Port Harcourt — The death of a HIV/AIDS patient, Mrs. Chidinma Maureen Lucky, who was allegedly evicted from a flood relief camp, is generating ripples in Rivers State as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the state has accused the state government of being responsible for her death.
The NGO, Social Action, alleged that Lucky was sent out of Okwuzu Flood Relief Camp set up for those displaced by floods in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area by the Rivers State Flood Management Committee because of her health status on the orders of the state Deputy Governor, Mr. Tele Ikuru.
Briefing journalists Thursday in Port Harcourt, Head of Communications of Social Action, Vivian Bellonwu, said the late Lucky was ejected from the camp with her three children who are between the age of three and nine.
She said the lady had to take up shelter at an uncompleted building in the community, where she lived with her children until her death on November 24.
While calling on the state Governor, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, to order an investigation into the incident, Bellonwu said the state should take responsibility for the death of Lucky. "The eviction was largely responsible for the death of Mrs. Chidinma Maureen Lucky. After her eviction, she became dejected and abandoned by the same government that should have protected her," she said.
The NGO also demanded redress for the children of the deceased, stressing that her eviction from the camp violated the rights of the children and their late mother to shelter, human dignity, and protection against discrimination.
Although the NGO played back video recordings of the interaction it had with the lady on the issue before her demise, it did not establish a link between her death and the alleged eviction. It also did not say it offered any help or suggestion on how the patient could get some treatment or relief.
The basic questions are whether it is true or not that Ikuru actually ordered the eviction of the woman and her children. If he did, how did he know that the woman was HIV/AIDS patient? And could a government determined to rescue its people from the inclement element send them back to the same elements unprotected? And why would a government send an HIV patient out, given that it is not a contagious disease?
In a swift reaction, the state government denied any knowledge of the eviction of the late Lucky or anybody from the relief camp.
A statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said at no time did the deputy governor, who was in charge of all the relief camps set up by the state in the wake of the flood that affected four local government areas, send anybody out of the camp.
"The Rivers State Government wishes to state unequivocally that at no time did the deputy governor of Rivers State order the eviction of any person in any of the camps set up by the Rivers State Government for any reason.
"Indeed the deputy governor took interest in the welfare and well-being of residents in the camps that he made it a point of duty to personally visit all camps. This was in addition to assigning two commissioners to each camp to oversee activities and ensure that all complaints of camp residents were promptly and satisfactorily addressed," she said.
"The Rivers State Government opened up its camps to all persons who had been affected by the flood. No conditions were attached to admissions to the camp except that they should be displaced persons. No medical tests were carried out nor was the HIV status of residents considered necessary in allowing them into the camp, since neither HIV nor AIDS is a communicable disease.
"The Rivers State Government ensured a healthy environment in camp by not only providing potable water and appropriate sanitation but also posting medical personnel to all the camps. In addition to this, mobile clinics were deployed to patrol the affected local government areas.
"In addition to camp officials from the Ministry of Social Welfare and security personnel to guarantee the safety of lives and property at the camps, the chairmen of the affected local government areas made daily visits to the camps to ensure the smooth running of the camps," she added
Semenitari stated that all the relief camps set up by the state were opened to the public and civil society organisations as the state had nothing to hide about the operation of the camps.
"It is curious that Social Action was able to show a recording purportedly of Mrs. Lucky but was neither able to bring her matter to the attention of the Government of Rivers State as soon as it occurred nor offer her any reprieve.
"We find it unbecoming that rather than assist Mrs. Lucky, Social Action's philanthropy is geared towards grandstanding and making a mockery of the unfortunate demise of the said victim.
"The undertone and nature of the statement by Social Action is worrisome and appears to be another politically motivated attempt to discredit the administration of the Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi," Semenitari said.
She said the Amaechi administration would remain unshaken in its determination to protect all residents and visitors to the state "despite the shenanigans of his political detractors".