Mrs Mary Simon is a 37-year-old farmer, originally from Kogi State, who has been residing in the Obalayan community in Ife East Local Government Area, Osun State, for more than ten years. When she first moved to Obalayan, all was not well with her, unfortunately, as she noticed her health was deteriorating and she was forced to go to the hospital frequently as she suffered from constant bouts of diarrhoea, vomiting and catarrh. Distressed at this new development, Mrs Simon began to look for the reason for her ill health and this led to her shocking discovery, it was the contaminated water she had been drinking since she moved to the community.
“I have been here for more than ten years and, since then, I have been drinking water from the stream. When we first came, we went to the hospital on several occasions before we got used to it,” Mrs Mary Simon recalls.
“The pipe-borne water [facility] was built and we fetched water there for like two weeks before it got damaged and since then we didn’t see anything.”The only source of water available to residents is a stream located two kilometres away from the community. For residents of Obalayan, it has been a tale of lamentations for many years, even as successive governments both at the state and local levels have failed to pay any attention to the dearth of basic amenities in the area. While they suffer from waterborne diseases, the community also grapples with the lack of electricity and good health facilities.
Some respite was thought to have come their way in 2015 when the state government provided a mechanised borehole for the 3000 residents of the community. However, due to poor maintenance, the borehole packed up and was finally abandoned, leaving the Obalayan people to return to their old ways of trekking long distances to fetch unclean water from the stream.
Another resident of the town, Yemi Adewoyin, also known as Iya Eleja, bemoaned the poor state of living in the community. She recalled the painful task of having to walk all the way to the stream, daily, to get water for her domestic chores and for her little canteen business. She has no helper as all her children attend school in the urban centre of Ilode, Ile Ife.
“We always wake up as early as 5:00 am or 6:00 am to go to the river and fetch water in order to get the best water from the stream especially for me that I have to start cooking rice and beans very early in the morning,” she said.
Dele Adeyeye, the community leader, said women are the worst hit in times like this. They walk long distances to get water in order to carry out their domestic chores.
“It was the government that provided potable water for us. It got damaged after it worked for two weeks and they came to repair it for us. Shortly after the repair, it got damaged again and we repaired it ourselves more than three times,” he said.
According to him, the community repaired the damaged pump by contributing N30,000, N50,000 and then N80,000 in 2015 before they finally gave up.
No Health Centre
When UDEME visited in December 2018, it was observed that some facilities had been provided by the government, but poor maintenance has since forced members of the community to abandon the projects. A good example of this is the Health Centre Obalayan, which is no longer in use.
Prior to the construction of the health centre in 2010, residents of the Obalayan community travelled to neighbouring villages to receive medical attention. When built, the Deputy Governor at the time, Erelu Olusola Obada commissioned it without the provision of medical equipment, drugs and staff. As a result of this, the building has been left to rot as it serves no purpose for the people.
“After the commissioning, we purchased drugs and beds ourselves with the help of pastor Asoromaye, to be used in the health centre. We visited the Local Government Secretariat in Ife East local government Oke-Ogbo to demand for health staff but they didn’t yield to our request,” said Mr Folarin, one of the community leaders.
According to a report received from the residents, a palm wine tapper nearly lost his life prior to this reporter’s visit in December. He had fallen down from the palm tree and was severely injured. They had to rush him to Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH).
Orisunbaje Community suffers a similar fate
Another community in Ife-East Local Government Area, Orisunbaje, is plagued with similar problems. Inhabited by over 2,000 people, the community can hardly boast of a functional health centre for steady power supply. as the only existing PHC has been abandoned for more than eight years.
Speaking to the traditional ruler of the community, Ebenezer Ojeyinka, he recalled that the health centre was built in 2007 by the governor of Osun State at the time, Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
“Medical staff were brought to the health centre and they worked for two months [but] were later withdrawn by the government.
“I personally went to the local government secretariat but they said the government will provide health workers and it [has been] more than seven years now. The politicians keep promising us every year.”
Focusing on the supply of electricity to the area, the residents noted that they have been stuck in darkness for more than five years now. The only transformer available in the community has not been functional and, following this trend, only one out of two boreholes seen in Orisunbaje is working well.
Bad Educational Facilities
As expected in a neglected rural community, the schools in Orisunbaje are in a terrible state. The community had only one primary school, Salvation Army School in Osogun Orisunbaje, established in 1956. The school is made up of a single block of three classrooms, without teaching materials and this structure was reportedly constructed by the Rauf Aregbesola administration. Still, the school lacks enough learning space.
The Headmistress of the school, Mrs Rebecca Ogunlana, said the management has tried its best to contact the government of the state concerning their plight, but they have received no response.
“The school has been visited by the federal, state and local government educational boards. They took pictures of the poor state of the school, including the pupils, but we haven’t received any response from them,” she said.
“Firstly, the road is not good. And if you look at the school environment, it is not conducive for learning, [we don’t have] enough classrooms, first aid boxes, no toilet,” lamented Mr Taiwo, one of the teachers in the school.
Response from Lawmakers
Mr Olusegun Adeyemi, the Chairman of Ife East Local Government Council said the complaints of the two communities had reached the government and that the government is aware of the challenges.
“The government is aware of the complaints made by the monarch. We have been working towards providing casual health workers to start working in the community and we will give them a stipend. They are going to be coming probably twice or thrice a week,” he said.
The reporter made several efforts to reach out to the Hon. Albert Adeogun, the lawmaker representing Ife East at the House of Assembly, but all efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.
In his response to queries concerning these discoveries, Senator Babajide Omoworare, the Senator representing Osun East Senatorial District, said he will meet with the state government on issues affecting the community.
“I will liaise with the State Government and revert asap. Regards,” he said.
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