Posted by By MOLLY KILETE, Abuja on
It was a black day for residents of Jikwoyi, a satellite town in the Federal capital, when six people died after a meal of Okpa, a popular delicacy in Igbo land
It was a black day for residents of Jikwoyi, a satellite town in the Federal capital, when six people died after a meal of Okpa, a popular delicacy in Igbo land .
The sad incident, which occurred at about 9.30 am on the fateful day, immediately threw the whole of Jikwoyi into confusion, wailing and mourning.
Daily Sun gathered that trouble started exactly one and a half hours after some people who had eaten the meal, which they bought from a food vendor, started convulsing, vomiting blood, stooling and fainting.
Those who did not show any of these signs according to residents of the area, complained of serious abdominal pains, while others showed other kinds of reactions.
First to suffer the attack according to Daily Sun investigations, was a family of six, whose breadwinner ran outside crying for help, but before help could get to his family, he had collapsed and started convulsing.
Neighbours who had gathered by this time, to know why one of them had cried for help were dumfounded and shocked when they took their neighbour into his room to revive him. They immediately rushed the whole family to the nearest hospital for medical attention.
On getting to the hospital, the doctor after seeing the different manifestation, immediately suspected food poisoning as the cause of the problem and demanded to know what they had for breakfast but before he could get a reply, another set of people were rushed in again for the same ailment, and while he was making arrangement to handle the situation, yet another group were rushed in and before he knew what was happening, the six bed hospital was full to capacity and the ground littered with patients.
Still shocked at the level of effect the okpa meal had on the patients, the doctor managed to admit those he could, and refer the others to other medical centers in the area.
Out of the over 30 patients that were rushed to his hospital , the medical director of Rapha Maternity, Dr. Ameh Ali, told Daily Sun that one person died, while the others were in terrible state. It was so terrible he said that it took six hefty men to hold firmly those that were convulsing, it was indeed a terrible experience, said Dr Ali during the interview.
But that is not all because soon after Dr. Ali had settled down to work, the children of the woman who sells the okpa were rushed into the hospital, and by the time the news got to the woman, she hurriedly packed up rushed home where she was told they have been rushed to the hospital. She then rushed to the hospital. But few minutes after she got there, she collapsed, followed by two of her other children, and her husband followed suit. As a matter of fact, every member of her family, had a dose of the poison and were all placed on admission.
In his determination to really find out for himself what must have gone wrong, Dr Ali said he had to visit the home of the woman who sells the okpa to find out where the problem came from.
On getting to the home, he demanded to see the okpa meal, which they showed him. Not satisfied with what he saw, he asked for the grain used in preparing the okpa and to his surprise, the whole grain was smelling of chemical, and immediately he knew where the problem came from and there and then he concluded it was a case of chemical food poisoning.
"I think what happened was that the pesticide, a chemical used for the preservation of grains, may not have expired before the grain found its way into the market."
According to him, the chemicals used for such preservations, are usually given a period of time to expire before it can be consumed.
Apart from that, Dr Ali also said that the product may have been poisoned by someone at the stage of preparation.
Daily Sun spoke to the woman who sells the Opka after she had been discharged from the hospital. The woman, Mrs. Helen Ugwu, from Enugu State who came to Abuja in the mid 90s, still in a state of shock and confusion, told Daily Sun that she is still surprised at what had befallen her, because apart from coming from a place where okpa is popularly known, she really cannot explain how the whole thing happened.
Mrs Ugwu, who has been in the business since 1999, said all she knows is that she buys the grain from a particular okpa grain seller also in Jikwoyi.
According to her, the poisoned okpa, was bought a day before the sad incident.
However, the trader who Mrs. Ugwu bought the grains from, Chukwudi Nwankwo, has another version to the swhole story. Chukwudi told Daily Sun bluntly that there was no way the poisoned okpa would have come from him.
Chukwudi, who did not deny knowing Mrs Ugwu as one of his very good customers over the years, while sympathasing with her, said that the woman’s product may have been poisoned by someone who is jealous of her, or even by any of her enemies.
He argued that if the poisoned grain had actually come from him, then there would have been more casualties recorded in Jikwoyi on the day of the incident.
According to him, on the day before the incident, Mrs Ugwu had come as usual to make a purchase of the grain.
"When she came, she told me she needed a bag of the grain, but I told her I can only give her 20 mudus because I had just eighty mudus left in the shop since I was preparing to go to the market.
Besides, I wanted my other customers to get the grain to buy when they come because almost all the women that sell okpa in this Jikwoyi, buy the grain from me. She agreed and I measured the 20 mudus for her."
"To my surprise, I got a distress call the next day being Saturday that I should proceed immediately to Abuja because the okpa grain that I sell have started killing people . I was shocked and stopped further purchases and because it was already getting late, I decided to return the next day being Sunday."
But as far as Mrs Ugwu is concerned, there is no truth in what Chukwudi has said because the grain actually smelt of chemical to which even the medical doctor of the clinic, where most of the victims were rushed to also confirmed.
Mrs Ugwu has been receiving hundreds of sympathisers since the sad event. She says her customers who have known her over the years are really shocked at what happened to her , adding that even though they had lost one relative or the other, they still find time to come and sympathise with her.
Dr. Ali who had earlier told Daily Sun that he detected chemical food poisoning as the primary cause of the outbreak, said he had to report the matter to the public health centre. When Daily Sun contacted the office located in Area 2, Garki, one Dr Balarabe confirmed the report and said that samples of both the opka meal and the grains, have been taken to NAFDAC for investigation to determine the actual kind of poison used for either the okpa meal itself or the grain.
But until that happens, the question remains, who poisoned the okpa? Where did the poison came from?
The matter, which is now with the police, is beginning to draw more and more attention from members of the public, especially residents of Jikwoyi, who have since stopped eating okpa.