A day with other vic­tims of Abuja NAF jet crash

Weekly Trust - - News - El­iz­a­beth Eli­jah Taiwo Adeniyi El­iz­a­beth rests on a bed at Maitama Dis­trict Hos­pi­tal PHO­TOS: El­iz­a­beth’s mother, Mrs. Eli­jah Other out-of-school chil­dren

El­iz­a­beth Eli­jah, 15, lives in a room with her fam­ily in Jikoko, a com­mu­nity in Bwari Area Coun­cil, Abuja. The first of five chil­dren of a farmer and food ven­dor has been out of school for two years due to the in­abil­ity of the par­ents to raise N36,000 school fees. She now sup­ports her par­ents and cares for her sib­lings, in­clud­ing a oneyear-old. At least twice in a week, she goes to dis­tant forests to fetch fire­wood which her mother uses to cook the rice and beans she sells.

Fri­day, Septem­ber 28 2018, El­iz­a­beth had gone to fetch wood, when two Nigerian Air Force (NAF) jets crashed, leav­ing one of the pi­lots dead. She told Daily Trust Satur­day that it hap­pened in the com­pany of her brother James and a neigh­bour. She said they ini­tially thought the para­chutes were bal­loons, and while they watched, the ex­plo­sion from one of the jets crash­ing pushed them down with force. They got up, afraid, and as they ran, a frag­ment of the jet’s fuse­lage struck the teen.

El­iz­a­beth, in Pid­gin English, nar­rated: “There was some­thing like fire in­side my leg, and the iron that hit me was very hot. No­body fit hold am.” She cried, and shouted for help. “Some chil­dren now came, and one girl then tried re­mov­ing the iron but it was very hot so she could not touch it. She used a wrap­per, a rag on my body to hold the iron be­fore she re­moved it from my leg,” she said, but she could not walk the long dis­tance home.

One of the young­sters who rushed to El­iz­a­beth’s aid, Favour John-Paul, said after they ran in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, she ran back to El­iz­a­beth when she shouted for help. “I saw El­iz­a­beth cry­ing and crawl­ing, and I saw a piece of me­tal in her leg. Flesh was show­ing, and there was blood on her leg,” she said.

El­iz­a­beth con­tin­ued, that as a small crowd gath­ered, a man came and said he knew her fa­ther, so he took her home. But the pain did not end, as her mother could only af­ford treat­ment at the pri­mary health­care cen­tre in the com­mu­nity. When done there, a man came, that the Bwari Area Coun­cil chair­man, Musa Dikko, had or­dered her to be treated. She said she was re­turned to the pri­mary health­care cen­tre, where she was treated bet­ter in the evening, and health work­ers pre­scribed some drugs.

Her mother, Mrs. Vic­to­ria Eli­jah, said she had no money when the drugs were pre­scribed, and had to sell food the next day with the hope of rais­ing some. She told Satur­day that her daugh­ter could hardly sleep at night due to pain.

Mrs. Vic­to­ria was able to re­alise N3,000 the next day, but was left with the dilemma of buy­ing the drugs or let­ting her other four chil­dren go hun­gry. She stood con­fused, with five chil­dren, and her hus­band had trav­elled. Then some­one came knock­ing at mid­night. “I was afraid,” she said. “When I opened the door, I was so con­fused that I didn’t know when I col­lapsed. They car­ried me, telling me not to be afraid. They came with an am­bu­lance, took the girl to the hos­pi­tal in the night, and the doc­tors at­tended to her till after 5am be­fore she slept.”

Mrs Vic­to­ria said she later got to know that a man who col­lected her num­ber ear­lier where she was sell­ing food had con­tacted the FCT Call Cen­tre and Brekete Fam­ily pro­gram at Hu­man Rights Sta­tion, who in turn had con­tacted the FCT Min­is­ter, Muham­mad Musa Bello. She said the min­is­ter or­dered for the treat­ment at Maitama Dis­trict Hos­pi­tal.

The Med­i­cal Di­rec­tor of Maitama Dis­trict Hos­pi­tal, Dr. Suleiman Ahmed said the pa­tient has been re­spond­ing to treat­ment and would be dis­charged soon, “The min­is­ter gave me a blank cheque to treat her,” he said.

Though still on hos­pi­tal bed, El­iz­a­beth, orig­i­nally from Kaduna State, told Satur­day that after be­ing out of school for two years, she was given a schol­ar­ship up to uni­ver­sity level by the FCT min­is­ter. “When I was out of school, I prayed to God to bless my mother so that I will re­turn to school. I never thought of get­ting all this be­fore the in­ci­dent, but I am so happy now,” she said, un­der­scor­ing the irony in the sit­u­a­tion. She added that her am­bi­tion is to be­come a med­i­cal doc­tor.

While El­iz­a­beth Eli­jah re­cu­per­ates, Favour, who ran to her aid, re­mains shaken. She has been un­able to leave her house since then, and is said to be psy­cho­log­i­cally un­sta­ble, ac­cord­ing to her mother, Mrs. Mary Joy John-Paul. She said her child could not at­tend school on the fate­ful day be­cause there was no trans­port fare. “Since that day, she has not gone to school. But thank God, she has re­cov­ered. This morn­ing, she was the one cheer­ing me up. But I will never al­low her to pick fire­wood again,” she said.

Satur­day dis­cov­ered that there are sev­eral chil­dren in the com­mu­nity who are out of school, in­clud­ing Kauna Ha­bila, who left school when she was in pri­mary three ear­lier in the year. The 10-year-old girl’s dream of be­com­ing a teacher heads for a rock, bar­ring in­ter­ven­tion from the gov­ern­ment, or phi­lan­thropists. She said the left school be­cause there was no­body to pay her school fees as such she spent more than four hours daily on the farm as­sist­ing her par­ents. She feared that she could end up like her elder brother, a se­condary school dropout who has never re­turned.

Also, Ne­hemiah Haruna, 14, has joined an ap­pren­tice­ship with a welder in the com­mu­nity as his par­ents could not pay his school fees after he wrote the ju­nior se­condary school ex­am­i­na­tion. He has been at home, help­ing them on the farm in the morn­ing and join­ing the welders in the evening. “I feel sad about not go­ing to school be­cause I like go­ing to school. But there is noth­ing I could do than stay at home and help my par­ents to raise the money,” he said.

Taiwo Adeniyi

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