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SPECIAL REPORT: Pika, a community in Benue where residents eat, drink their shit (Faeces) without knowing

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By Francesca Iwambe

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Life for the people of Pika community in Mbatiav, Gboko local government area of Benue state is apparently pathetic. Located about few meters away from Makurdi, the Benue State capital, the community is ravaged by poverty and all forms of environmental and economic retardation.

Like many disadvantaged communities in Benue state, where the presence of government is not felt in any way, the people have for many years relied on wells and the stream for their subsistence life and the women in the communities had to struggle daily walking long distances to the stream to fetch water for drinking, cooking and other household chores.

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Most importantly, lack of portable water has posed many health challenges to the people in rural areas in the state, as children and even adults have contracted water borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever among others.

The people of the community depend on the local stream as their only source of water, filling an all-purpose gap; bathing, laundry, cooking and drinking – without any form of purification.

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It is pitiable, yet true to posit that the level of development in Pika is next to nothing as reflected in the poor road networks and limited telecommunication access.

On average, women and young children in Pika community have to visit the stream six-seven times daily. Sadly, the residential area is quite distant to the stream. Left with no alternative, day and night, people have to pass through bush paths to scoop the oily, dirty, coloured and smelling water from the stream to meet their basic domestic needs.

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Pika community has two major access roads. The first link-road to the village is through Makurdi Alaide axis while the second route is through Igbor in Gwer Local government area. Due to the swampy and water-logged terrain, accessing Pika community is not usually a pleasurable transit during the raining season.

People plying the road during the raining season always rule out the possibility of driving to the community due to the bad state of the roads for fear of being stock in the mud.

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Speaking with NaijaBlitzNews.com, a Roman Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Dennis Ortese Yiyeh CSSp, who also resides in the community wonders why the presence of government infrastructure is not felt in the area.

He said that ‘We came out to participate actively in the 2019 general elections. During the campaigns, they all come here with empty promises and once the elections are over, they will vanish into thin air.

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‘’It is funny but interesting and good to know that this is one of the roads these politicians ply to this community to canvassed for votes in the last general election. In fact, this is the major road that links and even connects the people from this axis to Makurdi and Gboko respectively and this is exactly how it looks like and has always been during the raining season.

“With this, our people from this village find it very difficult to move round and even transport their farm products to the nearby markets not to talk of distant places like Makurdi, Gboko etc. Our major means of transportation here is motorcycle popularly known as ‘okada’ due to the bad state of the road.

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“We are calling/appealing to the good people of Benue state and Nigeria at large to help us and let the government remember this people.

‘’Apart from the bad roads, the people of this community usually trek a very far distance like nine to 11 kilometers in search of drinking water,’’ he added.

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Another resident of the community, Vincent Uma, who spoke with our correspondent appealed for government’s intervention, stressing the need for good access road, potable water, health and provision of schools in the community.

He said that residents of the community have always been at the mercy of diseases because of the unhygienic water they consume on daily basis.

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“We have many demands to make in this community, but our biggest challenge here is good access road and potable water. We must go to the stream as early as 5.00 am, so that we will be able to access the water.

“Most of our residents have suffered from sickness arising from drinking the bad stream water. We do not have any other option since it is the only alternative we have. We all know that it is not hygienic. That is why we are begging the government to make come to our aid to enable us have access to clean water’’, he said.

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Apart from the challenges of portable water in the community, another resident, Torkima Kpakol also lamented the non-availability of schools for children in the community.

“There are so many children in this community who need to go to school, but we do not have good schools here. We cannot even afford to pay teachers to have them come over to teach our children and you know it is inappropriate for our children to be wandering around because we all know that education is important,’’ Kpakol added.

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The practice of open defecation is a global developmental and health issue facing developing nations.
This is an ancient practice where people excrete in bushes, rivers, lakes, streams and other open spaces outside the designated toilets.

This can occur deliberately due to unwholesome cultural practices, superstitions and personal unhygienic behaviours. It can also be as a result of unavailable or lack of access to modern toilet facilities.

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This practice has significant negative externalities and releases germs into the environment, which pose serious harm to both the rich and the poor in the society.

The practice of open defecation is made worst in rural communities in Nigeria where it is tied to the culture, values, tradition and norms of the people.

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In some rural communities in Nigeria, people find delight in defecating openly in rivers and lakes where they have the source for drinking water, hence denying self of safe and clean water as well as sanitary environment.

Most rural communities use woods and bamboos to construct open toilets for both men and women.

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These locally constructed toilets are often done without proper drainage system, as such, at the slightest rainfall, faeces flow into the rivers and the nearby surroundings, thus exposing the inhabitants of those communities to grave dangers.

This has continued unabated without recourse to the environmental and health hazards that will likely ensure as a result of this practice.

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As Nigeria is struggling to meet up with the 2025 target of ending open defecation, it appears that the task may not be an easy one, as most women for fear of infection prefer to defecate in the open.

Open defecation: A threat to human safety, health – Doctors

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According to Dr. Olushola Badmus of Asokoro General Hospital, Abuja, open defecation is an issue that can affect everyone, but women are often at a higher risk of experiencing violence and multiple health vulnerabilities.

He identified that women with poor sanitation facilities are more susceptible to hookworm infestation resulting in maternal anaemia, which in turn is directly associated to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

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‘’Women with limited or no access to toilet predominantly suffered from diarrheal diseases, a leading cause of under nutrition among women during their reproductive age.

Also, Dr. Osayemen Olaye of St. Theresa Medical Centre, Gwagwalada, Abuja, linked sickness like water borne diseases, vector borne diseases and malnutrition in children to open defecation.

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‘’Apart from water borne diseases, when the human waste collects into heaps, it attracts flies and other insects.

These flies then travel around the surrounding areas, carrying defecated matter and disease causing microbes, where they then land on food and drink that people go ahead and ingest unknowingly.

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In such cases, the flies act as direct transmitters of diseases such as cholera,’’ he added.

A global survey has identified Nigeria as the second in the world among countries where open defecation is prevalent.

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According to Mr Bioye Ogunjobi, WASH specialist, 47 million Nigerians representing 24.4 per cent of the population still practice open defecation while 32 million people in the country still make use of unimproved latrine.

Bioye, who said the use of unimproved latrines is as bad as open defecation, added that only 13 out of the 774 local governments in Nigeria spread across four states, Jigawa, Bauchi, Benue and Cross River have been certified as open defecation free.

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“In Benue, only one community has been certified Open Defecation Free, ODF. There are communities that would have been certified open defecation free, but they still have problem with their market places and motor- Park therefore, they are yet to be certify. If a community is 99 per cent open defecation free, it cannot be certified until is 100 per cent,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nigeria loses over N455 billion of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually due to poor sanitation and a third of that cost is as a result of open defecation, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.

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According to the international body, Nigeria needs to add two million toilets every year between 2019 and 2025 to achieve the target of universal basic sanitation.

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Elderly Woman Falls On Her Knees To Pray For Peter Obi In Jos Rally

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As political campaigns for the 2023 general elections commenced on Wednesday, a elderly woman has been captured praying for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, during a solidarity rally held in Jos, Plateau State.

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The Director-General of the Obi-Datti Campaign organization, Doyin Okupe, in a tweet on Wednesday disclosed that the LP candidate and his vice, Datti Baba Ahmed, will attend the Jos rally although the party is yet to commence campaigns officially.

”Today in Jos, HE Peter Obi & his running mate Datti-Ahmed, will honour an invitation from the Middle Belt forum to attend a solidarity rally. We are yet to commence our own campaigns.

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To comfort our students, We urge the FG to quickly resolve the lingering ASSU Crisis,” the tweet read.

Amongst persons seen at the venue to welcome the LP flag bearer was an elderly woman on her knees in the midst of other supporters praying for Peter Obi at the Rwang Pam Stadium Jos, Plateau state.

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UNIBEN releases post-UTME, DE screenings date

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The University of Benin has fixed dates for its Post Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and Direct Entry screenings for 2022/2023 session.

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The university in a notice by its Registrar, Ademola Bobola on Wednesday in Benin, said the exercise would hold between Nov. 14 and 25.

Bobola said the screening would be conducted in designated centres at the Ugbowo main campus of the institution, using the Computer Based Test mode.

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“Only candidates who applied through JAMB for the 2022/2023 UTME and Direct Entry admission and chose the University of Benin as First Choice and scoring 200 and above for UTME candidates are eligible for this screening exercise,” the registrar said.

Bobola, however, referred admission seekers to the institution to the university’s official website.

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Presidency denies authorising Katsina security outfit to carry arms

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The Presidency has denied that any state has been issued authorisation to procure automatic weapons for its security outfit.

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Last week, Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu had accused the Federal Government of bias in refusing to allow the Western Nigeria Security Network Agency, also known as Amotekun Corps, to carry sophisticated firearms, while allegedly granting approval to the Katsina State security outfit to carry sophisticated firearms.

That was as the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba said that quasi-security outfits established by state governments have no legal basis to function during the 2023 general elections.

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In a statement on Tuesday, the Presidency said the possession of automatic weapons and AK-47 remains illegal in the country.

“The Presidency wishes to strongly assert that there is no state, not Katsina, not any other state in the federation, that has been authorized to procure automatic weapons for their security outfits,” the statement reads.

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“Under this administration, the President has repeatedly made it clear that nobody is allowed to illegally carry AK-47 or any other automatic weapons and that they must surrender them”.

The Presidency however said neither Katsina nor Ondo is allowed to purchase automatic weapons for security outfits.

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“Under the existing regulations, only the Office of the National Security Adviser can issue such authorization, upon proper clearance by the President and Commander-in-Chief and as it is at this moment, no such approvals have been issued to any state government.

“In the specific Katsina State often cited, the Governor, Aminu Bello Masari wrote to explain that the administration invited the Provost of the Civil Defence Training College in Katsina to train their vigilantes for a five-day period….

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“in the handling and operations of Pump Action Rifles,” emphasising that “the vigilantes were not trained to take over the responsibilities of the security agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria but to assist them”.

The Presidency added that it “appreciates the active involvement of states with security matters. As they continue to expand their capabilities as well as their active collaboration with law enforcement agencies of the federation, the joint efforts continue to yield good results, thwarting attempts of terrorists to wreak havoc and destruction on communities”.

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President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted as saying he has received reports “of acts of utmost bravery and professionalism” by operatives of state security outfits.

“He thanked them for their alertness that is helping to defeat nefarious plots against targets at grassroots levels”, the statement added.

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Furthermore, the Presidency called on leaders at various levels “to exercise restraint in their speech, even as we are in a political season”.

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