A Mother’s Agony

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After the death of her five-year-old son from dog bite two weeks ago, Mrs. Patience Odukomaya has cried out for justice. Rebeca Ejifoma reports on the agony of the mother, who has since lost her matrimonial home

This is a pathetic story of a pet gone wild after a resident’s dog bit Jomiloju Odukomaya in the Rufus Olaniyan Estate of Irawo-Owode area of Ikorodu Lagos State. This is said to be one of the four dogs of the owner of the estate, who was said to have without empathy simply told the victim’s mother, “I heard he died. Sorry about it.”

THISDAY gathered that things began falling apart for Patience last month when her little boy died. This was as a result of the August 8 unfortunate incident. She narrated that Jomiloju had cried for some biscuit. So, his mother gave him the money to go get it from a nearby shop. It was on the way back home the dog bit him by the hand.

According to the mother of five, she took the bitten child to a nearby private clinic, New Life Hospital. The child was treated after she explained to them the incident. The wound healed with time. But two weeks after he was running temperature. Because she thought it was malaria, she took him back to the hospital and was injected.

Unfortunately, on September18 this year, little Jomiloju died of rabies. “It was at the General Hospital that we conducted a test and was diagnosed of rabies. The hospital referred them to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) at Idi-Araba. But it was already too late. So, he died,” she explained.

The 34 years old mother of three, explained that indeed, her boy displayed signs of rabies such as seizures, hydrophobia and change in tone like barked and bit his mother before his death.

While drowning in the pool of her own tears and obviously lost in the forest of her thoughts, her husband sent her packing. “He comes home at weekend. So, he knew about it. He gave me some money to get the child treated. But the death of our son made him send me away.

“He took my first child from me, a son. This is a double blow for me. I am left alone to cater for myself and the baby all alone. Just a few days ago, I bumped into the owner of the dog. He told me casually, ‘sorry, madam.’”

The Edo State indigene, who has turned monosyllabic and faint in words, looked downtrodden and sober while speaking to THISDAY. “I am suffering now. My son is gone. My husband deserted me whereas the dog that is responsible for his death is still there with the other three dogs,” she lamented.

Her plea: “I need justice for my baby boy. He only went to get some biscuit to eat. The state government, rights groups and individuals should help me get justice.”

Swiftly on the heels of this, the Chairman of the Lagos Chapter of the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), Dr. Alao Mobolaji, decried the case of Jomiloju as an evitable one but ended on an unfortunate note.

The boy was said to have bitten his mother before his death while displaying signs of rabies. “The surviving mother and her child have since been receiving post-exposure immunisation against rabies disease. And we are quite hopeful of their protection.”

Reacting to the rampant incident that had recently disturbed serenity of the state, Mobolaji disclosed the list of sudden deaths to rabies. From the death of 21 years old Aishat Opakunle to that of 14 years old James Makwa Musa both of Mologede Estate, Meiran in August 2014. “They were bitten by the same dog and died shortly after showing cardinal signs of rabies in man.”

No doubts, concerned about the rate of stray dogs moving indiscriminately and biting her citizens to death, Mobolaji said the list of victims has called for immediate concern. “A 45-year-old commercial bus driver, Saturday Akpomose was bitten by seven dogs in Ajah area of Lagos when he went visiting a relative. Five years old Odion was fiercely attacked by two Alsatian dogs that bit off almost his entire scalp in Igando Area. We need to look into this.”

As a precaution, the doctor has given these simple steps to avoiding such painful demise of citizens from rabies. “When a dog bites anyone, clean the wound with bleach, then with dettol. After which, you should take the victim to the nearest hospital.

“The death of the boy is an eye-opener. This is something we can avoid. Dog attacks are now on the increase. And the number of dogs in the state has increased exponentially in the last five years. Lagos alone habours 2.5 million dogs for various reasons.”

While noting that the Lagos chapter has over the years shown commitment to the control of rabies by organising advocacies to educate members of the public and also conduct free rabies vaccination in different parts of the state, “it is our hope that government of the day will rise up to consolidate these efforts and will not trivialise the subject as it has done in times past.

“We need stronger policies of dogs and animal laws in the country. Dogs are the source of the vast majority of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99 per cent of all rabies transmissions to humans. Dog owners need to become responsible for their dogs biting people.

“To prevent further assaults and needless casualties from dog attacks, we are calling for an urgent review of the existing dog’s law to accommodate more contemporary issues like dangerous and nuisance dogs, leash laws and responsible ownership laws among others.”

The association, also, called for the upgrade of the existing veterinary clinics and hospitals around the state to improve veterinary healthcare and also the ability to diagnose rabies. “Truth is, there is no veterinary clinics that can diagnose rabies in Lagos.

“We call for adequate equipping and mobilisation of the stray dog project of the state government to enable removal of the many stray dogs on our streets which are potential carriers of rabies disease; there should be improved collaboration between all stakeholders (human medics, nurses, public health officers and others) in alignment with the one world health initiative as zoonotic diseases will only get more important in the days ahead.

Although NVMA says it would continue to advocate and educate the public and conduct free rabies vaccination in different parts of the state, it says it is its hope that the government would rise to consolidate its efforts.

“Dogs have to be licensed. Dog owners should vaccinate their dogs every year. We don’t have to lose anyone to rabies or dangerous dog attacks.”

Today, Patience has lost her second child and son of three children including a girl (the last), her home and her joy. This is, indeed, the sorrows of motherhood and part of the vicissitudes of life. But then, her tears for justice are still overflowing.