By Samuel Onyekwere
The people of Takwa Bay, a sleepy town on the Lagos coastline, can boast of being one of the early settlers in Lagos. Despite being surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean that boast of the attractive Takwa Bay beach, and the beautiful Victoria Island city, not forgetting the sprawling Eko Atlantic City, the inhabitants are cut off from the current trend of infrastructural development in Lagos State.
Populated by over 150,000, both indigenes and non-indigenes, the community plays host to one of the most visited beach sites in Lagos by Nigerians and foreigners – the Takwa Bay Beach. For over 100 years of its existence, the community has never enjoyed electricity though there is an ongoing construction of a mini power station by the NNPC close to the community.
A tour of the community courtesy of DevComs Media Network revealed that Takwa Bay community has only one primary health care center manned by one doctor, two community health workers, and a matron who only work during the week days. Most affected by these lack of infrastructure like electricity and poor health facilities, are the women who have had to brace the odd of giving birth, under the most strenuous and cruel situations.
The heart touching stories of these women and their travails during child birth speaks volume of government neglect and inability to cater for its citizens.
For Mrs. Modupe Bernard, a mother of eight, her experience was more significant as she delivered seven out of her eight children at home. Her words, “I had seven of my children at home. Whenever it was time, I will deliver in my house, and then call my sister, who is a traditional birth attendant, and ask her to come and help me cut the umbilical cord. I thank God for everything because this is what my grandmother used to do. She was a traditional birth attendant and my sister took over from her after she died. So, my sister is a traditional birth attendant in this community. I was lucky that there were no complications in all my deliveries. I had seven of my children in this community. I have been in this community since 1981.”
Seun Olabode, a mother of four, cut a pitiable sight as she narrates her story with her set of twins seated in her laps. With the cry of one of the twins shattering the air, the 26-year-old revealed that it was the grace of God that saw her through the delivery of her set of twins as she almost lost her life because of lack of facilities at the health center. She said the father of her children abandoned her since the birth of the twins, and she is now left with the responsibility of taking care of the four children. The worst is that she is an orphan with no relative to run to. Asked about her husband’s family, she said she has never met any of her husband’s relatives as they are not legally married. She sells drinks to support her.
A mother of three, Bose Toma, said she could not deliver her last child Moses at the health center because she went into labor at night and there was nobody at the center to attend to her. Aside that, there was no light in the center, as there is no generator. Though she had her ante natal at the health center, she had to make do with the services of a traditional birth attendant named Iya Ajimo, during her delivery.
The mother of three revealed that in the last six months, two women have died from complications during their delivery. Both of them died of excess bleeding as they were being ferried to the town after child delivery. One died inside the boat, while being conveyed to the hospital while the second died in the hospital.
She added that the inhabitants suffer a lot from malaria because of the presence of stagnant water and dirt gutters around the community, though she admitted that the residents received mosquito nets through the health center. On the issue of water, Toma, said the inhabitants drink sachet water for those that can afford while others fetch from a borehole nearby as the sea water is not good for consumption.
Another lady in the community Yetunde Agbaje, the daughter of the former Baale of the community, said the community needs health care providers and would be glad if the government can train her as a nurse as she is passionate about the profession. According to Miss Agbaje, the health center personnel’s are only available during the working days and go back to their base on weekends.
She explains more, “they only stay during the week days and go back on Friday or Saturday, that means if there is emergence during the weekend, its only God that can save us. Various government officials have visited us here with the promise of installing transformers and mounting electricity poles for us, but all are empty promises”. She however appealed for donation of more equipment to the health center, including a solar power to light the center, a laboratory and fully stocked pharmacy.
The most painful and pathetic of their travails is that there is no access road from the community to other parts of the state except through the sea. Unfortunately, if an emergence situation arises and there is no boat available, the person concerned may not survive the ordeal..
The acting Baale of the Community, Chief Francis Olatunji Maxwell, while corroborating the complaints of the women, said the community desperately needs electricity, teachers for the primary and the secondary schools, and more doctors for the health center which needs to be equipped to function effectively.
According to him, the community has been in existence before the First World War and has never had government presence. Asked if government is not aware of their situation, he explains further, “government officials have been coming here and we have been in talks with them and we are hopeful that they will soon connect the community with light through the NNPC mini power station that is still under construction.”
He revealed further that despite the challenges of electricity, businesses are still thriving in the community as most of them are artisans.
“We are hard working people. We have a lot of artisans here. The kinds of work people do outside we have people that do them here. You have like generator repairers, tailors, bet houses, canteen operators, carpenters, barbers, mechanics and electricians etc. They mostly use generators for their business.”
On the issue of public toilet, since not all families have toilet, the Baale said the community is working on building a public toilet and also assured that there is no security issue in the area.
In all, the community is faced with a lot of development challenges. But more critical is the unhygienic nature of the environment, as the unkempt gutters scattered around the community have become a breeding ground for mosquitoes with the presence of dustbin dump site littered around the community.