Adeyemi Abdul, an English Language graduate from the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Kwara State, needed to get a medical report before embarking on the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exercise, in October 2021.
As part of the guidelines stated on the NYSC website, such reports are now required, so as to ascertain the fitness of prospective corps members for orientation camp activities, which are mostly paramilitary, before they can be certified to take part.
To meet this requirement, Abdul visited a government-owned hospital in Ilorin on October 2, 2021 for his medical tests.
Abdul, who is an Ilorin resident, knew that the test could either be expensive or very cheap, depending on his hospital choice. In the end, he opted to visit the hospital that would see him spend the cheapest amount for the report he needed.
To the 27-year-old’s surprise, he got the medical certificate for N1,000, and without getting tested, at the Civil Service Hospital, Ilorin.
However, the ease that came with the certificate issuance got Abdul worried, and, for this reason, he was forced to reach out to this reporter, just so, a proper investigation could be conducted on the hospital.
Just a few days before this reporter decided to pay a visit to the hospital, a few more people also came forward to talk about how they were able to obtain their reports from the same hospital with ease, just like Abdul.
FIRST VISIT TO THE CIVIL SERVICE HOSPITAL
To validate the narratives gathered so far, this reporter visited the hospital on October 13, 2021.
Unlike what had been envisaged, there was no crowd at the hospital upon arrival.
When it was time to see the official attending to patients, however, the response she gave meant that this reporter would have to come back another day.
“Come back very early tomorrow morning,” the officer snapped. “The Admin officers have closed for today; it is 4 pm already. You’d also have to pay to get the report you seek.”
This conversation also meant that anyone or patient that required emergency medical attention, would only be attended to, when the administrative officers are available.
2ND VISIT… AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE ADMIN OFFICER
The reporter returned to the hospital the following day, but, unlike the first time, it was now crowded.
While waiting to be attended to, just like others present, one of the admin officers, a middle-aged man, would come out from an inner office, and from time to time, to either measure a patient’s height or weight.
This went on for hours.
Eventually, it was this reporter’s turn to enter the inner office, where it became clear the hospital admin officials work from.
“What can I do for you?” the middle-aged official, who had been coming out to take patients’ vitals, asked rather impatiently.
“I have come for medical fitness test.”
“You mean the NYSC medical fitness certificate?” the man probed further.
“Yes, sir,” replied this reporter.
“Wait outside, I will join you now,” he said, turning to attend to a woman and a teenage daughter who were also waiting in the office.
From the reporter’s standing position outside the office, the man was seen handing a piece of paper to the woman with an instruction to write all relevant medical information applicable to her daughter (including genotype and blood group type) on it.
When she had done this, he told her to wait outside with her daughter.
During a chat with the woman while waiting outside, she revealed that her daughter, who was about to start her secondary school education at a boarding school, needed to present a medical certificate as part of the admission requirements at her new school.
“That’s why we’re here,” she said.
THE ALREADY-MADE MEDICAL CERTIFICATE
After a while, the admin official emerged, bearing a piece of document that looked like a pre-prepared medical certificate in his hand and gave it to the woman.
The woman thanked him and left with her equally delighted daughter. After this, the man turned to this reporter and handed him a piece of paper.
“Take this, write your genotype and blood group on it,” he instructed.
This reporter immediately did as he was told. After collecting the paper, the man further instructed him to first mount a weighing scale and then a faulty stadiometer.
In less than three minutes, he announced the height and weight results in figures. He then returned to his office with the information.
In less than five minutes, the man re-emerged with a fabricated medical fitness certificate containing some bizarre medical history for this reporter.
“Have I told you this would cost you N1000?, the man asked.
“No, sir,” this reporter replied, feigning innocence.
“You mean your friends did not tell you? Well, it is N1000,” the man said, with an expression that showed he was already becoming irritated with the prolonged chat.
“Ok sir, I will make a transfer to you now,” this reporter said apologetically.
“We don’t accept transfers! Go out of the premises, there is a POS merchant in front of the building. Come back with your N1000 cash to have your certificate!” he bellowed.
ISSUED REPORT VS APPROPRIATE REPORT
Apart from the two non-laboratory tests that were almost inaccurately conducted (the faulty weighing scale and stadiometer), no less than five other ‘imaginary’ laboratory tests results were reflected on the medical certificate.
In the document dubbed ‘Medical Certificate of Fitness’, signed and stamped by the medical officer in-charge, tests such as the Packed Cell Volume (PCV), Urinalysis, Vision, pulse and blood pressure were also stated to have been ‘carried out’ on the certificate.
Shockingly, and despite these fabrications, the medical certificate issued still could not be termed as comprehensive.
According to Kazeem Ogunsola, a medical doctor at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Abeokuta, Ogun State, tests for HIV, Genotype, Blood group, Chest X-ray, PCV, HCV, Urinalysis, Haemoglobin Genotype, Stool analysis, Blood pressure, Visual acuity, Blood Sugar level are the comprehensive medical laboratory tests prospective corps members are expected undergo to be confirmed medically fit for such activities.
“HBsAg (Hepatitis B Screening) and blood sugar tests are also added in some instances,” the doctor added.
VIRTUAL MILLING MACHINE FOR FABRICATING CERTIFICATES
Apart from obtaining a fake medical report visiting a hospital, it has been discovered that same can now be gotten through virtual channels.
Jide Ibrahim, another serving corps member, said his own certificate was ‘milled’ at an internet café, after following a lead he got from a WhatsApp group he belongs to.
“Someone had advertised that one could get a medical fitness certificate or/and a report, without ever having to physically present in any health facility, on a WhatsApp group I belong to,” he said in a chat.
“It’s good for people like me. I don’t have the time to visit any hospital to waste time; I was busy.”
Following directives contained in the chat, Ibrahim sent his details, that included his name, age, blood group and genotyp, to the contact displayed in the body of WhatsApp advert.
He was subsequently asked to pay N1500 for the service that was about to be rendered and he obliged.
After a few minutes, a mail containing a document purportedly sent from a Lagos State Government medical facility in Isolo was sent to him.
All that was left for him was to visit a nearby Cafe so as to get the document, or better put, the ‘medical certificate’, on a concron paper.
There at the café, the attendants he met understood what he wanted, and they did it to near-perfection.
A visit to a similar cafés by this reporter also unravelled many cases that were similar to Ibrahim’s.
Most prospective corps members were seen printing out fake medical reports on concron papers as part of the requirements for the mandatory one-year service.
ONE DEATH TOO MANY IN NYSC CAMPS DUE TO FAKE MEDICAL REPORTS
The culture of falsified medical certificates by prospective corps members in NYSC camps, though avoidable tragedies, subject the 49-year-old scheme to periodic public criticism.
There have been many instances of core members slumping and dying while partaking in taxing activities at orientation camps all around the country.
These tragedies, however, would have been avoided if proper attention had been given to the kind of medical reports corpse members present for the three-week-long exercise.
Unfortunately, till we speak, issues relating to the disastrous effect that the proliferation of fake medical reports have on the programme have been left unaddressed for years.
In February and March, two corps members were pronounced dead due to health-related issues.
Ajang Blessing Ajiji, with state code number, NS/21B/180, died of pneumonia while on primary assignment in Nasarawa State, while Musa Momoh Tunde, with the state code number KB/22A/2278, had slumped and died while partaking in camp activities in Kebbi.
In April 2019, the year that preceded the Covid-19 pandemic, no less than 261 corps members got redeployed on the basis of health, at the Osun State NYSC orientation camp.
Further investigation showed that ill-health and pregnancy statuses were the two prominent reasons for redeployment of corps members.
DEATHS BETWEEN 2016 AND 2018
This, however, was nothing compared to the series of tragic incidents of deaths in the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 service years, where the deaths of four corp members were reported for the respective years, at orientation camps across the country.
The report further revealed that most of the medical issues that happened in the camps would have been avoidable without fake medical reports.
In November 2016, Ifedayo Oladapo, a first class graduate of Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho, Osun State, had died following complications arising from an ailment at the Kano State NYSC Orientation Camp.
In the same year, Monday Asuquo, a graduate of Petroleum Engineering from the University of Uyo, died of pneumonia at the Zamfara State orientation camp.
A few days after Asuquo’s death, Elechi Chinyerum Nwenenda, a Batch B (Stream I) student, died at the Bayelsa State Orientation Camp, after a brief illness.
In April 2018, the corpse of Hilda Uchechukwu Amadi, a graduate of Oil and Gas Engineering from the University of Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, was returned to her parents from the Yikpata Orientation Camp in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Amadi had died during one of the morning drills at the camp premises.
MEDICAL REPORTS AS PRE-REQUISITE FOR NYSC SERVICE
Following the tragic deaths recorded amongst corps members in 2016, the NYSC management made it mandatory that all prospective corps members must submit medical fitness certificates when turning up at NYSC camps nationwide.
“All prospective corps members MUST present THEIR medical certificate from a government or military hospital showing their health status before they will be registered and admitted to the orientation course,” read a statement by the NYS board.
“The management wishes prospective Corps members a safe journey to their respective camps as well as a successful Orientation course,” a statement by the board reads in part.
“Also reacting to the unsavoury events in the preceding exercises, the scheme’s Director of Press and Public Relation, Mrs Adenike Adeyemi, reported to have noted that the management of NYSC is faced with the challenge of corps members that come into the camp with peculiar health challenge that will not allow them participate in strenuous activities.
“Such corps members sometimes conceal their real health status and attempt to participate in such activities. This is where complications occur and they will later confirm their true health status. That is why the management has come up with the idea of corps members presenting a certified medical report indicating their health status on arrival at orientation camps. We now use such reports to exempt those with serious health challenges from participating in strenuous activities on camp.”
However, there are question marks over the efficacy of the supposed solution.
“With the current trend of payment-for-medical-report, NYSC will have to fashion ways of determining medical reports that are original from the ones that are fake, if further deaths are to be prevented,” said Olumide Oki, a corpses member serving in Gombe State.
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