The Bayelsa State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has blamed malaria-related deaths in the state on the failure of the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Azibapu Eruani, to distribute insecticide-treated mosquito nets to the populace.
The council noted that non-distribution of the nets as directed by the Federal Government's Rollback Malaria Programme(RMP) was "a crime against humanity", saying that the commissioner's insensitivity was a setback on government's efforts at eradicating malaria.
In a statement on Wednesday in Yenagoa, signed by the council's chairman, Mr. Tarinyo Akono, the union said that more than 700,000 treated nets of the RMP had been dumped at the Bayelsa State Ministry of Health.
"The ministry took delivery of the nets from the Federal Government as part of efforts to reduce death from malaria under the Rollback Malaria Programme but it left the nets in the uncompleted Melford Okilo Memorial Hospital," the council stated.
It noted that the people of Bayelsa, especially children died of malaria within the past one year, saying they might not have died if the nets had been distributed on time.
But, in his reaction, Eruani refused to accept responsibility for the failure of the ministry to distribute the nets, attributing the development to factors beyond his ministry's control.
Eruani spoke on Wednesday in response to the union's allegations, disclosing that the ministry's failure to distribute the nets was due to financial challenges.
"We faced financial challenges, due to the electioneering period. Also, the distribution of these nets have a process, it involves the training of personnel, printing of documents as well as putting a system of feedback mechanism in place," he said.
The commissioner explained that the process of distribution entailed a well-planned programme, saying that finance remained the major factor needed to commence distribution.