We are chased away like dogs, Abuja’s lepers cry out
Haruna Sani is a teenager from a family of seven and born to parents with leprosy. He attends Government Secondary School, Yangoji by day and washes cars at a petrol station after closing from school in the evening. And at night, he sleeps in the kitchen of the one bedroom accommodation allotted to his parents.
He gets about N300 daily as tip from the car wash out of which he spends N100 transporting himself to school every day.
While he said he is fortunate to have a kitchen to sleep in, he lamented that several other children and their leprous parents reside at the Lepers Village, Yangoji in squalid conditions.
Most of the parents have their limbs deformed by the illness and they struggle to till the ground while women are at the mercy of their daughters to properly cater for the family.
“We are suffering too much in this village and our people only take garri and rama leaves. Our houses are leaking, and they are not enough because some families, due to their large size, all sleep in the same room,” the chief of the lepers’ community, Ali Isa, said while trying to explain what the lepers contend with daily.
The community is located in a secluded area, few kilometres from Yangoji along the Abuja-Lokoja expressway. With a dilapidated primary school and primary healthcare centre in the same condition and unable to dispense drugs, the colony of lepers is a hard place to live in.
They are left to fend for themselves in an unfriendly situation as they are dreaded by the people and deserted by the government.
Isa said when the government moved them to their present location from Durumi, he had thought their lives had turned a corner.
“After 15 years, our expectations for a new and better life are yet to be actualised,” he said.
At 67, he said he has given up on life, adding that tending his farm was the only activity that gave him solace.
The account of the chief brought to the fore why the lepers trooped out in their numbers when Aso Chronicle team arrived the community.
“We heard you brought food for us,” he said, justifying the curiosity of our reporters. Continued on next page
He said they were full of hope whenever vehicles come into the community.
“Vehicles bring good things and we don’t see it always in this place,” he said.
He said when they were relocated to Yangoji during the Nasir el-Rufai administration, they were paid monthly stipend of between N4,000 and N6,000.
He, however, said the stipend stopped coming the moment El-Rufai’s term as FCT minister ended.
“Whenever we go to the town to beg people are always chasing us away like dogs. Yet we are Nigerians and there has been little support from few public spirited Nigerians,” he said.
For 20 years, Lawal Mohammed has been living with leprosy. Though he is cured but the damage has already been done with all his toes and some of his fingers now stumps, yet he still farms.
“If I don’t go to the farm, how will I provide for my family,” he said, adding that it has been difficult.
Lawal who is also the community’s secretary said the condition of the lepers hardly attracted government attention and intervention. He said most of the mechanised boreholes in the community have packed up forcing them to take turns while using the three functioning ones.
Saidu Wakili, another leper is yet to devise how to feed and pay school fees for his eight children. He said his biggest headache was the reluctance of the residents and stiff government stance on street begging.
“In fact, the moment people see your fingers they start running away from you. If you beg few would give you money,” he said.
He said it was sad to be so stigmatized and looked down upon. “We don’t have anybody to help us. Because of this sickness we are facing many challenges, especially from other Nigerians and we all belong to this country,” he said.
Isa, while corroborating Wakili, said the lepers don’t have good life in the community because most of the buildings have not been renovated and they don’t have the means to do that.
“We are yet to be well fed, so how do we repair our leaking roofs and make a good shelter for ourselves,” he queried.
He continued, “We don’t have any good life here, only God can help us. We have not received anything from the government and when we go to Area 3 they send us away, where do they want us to go?”
“We don’t have food and our husbands are not good enough to engage in active farming,” the women leader in the community, Hadiza Sarki, said.
She said women are usually left to attend to their ailing husbands after they return from the farm,
“If my husband goes to the farm, he usually comes back sick and is bedridden for a month,” she added.
Umala Keri, a pregnant woman in the community said most women deliver at home due to the poor state of the community’s primary healthcare centre.
“I have two children and they were delivered at home because if we go to the clinic, they will refer us to Kwali Hospital and we don’t have money to go there,” she said.
Hadiza said the nurses at the community’s PHC always referred them to Kwali without considering how they would get there.
“Look at that child, he is sick, we went to the PHC, no drugs and we don t have money to go to Kwali,” Hadiza said.
A health worker at the PHC who pleaded anonymity said there were three nurses working at the centre and a doctor who visited from time to time.
She said drugs have not been supplied to the centre for more than one year.
She said some of the women were trained traditional birth attendants and attended to expectant mothers since none of the health workers stayed in the community.
Whenever we go to the town to beg people are always chasing us away like dogs. Yet we are Nigerians and there has been little support from few public spirited Nigerians
One of the houses allotted to the lepers in Yangoji
Chief of the lepers, Ali Isa