SPECIAL REPORT: Neglected Edo community without electricity, potable water, health centre, other basic facilities

One of the houses in Kekere Community
One of the houses in Kekere Community

“The agreement I had with my wife is (was) ’till death do us part’ but I never expected it six months after marriage. She started going into labour about 2 a.m. in the midnights early this year but died due to unavailable health centre and poor road leading to the community.

“She bled seriously to the extent that the local midwives who deliver pregnant women in the community could not attend to her. I was traumatised but had no choice than to move on.”

This is the agonising account of Innocent Enoch, a 37 year-old-man who said he lost his wife during childbirth due to lack of healthcare facility in Kekere Community, populated by the Ijaws in Edo State.

The absence of a primary health centre in Kekere community is a major challenge for residents who have to travel about one and half hours to get to the closest health facility in Essi community.

Mr Enoch’s story in this riverine community located in a hard-to-reach environment in Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State is perhaps one of the reasons why Nigeria is rated as one of the counties with the highest incidences of maternal and infant mortality rate in the world.

Kekere is mainly an agrarian settlement with cocoa being the major cash crop. However, majority of the residents cannot maximise the benefit of their produce because the deplorable state of the road that leads to the community.

Three Days In A Week Primary School

PREMIUM TIMES observed that the only available school in the community is a primary school with a single block of four classrooms. Although well built, it cannot accommodate even primary one to six students.

This newspaper also gathered that the school, built during the administration of ex-Governor Adams Oshiomole, is now in a poor state due to dilapidated facilities.

The classrooms can only be located through a narrow pathway as tall bushes already covered the school, exposing pupils to danger from reptiles and

“As you can see the classes are not enough. Students are ‘merged’ together. Primary one students and primary two are merged, likewise other classes. Since the school was built during the regime of Oshiomole, we’ve not seen any government official even for inspection,” Ngozi Agwu, a resident of the community said.

This reporter observed that during a period the school was in session, no student or staff was present.

Upon investigation, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the school only functions three times in a week because the few teachers in the school live in faraway Benin City.

“Today is Tuesday, the few teachers here are residing in a faraway Benin City, they only come to teach the pupils three times in a week because of the hard-to-reach axis of the community and the poor state of the road,” Ms Agwu said.

PREMIUM TIMES also gathered the only alternative school located in the neighboring Lakaloko has only two classrooms for over 150 pupils.

Polluted River

For over 1000 residents of the village, there is no single source of potable water. The alternative source of water for the community is the polluted river which exposes them to water-borne diseases.

With what PREMIUM TIMES witnessed at this community, one could easily conclude that their case perfectly matches the life lived by people during the Neolithic era, when pipe-borne water or even a wash-borehole was still a mirage. However, this is actually happening in the 21st century Edo State.

“No single source of water except the river. People from houses without toilets defecate in this river and yet still use it to prepare food. Many have been sick and upon return from hospital, they still have to settle for the water.

“Sachet water is sold in some places here for N20 each because of the stress and how difficult it is for sellers to get it from the city to this village,” Adams Farouq said.

Another resident simply identified as Chinwe who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on the bank of the river also expressed her displeasure over the situation.

Lack Of Electricity

Kekere also lacks electricity. The residents survive by the use of personal generators.

In the 2018 Edo State budget, the government provides for electrification of Kekere and other neighboring communities under the line item – “extension of electricity from Essi to Boluwa, Kekere and Lakaloko.”

The electrification project alongside related projects was placed in the budget of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development at a total cost of N60 million. The related projects include construction of perimeter fence at Umaza (Phase 3); construction of 6 Nos. classroom block with office at Adolor primary school Umaza; renovation of 3 Nos. classroom in ovia primary school Ugbo; renovation of okponha primary school at Okponha; rehabilitation of old udo/iguobazuwa road 7km and extension of electricity from Essi to Boluwa, Lakaloka and Kekere communities.

When PREMIUM TIMES visited, the electricity project was yet to commence and the people were not even aware of the budget provision.

Rapheal Ani, a resident of the community, narrated the hardship his family faces due to the electricity challenges faced by the community.

“I have faced untold hardship because the business my wife does is selling frozen foods and that has crumbled because of electricity failure,” he said. “We spend on fuel and contants service of the generators until it became unrepairable.”

Another resident, who identified himself as Chris, said the darkness renders the communitiy lifeless at night. “It is depressing and makes residents expecially kids vulnerable to dangerous animals.”

Frustrated Community Leaders

The community leaders at Kekere expressed their displeasure over the absence of government projects in the community. One of the leaders, Ben Bowie, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said they have written several letters to the state and local governments.

“Apart from the school in this community, there is nothing to show again that we have government here. Since the inception of democracy. This community has been left to ruin.

“We have had several meetings with the local government chairmen that come to power every four years but these proved abortive. In fact, the present local government chairman doesn’t know this place. Many have fallen on Okada (motorcycle) and died on that road, many children have been buried because of lack of single primary health centre.”

“I don’t think we are demanding too much, we are only asking for our right and what is expected of us. We live in shocking poverty and not happy with the situation of things. Power supply is even nothing to write about,” he said.

I’m Unaware – Official

Several calls and text messages sent to Edo State Commissioner for Local Government, Jimoh Ijegbai, were unanswered.

However, when contacted, the Chairman of Ovia South West Local Government, Destiny Enabule, told PREMIUM TIMES that he was not aware that the community did not have a healthcare centre, electricity, potable water and school amongst others.

“I am not aware that Kekere Community did not have all these you have listed and it is not our fault. You see, the community needs to start taking responsibilities on their own,” he said. “Fine, the government should provide welfare but we need to know what they want. If you say they want schools and all that, do we know if they want that? The community must first talk to their leaders that they want something and then they (leaders) will communicate with us.”

When PREMIUM TIMES faulted his argument that basic amenities such as roads, hospital and others are social responsibilities of the government, he claimed the government “cannot implement projects they don’t ask for”.

“Even the school that you are talking about that teachers only come three times in a week… Is it the government that will drag teachers to work. Anyway, since you have made this known, I will speak with ‘higher authorities and lower authorities’ to find a solution to their problem.”

‘Government Needs To Be More Responsible’

The Programme Officer of Amplify, a civic organisation that advocates for sustainable development in rural, underserved Nigerian communities, Ayodele Ibiyemi, urged the Edo State Government to pay attention to the Kekere community to ensure effective service delivery.

“Asides the primary school, the community has no other form of government presence. No motorable access road, no electricity, no healthcare facility and the people vote every election year.

“The quality of life is very low and this is unacceptable. The government has to do something to make the people feel like they’re part of the country.”

(Editor’s Note: This report is supported by Amplify, a civic tech organisation projecting the voices of rural underserved people and advocating for sustainable development in Nigeria’s forgotten communities.)

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