From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Eighteen years ago, a man donated a bungalow to his Umuduruegwelle community in Ehime Mbano Council of Imo State. Today, the story has changed for the worst. He is reclaiming the the same property with a reason.
Daily Sun gathered that the people of the area had applied to government for recognition as an autonomous community. One of the criteria to be granted such status was having at least a functional health centre.
The community then approached Eugene Njoku, an indigene, but resident in Edo State to assist them by donating his private property for conversion as the community’s primary healthcare centre. Njoku promptly granted the request and government recognised them as an autonomous community.
But 18 years later, the health centre has been abandoned by both the community and government, thereby leaving the building in a dilapidated state to the annoyance of the donor. Disturbed by the abandonment of a property that he had laboured to build, Njoku vowed to take it back and renovate for his own use.
When our correspondent visited the abandoned health centre recently, the donor was seen clearing the premises. The visibly angry Njoku wondered how such monumental neglect was allowed by the government and the community in respect of the property he willingly donated to them in 2003 just for the love of his people.
He regretted that since the building was abandoned and not used for what he gave it out, there was no need allowing it to continue to rot away: “This is my first labour. I want to take back my house; renovate it myself and live there with my children.
“They could not take care of it even when the community did not pay me a kobo. I was residing in Edo State when I gave it to the community. Now that I am in the village, my house should be given back to me.”
Opinions were divided over Njoku’s demand. An indigene of the area, Mrs. Caroline Iwu, said their people have continued to suffer over the neglect of the primary healthcare facility. “Expectant mothers have resorted to going to private hospitals for ante-natal and child delivery.
“Those who cannot afford such facilities patronise traditional birth attendants and healing homes. Nurses working in the health centre have stopped coming to work for many months. You can see how bushy the whole environment is.”
The traditional ruler of the community, Eze Daniel Emereonye, confirmed that Njoku “graciously made available his building for the good of the community in 2003, when he was approached by his people.” He said that the community had written severally to government to come to their aid by reconstructing and making the health centre functional, but all to no avail:
“Njoku gave his house to our community to use as Health Centre for 18 years. Unfortunately, all our self-efforts to upgrade it has been fruitless.”
The monarch, once again, appealed to Governor Hope Uzodimma, to assist them by giving the health centre a facelift and making it function once again.