University of Port Harcourt drew a lot of attention because it turned out to be a high profile scenario at a time when internet accessibility became widespread thereby allowing other parts of the world to see something that is bizarre in the context of their own cultures.

In April this year,  a previously unknown cult group by the name Ombatse demonstrated the highest degree of street justice when it killed more than thirty policemen in the Nigeria’s central state of Nassarawa. The cult has been going around coercing people to become members. The police learnt about it and set out to arrest its leder for questioning. The group learnt about it and waylaid the police. The group ‘justified’ its action with the statement that they have been conducting their activities without bordering the police and wondered why the police should be concerned about its own business.

The problem of citizens taking the laws into their own hands has become a culture in Nigeria. From its persistence, one can conclude that authorities have failed to notice its gravity in terms of creating a dire atmosphere of chaos. It is the reason why nothing has been done with the aim of ending it. Thus when people join the police or any military organization, they transfer the culture into the force and explains why the police and members of the Nigerian army are not left out in the execution of parallel justice. We have seen high profile examples in Odi in Bayelsa State and Zakibiam in Benue State during the Obasanjo administration. Under the same administration, little known Islamic groups in the north of the country were crushed by the use of force rather than in court rooms. Some of those groups survived to become Boko Haram.

Apparently, many Nigerians across the many lines of diversity have failed to respect the establishment of guilt and passing of judgment as the exclusive mandate of legally constituted authorities. The National Orientation Agency, NOA, is shouldered with the task of educating Nigerians on the policies of government the citizens are ignorant of. The Director of NOA in Plateau State, Mr. Musa K Chantu said the dimension of the problem of street justice in Nigeria is so big that it transcends the limit of the resources of his agency. The root of the problem, according to Mr. Chantu, may not just be ignorance of the demands of the law. Chantu said that their job at NOA is based, largely, on budgets and what the budget for a particular year is meant to address. Currently, he says, the budget of the agency is meant to finance awareness programs on the Freedom of Information bill that has just been passed into law.

It is easy to see the credibility of the clarification by Chantu when he says the enormity of problem exceeds the resources of his agency and that the root of the problem may not just be ignorance of the law. Where all these cases of the usurpation of the duties of the judiciary have continued, it has been seen that the law has been, largely, inactive. 

People should be arrested, tried and sentenced where they take the law into their own hands. It is the only way the people can be properly and effectively warned against doing so in future. Sometimes cases of usurpation of the law are a result of frustration over a dormant judiciary. Hence where the police make arrests and hands criminals over to the courts, the dispensation of justice should be seen to be speedy. Anything contrary to this could lead to frustration among the citizens and the police who then resort to doing what the courts have failed to do.

Newly recruited members of the police go through basic training prior to commencement work. It is expected that during such training, he must be taught that his mandate as a police officer should not go beyond investigation and arrest of criminals. He should also be taught that should he go past the limit of his mandate, he himself would have become a criminal and will be treated as such.

Truly, the root of the problem of administration of justice by the wrong persons in Nigeria can be largely traced to frustration from a dormant judiciary. Nigerians should not just be told what the law says but should be made to see what the law can do when it is disobeyed.

Education for Peace Building and Conflict Prevention In Northern Nigeria

Education is the development of the mind through acquisition of knowledge and skill for the progress of the individual and society.

The predominant religion of northern Nigeria is Islam. Nigeria first came into contact with Islamic education in the ninth century.  It was however in 1800s that Islam was firmly established in north of the country following a successful holy war by Othman Dan Fodio who was of Fulani extraction. His war was waged against the Hausa people that predominantly inhabit the north.  This led to the establishment of Sokoto town from where the religion further spread to other parts of the northern region.

Western education came to Nigeria in the mid-nineteen century. This was in the southern part of the country. It was only in 1907 that the first western-styled school was established in the north in the town of Zaria but lasted for only two years. An enduring western school was later established in 1909. There was, thus, a long period of maturity of Islam in the region between the 1800s when it was introduced and 1909 when the first conventional school found a foothold in the region.

Around the world, there is always rivalry between Arabic and Western cultures. In Northern Nigeria, this is not only the case but the rivalry appears very severe. This explains why introducing western cultural elements in the north has always been extremely difficult compared to doing the same in the south. The challenge in education is the same. The girl-child school enrolment rate according to a United Nations report of 2011 is as low as 20% and 25% in the northeast and northwest of the country respectively compared to 85% in the Southwest and Southeast.

The north of the country where there are these low school enrolment figures are among their poorest in the country. on the other hand, other states with high school enrolment figures are seen to relatively lower poverty rates and are also comparatively peaceful. Also nations with high level of educational enrolment and high literacy rates boast of high level of tolerance, progress and peace.

The fighting that broke out in Jos in 2001 was a result of a dispute over who should head the National Poverty Eradication Program (NAPEP) in Jos-North of Plateau State. The indigenous tribes felt a Hausa leader of the agency will not be fair to them while the Hausa settlers also felt an indigenous leader will not be fair to them. Thus poverty was the main drive that sparked the conflict that year.  One of the most effective way of avoiding poverty and preventing conflict is by educating and empowering the people to find good-paying jobs.
Educational institutions like schools bring people across tribal and religious lines into one classroom. Sitting in a common class for many years results in better understanding and trust for people across these lines of division. Being in the same class also builds a feeling of fellowship and ‘brotherhood’ among people from diverse backgrounds and minimizing chances of conflicts. This underscores the significance of integration in avoiding conflict and disturbing the peace of a community.

People with education are in a better position to travel widely around the world. The exposure enables them to study other nations to see how an overwhelming level of literacy has helped to entrench peace and prosperity in those nations. This realization is also possible through studies of the developed nations. Only educated people are in a position to get involved in such studies that help people to see the connection between education and peace.
Education also enables people to understand the laws and policies of governments and to try to comply with these laws and policies.  A recent incident that has, again, shown the linked between illiteracy and conflict was the killing of 23 policemen on May 9th, by a cult group named Ombatse in the central Nigerian state of Nassarawa. The group justified its action by saying that they were conducting their activities without bordering anyone and asked why the police should interfere with their activities by following them to their shrine with the intention of arresting their leader. Only education can help people to understand that nobody is above the law and that people are expected to cooperate with the police in its efforts to ensure safety and security in the land.

Education changes the mindset of people by making them disciplined, self-esteemed and orderly. Often they prefer to stay in quieter and peaceful parts of towns usually referred to as Government Reserved Areas (GRA).  The experience in Nigeria is that whenever there is a conflict, such parts of town are usually not affected.

 Educated people often have big dreams or ambitions. They plan their lives to enable them achieve such goals. They are aware that the absence of peace brings a chaotic atmosphere under which their dreams cannot be achieved. On the other hand, uneducated people are mostly despondent. This despondency is what often pushes them into causing disorder so that every one becomes a loser. At times criminal elements among the poor cause such disorders and use the disorderly circumstance to loot.

Prevention of conflict and engendering peace in northern Nigeria can only be achieved through serious and concerted efforts towards educating the people. This can be achieved through making education compulsory within the region and working hard to enforce the law backing such a policy.

One factor that has worked against educational progress in Nigeria is the lack of decent learning environments. Thus the Provision of the infrastructural base necessary for the improvement of education and constantly maintaining them to ensure a decent, attractive and conducive learning environment will go a long way towards encouraging school enrollment in the region.

Better education can also come from comprehensive curriculum. Thus upgrading the curriculum to improve the quality of education within the region will go a long way towards bringing the good returns of good education including peace.
Any ambition of providing education will not work in a society where the teachers lack interest in the job. teachers must be paid adequately and regularly to encourage them in their jobs and avoid a steady exodus of manpower in the sector as we have seen over the decades.
Nigerian electoral laws demands a candidate to, among other qualifications, possess a minimum of a School Certificate to aspire to any political position in the country. In view of the fact that the school system in Nigeria has been neglected for so long, many holders of such certificate are actually poorly educated. It is the reason why using education to build peace and prevent conflict must also involve the proper education of some of the leaders. Leaders must be educated to understand the significance of sacrifice by being contented with what is duly and legally theirs. It is the only way resources can percolate from the administrative offices at the top to the classroom at the bottom.

Since fairness and justice is imperative in peace building and conflict prevention, leaders must be educated to see the significance of non-interference in judicial processes when relations are involved. The steady pressure mounted on President Goodluck Jonathan by the northern leadership forum to grant amnesty to Boko Haramists that have killed about 4000 people in its bid to introduce Sharia Law in Nigeria from 2008 is seen by many as rocking the boat of justice, a situation which will only complicate the shattered peace in northern Nigeria.
 Leaders must be educated to understand the significance of integration of people. In places like Kaduna and Jos where conflict has led to the segregation of living quarters and markets for instance, the local and national political leaders seem to be doing nothing to bring the people together. This represents stagnation in efforts for peace and should end.  

Non-Governmental Organizations must continue to receive encouragement through funding to continue educating people on how to build peace and prevent conflicts that could occur in future.

It is only when these or some of these issues are earnestly addressed that a lasting peace could be attained in Northern Nigeria.

The Place of Traditionalists and Animist in the Nigerian Nation

Picture Source Urban Intellectuals
The Lagos State Government recently placed a limitation on the use of Hijab by students in public schools in the state.  Critical comments by some members of the society followed the decision. One critic was heard saying that Islam never said that the Hijab should be worn only at certain moments but all the time as long as the individual is outdoor.

A lot of Nigerians feel the Lagos State Government should not be seen to have done anything wrong. Rather the government of that state should have been commended for allowing some sort of usage of the veil. The Nigerian constitution says that the country shall be multi-religious but that it shall not use its resources to help the growth and development of any of the religions. From common sense, it could be seen that the law was designed to avoid friction that may arise from perceived discrimination where some religions could be unjustly treated.

The enormity of constitutional abuses in Nigeria has reached a dimension where people claim rights in situations where their actions are apparently in violation of the laws. The unending episodes of people claiming rights to constitutional violation have, over the decades, been encouraged by the actions or inaction of the different tiers of government itself. For instance, it is in public schools that Christian and Islamic Religious studies are taught using government school buildings, teachers and other academic resources. The situation is even worse in the north where Islamic Religious Studies is taught exclusively.

In any school where any single religion is taught, the laws of the land are infringed upon and the rights of other Nigerians are also violated. It should be a cause for grave concern if we understand why such laws were enshrined into the statute by our founding fathers.
The ease with which the government has continued to encourage violations of the law could been seen also in recent events within the country with the establishment of Islamic schools in the northern parts of the country in a bid to impose a limitation to the Almajiri problem that has become a nagging source of embarrassment and a huge security threat to the nation. Some argue that should ordinary Nigerians or even the other religions go to court, they will have a good case.

The Nigerian Television Authority and state government televisions corporations across the country, also public properties, have been used to support Islam and Christianity through sermons that are aired on Fridays and Sundays for Islam and Christianity respectively. There is the need to distinguish between paid religious programs like those from churches like the Chris Embassy, Redeemed Christian Church of God and many other similar ones who pay to have their programs aired and the others, particularly the orthodox churches whose programs are usually aired without them paying a dime. This implies that the government is paying for such programs. Along that line, animist, the new generation churches and traditional religious groups are cheated.

For as long as one can remember, the use of public resources to send Christian and Muslim pilgrims to holy lands to perform religious obligations has been a tradition in the country. Politicians use this as a means of rewarding their relations or supporters whose ballots ensured they won elections. The use of public finances to send people to pilgrimage has even demonstrated what the founding fathers feared, which is that it will create room for easy discrimination to the ‘weaker’ religions. All one needs to qualify for sponsorship to the holy land is intimacy, in one way or the other, to a powerful member of the incumbent administration in your state.

It has been difficult to get clergymen, who together with their followers have been the beneficiaries of the unconstitutional tradition, to comment on the issue. All they do is to circumvent the issue and then drag you to other irrelevant issues.
The government has also encouraged claims of rights to constitutional breaches through their attitude of building chapels and mosques in government houses across the nation. In the predominantly Moslem north, state resources are used to, solely, build mosques. The reverse is true in the predominantly Christian south of the country where state resources are used to build chapels to the detriment of other religions.

Nigerian constitution is not against any religion. The freedom of religion implies that religious groups can use their own resources to build religious institutions for their followers.

There is no doubt that the ugly trend was encouraged by the long decades of military in the corridors of power. It was easy for them to do these things since they ruled by decrees and the gun. The suppression of the views of the people was the reason why some people fought and died, asking for democracy. If democracy will encourage rather than discourage these constitutional infringements, then democracy is yet to start in Nigeria.

There is the need for our leaders to look around the world to see how democracies are growing. Democracies do not begin and end with elections and swearing-ins of electoral beaters. This is rather the beginning. There is also the need for our leaders to understand that sustaining democracy is not a bed of roses but courageous undertakings that involve sacrifice. 

Our leaders can score a democratic point by directing that all chapels and mosques in government houses be demolished and that the teaching of all religious subjects in public schools, primary and secondary, should end.

Finangwai Dreams Big for Plateau State

Dr Hosea Finangwai. Source Dr Finangwai There is that saying that “the things that people desperately seek are always with them.” If ...