Deaths involving fresh graduates in Nigeria during their national youth service year may not be entirely new. But the recent harvest of deaths at some National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camps in the country has created panic and trepidation all over the place.
In fact, hardly does a service year pass by without the scheme recording some deaths. Most of the deaths usually occur through fatal accidents as the fresh graduates move from one point to another during the service year on our horrible highways.
In the recent deaths, the first incident involved Elechi Chiyerom, a 27-year-old graduate of Ignatius Azuru University of Education, Port Harcourt. She was reported to have died from excessive bleeding and vomiting at the orientation camp in Bayelsa State. Less than 24 hours later, the nation was again confronted with another sad news. This time, the death of the duo of Ukeme Monday and Ifedolapo Oladepo, the former a male, the other, a female graduate.
The duo were first class graduates. Monday studied Petroleum Engineering at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, while Oladepo graduated in Transport Management from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, Oyo State. The two young, brilliant Nigerians passed on at the NYSC orientation camps in Zamfara and Kano states respectively.
Their deaths have, once more, called to question, the deplorable and appalling state of our country’s medical system. The three corps members all gave up the ghost within intervals of 48 hours, just a few hours after they allegedly took ill.
In the early stages of youth service, many years ago, the doctors usually go for clinical orientation in teaching hospitals, prior to their NYSC orientation period.
Now, what is the problem with the NYSC that cannot co-opt doctors among the fresh graduates in the camps to provide effective and efficient medical services at the orientation camps under the supervision of some old hands in the profession? What is the process of certifying doctors in Nigeria today?
The training process of doctors in Nigeria was actually disrupted in 1985 by the military regime of then Major General Muhammadu Buhari, who is now the country’s incumbent president. That was the time he sacked all doctors in government establishments and asked them to reapply. Of course, that led to the mass exodus of doctors from the country.
From that time, the post-graduate programme became disjointed. The one year exchange programme with hospitals in places like Britain, Canada, the United States and others, gradually fizzled out as nepotism and all kinds of vices set in. Back then, a country like Nigeria would pay some stipend for accommodation, maintenance and airfare for the young doctors and their families, while the host countries paid for research and training under their research grants.
Take the pathetic case of Ifedolapo. When she manifested symptoms of illness, she was allegedly ignored by the NYSC officials who thought she merely feigned illness to avoid the physical drills at the camp. Then, perhaps, without a comprehensive diagnosis of her illness, an injection was administered on her. That worsened her condition. She finally died.
If the authorities said another one bled to death, did she commit an abortion?
Again, the question is: Why were the doctors at the camps not reoriented separately to enable them to handle the type of emergencies the three deaths presented?
From what I gathered, those ‘so-called doctors’ in the camps and rural areas in the Northern part of the country are mostly male nurses. Since the mass exodus of Indian and other foreign doctors operating in that part of the country, the population of doctors have drastically reduced. Which hospitals were attached to the Kano and Zamfara orientation camp clinics for instance? Are there ambulances in the camps to take any patient to the nearest functional hospital? Do they have qualified senior doctors in the camps?
Nigeria is a funny country. Every day, people gather in their thousands in places all over the country, but when you look around, you hardly notice any ambulance in sight. Many churches in Nigeria that are usually filled to the brim by worshippers do not have emergency programmes in place to take care of emergencies. What were the emergency arrangements put in place in the church which recently collapsed in Uyo?
It is doubtful if doctors who have been licensed could not perform their chores well if adequate drugs and equipment were available. At any rate, the deaths should be looked into thoroughly to avoid wasting our talented and vibrant youths in such a careless manner.
The latest mishap at the NYSC orientation camps has again reignited the call that the entire programme should be scrapped altogether. I disagree with those who hold this view. In its simplest form, the programme has enabled people who hitherto would not have ventured outside their immediate environment, to go out to other places.