Monday, 30 May 2016

Sorry State Of Benue Rehabilitation Centre

The Benue State Rehabilitation Board located at Apir community, outskirt of Makurdi town was built to cater for people living with disabilities as well as destitute in the society.

At the moment, the centre established in 2002, which doubles as an academic premises houses over 60 special-need children excluding staff of varied categories, most of who are also physically challenged and teaches different classes of primary school level.

The infrastructural facilities which serve as hostels for inmates, classrooms, vocational training rooms and administrative offices are in deplorable condition following its neglect by past successive governments in the state over the years.

The institution is on eyesore as state of the facilities, especially some areas such as the girls’ hostel and the administrative offices emitted bad smell that that forces one to hold his hand to his nose to prevent offensive odour.

The buildings are dilapidated, with roofs hanging loosely at some areas while the decay in other sides had already forced louvers and ceilings to collapse.

Daily Trust  visited the centre and was conducted round the facility by the Executive Secretary of the Board,  Mrs. Tabitha Nevkaa who said the institution had been trying hard to provide qualitative care for the needy.

Mrs. Nevkaa said infrastructural decay and funding were the major challenges currently bedeviling the centre which presently caters for the deaf, blind and destitute even as it has graduated a good number of physically challenged over time.

“We take care of people with special needs which could be physical, mental or psychological disabilities. The staff are people with special needs as well. There are other outlets in Otukpo, Ushongo and Kastina-Ala towns, it is intended that the centre spreads across all the 23 local government areas of the state.
“Feeding the children here had been a major challenge until recently when the wife of the state governor, Mrs. Eunice Ortom came to our rescue. As you can see, that the office I’m seated right now is leaking and smelling,” she said.
According to her, past administrations in the state had done virtually nothing to keep the centre afloat until Governor Samuel Ortom and his wife, came along on assumption of office some months ago with a promise to soon reconstruct the entire buildings while they provided food for inmates and a vehicle to ease administrative movement.
Our correspondent observed that due to decayed infrastructure at the centre, classrooms are now very limited so that two classes for instance, primary four and five had to share a room with the pupils backing each other and facing opposite directions to learn.
It is also pitiable that over 30 pupils share 12 mattresses in a small boys’ hostel hall while the designated girls’ hostel emit awful smell occasioned by falling roofs and makeshift windows just as the office of the executive secretary is capable of collapsing at any time.
Nevkaa disclosed that past administrations made lean or no budget at all for the centre which makes it practically difficult to run the institution or expand the place to accommodate the mentally-ill and to pick up more destitute from the street, adding that the board currently partners with the Methodist Church in Oju area of the state to harbour mental cases.
“We hope this government will enable us expand the centre here because we have the land so that we don’t look elsewhere. For now, we operate at primary school level with classes from one to six and they are all boarding pupils. Some of them further their education after  leaving here while others don’t, so we also teach vocational studies to make them useful to themselves when they eventually leave here,” she said.
The executive secretary however appealed to good spirited wealthy individuals and non-governmental organisations to assist the board both financially and otherwise to enable it achieve its objectives in making life meaningful for the physically challenged children who are within the ages of seven and 14.
Our correspondent gathered that the centre was actually supposed to be the responsibility of the state and local governments as no fees are charged for either accommodation, school or feeding but the burden had been left in the hands of the state which paid no attention until now that hope seem to be rising for the board following Ortom’s intervention.
Already, the governor had mandated the Ministry of Works to carry out the necessary assessment for the reconstruction of the institution in order to give it a facelift with the promise that as soon as he signs the budget into law, money would be released to bring life back to the centre.
It was learnt that the structures were constructed not long after the state was created in 1976 but that government took it over in 2002 for the establishment of the rehabilitation centre and ever since, no renovation had been carried out to strengthen the structure.
For instance, in the girls’ hostel visited, only three ramshackle rooms were allotted to nearly 30 of them as the over seven rooms including the sitting room and dining section were no longer habitable. The smelly toilet and a bathroom were also no longer good for use despite effort of the workers to keep the entire environment neat. Indeed, it is no exaggeration that the centre may close down unless the governor fulfils his promises to rescue the situation which had suffered neglect for so long.

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