The navy medical team attending to patients

The Nigerian Navy recently offered free medical services in Ugep community as part of events to celebrate its Diamond Jubilee, writes Bassey Inyang

According to historical records, the Nigerian Navy was established on June 1, 1956 with the responsibility of protecting the nation’s territorial integrity from the coastal region.

First it was christened the Nigerian Navy Defence Force (NNDF), and after Nigeria attained political independence from Britain in 1960 and eventually become a republic in 1963, it was renamed the Nigerian Navy.

So, recently, from May 18th to June 1st officers and rating of the Nigerian Navy rolled sailed across the territorial waters of the country, into far flung communities in the nation’s hinterland to celebrate its 60 years of existence- Diamond Jubilee.

The Eastern Naval Command (ENC) with headquarters in Calabar, celebrated the epoch making event in a unique fashion.

Aside from the normal military fashion in the bases and platforms where an event of such magnitude are usually celebrated, the uniqueness the navy introduced was the medical rhapsody for the civilian population within the operational territories of the ENC.

Medical rhapsody, according to the Nigerian Navy is one of the numerous avenues through which it showcases its humanitarian content by reaching out to the civilian population and offering them free medical service; and in the process appreciating the support of their host communities in enabling the navy to carry out its principal functions of protecting the nation’s coastal waters.

Being one of the numerous activities lined up for the celebration of its Diamond Jubilee, Ugep , a densely populated community and headquarters of Yakurr Local Government Area, Central Cross River State was chosen as centre for the staging of the medical rhapsody through which free medical services were offered to the hundreds of people who presented themselves from the entire Yakurr and beyond.

To ensure the success of the medical rhapsody, the navy deployed scores of well trained medical personnel, among them consultants from its medical corps, and the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH).

Medical services offered by the navy included eye screening, surgery for removal of eye cataract, diabetes screening, free blood pressure checks, de-worming of children, malaria treatment, and distribution of insecticide treated mosquito nets, distribution of drugs, and a health talk.

Complicated eye problems that were not envisaged, but discovered to be the ailments suffered by some of the patients who were screened were referred to the Navy referral hospital in Calabar for further free medical treatment.

Speaking at the opening session of the event which held in the conference room of Yakurr Local Government Secretariat on Monday May 23, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral James Oluwole, said the Navy acknowledges and appreciates the role of the civilian populace in the society.

The FOC who was represented by Commodore Tanko Pani, said that the medical rhapsody was one of the ways the navy shows concerns for the civilian population in their areas of responsibility.

He said they would always work to add value to the lives of the people they are trained to protect.
The FOC, therefore, appealed to the people of Yakurr to avail themselves of the medical rhapsody.

The Commander of the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital in Calabar, Surgeon Rear Admiral Abubakar Yusuf, said the navy conducts medical rhapsody as a means of promoting good health among selected communities.
Yusuf stated that the medical rhapsody was designed to also to promote good relations between the Navy and the civilian populace they protect.

Yusuf who stated that it was the first time free eye surgery would form part of the medical rhapsody, added that other health checks would be carried out on the people during the exercise.

“Several persons will benefit from the free cataract surgery and will also be given eye glasses accordingly while over 500 were tested, treated and given drugs in other ailment.

“We have had a cordial relationship with this community over the years. We are offering them this medical service in order to strengthen that existing relationship.

“We came with all our relevant equipment for this exercise. I am happy that we have positively affected the health of residents in this community. As people get older, the number of cataract cases increases.”
Explaining why the navy decided to offer free eye surgery, Yufuf said:”Well, we know that the Nigerian society is getting older. We are getting older people generally our life expectancy has increased. So, in some Nigerian communities, we will have the number of people we are treating. “

Cataract is such a condition that treatment is readily available with less complication and the benefit is so much to the people.

“So, we have our people in communities like this who have treatment that is readily available, but they are struggling through life. So, we believe that the medical rhapsody will have some positive impact on the community and like the representative of the FOC said, we are ready to take on any number, including in our hospital in Calabar. So, we had to identify this because the surgery would be beneficial to them. We have identified some eye conditions now which we did not envisage. We will still take them on at no cost.”

The Paramount Ruler of Ugep, Obol Opon Offem Ubana, who declared the event open expressed gratitude to the Navy for choosing his community for the medical rhapsody.

Ubana said the gesture was a testimony that the navy cared for members of the civilian population they are mandated to protect.

“I wish to thank the Nigerian Navy for this humanitarian gesture. It is a rare one. Imagine the huge sum of money our people would have spent in different hospitals seeking for this treatment, but the navy has offered this treatment free of charge,” the monarch said.

A beneficiary of the free medical service, Mr. Enang Tom, who’s eye cataract was operated on expressed gratitude to the navy for the gesture done to him and others in the community.

“I have been suffering from eye problems for almost three years now without money to go for proper medical checkups. I wish to thank the navy for this free medical treatment,” Tom said.

A beneficiary of the medical service who gave her name as Gladys Okoi said,” I have been screened and given drugs. What the navy is doing is very good. It is very nice. I am very happy and I thank God for the navy.
Another beneficiary of the free medical treatment, Hon. Obia Ekuru, spoke on the gesture from the navy, saying:”It is a good thing. That means they want to help us. Once in a while, if somebody pays or wants to treat you free or half of the payment is made, that is something good. That shows that we are being recognised that we are part of them. If it is possible, they can do it often, but the cost is what I am thinking about.”