10 February 2013

Nigeria: Thinking She Would Die, Polio Worker Called Husband to Ask for Forgiveness

Photo: Gates Foundation
A local health worker carries polio vaccines in Nigeria (file photo).

Kano — The survivors of last Friday's attack on polio workers in Kano have recounted and shared their experiences with Sunday Trust.

At least, nine people, mostly women, were shot dead while six others were critically injured after gunmen attacked polio workers in Kano. The attackers stormed a primary health clinic at Unguwa Uku in Tarauni local government area and Hotoron Haye at Eastern by-pass when the vaccination workers were about to go out for mop-up exercise to conclude the four-day polio vaccination campaign.

The twin attacks, which were the first of their kind on health officials in the state, took place about an hour apart at Kauyen Alu Primary Health Care, Unguwa Uku and Hotoron Haye at eastern by-pass of the city.

According to witnesses, the gunmen shot indiscriminately at the workers and assumed that they had killed all of them before setting the clinic ablaze.

A witness in the area told these reporters that he saw about three men alighting from a tricycle, popularly called Adaidaita Sahu. "When I first saw them I thought it was a patient they brought to the clinic, but suddenly they brought out guns and started shooting sporadically into the air," the witness said.

Naja'atu Salisu is the only survivor of the attack at Hotoron Haye in Nasarawa local government area of the State. She is responding to treatment at Abdullahi Wase Specialist Hospital after a surgery was performed on her to remove the bullet that pierced through her abdomen.

Describing how he received the news about the attack, Naja'atu's father, Alhaji Salisu Dakata said he was at a filling station when his daughter called him and said they were attacked by gunmen. "I was at a filling station around 9am when Naja'atu called me and said they were attacked and that her younger sister Hauwa was already dead. She said I should come and carry her to the hospital before she died," he said.

Salisu added that when he reached the scene of the incident, security men were already there, saying they were the ones that took him with the victim to Nasarawa Hospital. However, Salisu was able to identify his other daughter, Hauwa, 15, among the dead.

He further said the victim was responding to treatment after the surgery, describing her as a brilliant and dedicated worker who has just completed her studies at the School of Health Technology with flying colors.

According to him, Naja'atu, 17, with her sister, Hauwa, had been participating in the polio exercise in the past without any problem.

Similarly, when Sunday Trust visited Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), it was gathered that about four victims that sustained various degrees of injury were receiving treatment at the hospital's emergency unit.

Khadijah Abubakar, who is among the survivors receiving treatment narrated to our correspondents how the incident happened.

"The attack took place around 9 o'clock when we were preparing for a mop-up exercise to round off the four-day polio vaccination campaign. So we were sitted together with my colleagues in a room inside the clinic, waiting to receive materials for the immunization, when we suddenly heard sporadic gunshots. We all lay flat under the benches. In the process a bullet hit me at my lower back." Khadijah recalled.

According to the 22-year-old Economic graduate of Sa'adatu Rimi College of Education, Kano they all laid motionless when the attackers were going round to make sure that they had killed them, after which they splashed petrol on the hospital and set it ablaze before they fled the area.

Sunday Trust gathered that it took the efforts of some survivors and residents of the area to put the fire off from consuming the clinic.

Another survivor, Zahra'u Ayuba, a mother of four also received treatment at the hospital but could not talk to press due to her severe condition. But her husband, Abdulrazak Umar, gave an account on how he received the news. He said he received a call from her asking him to forgive her; a situation that he said made him dumbfounded on what was really going on.

"She called me on phone asking for my forgiveness. Before I could respond the line went off. When I dialed the number someone picked it and informed me that my wife was shot and she was admitted in the hospital," he said.

Abdulrazak stated that he was shocked when he saw her condition, but said he took it as an act of God, he added that she is responding to treatment, their four children he said are now under the care of a younger sister to his wife.

Among those affected in the attacks, Sunday Trust gathered, are siblings, Ibrahim and Sadi, who joined the vaccination exercise to have some money in their pocket. Sadi died on the spot, while his brother, Ibrahim, is still at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of AKTH at the time our correspondents visited the hospital.

Investigations by our correspondents revealed that the polio workers were to be paid N4,600 at the end of the 4-day vaccination exercise. According to the sources who want to remain anonymous the money covers their feeding, transport and allowances.

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