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2018 Abuja NAF jet crash victim suffers stigmatisation, discomfort

Sixteen months after Elizabeth Elijah was injured by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) jet that crashed in Jikoko, a rural suburb of Abuja, she is still in pains despite series of medication and surgeries. Upon pleas from the family and members of the public, the FCT Minister, Musa Bello, granted the victim free medication and a scholarship after she was hit and injured on the leg by fragments of the ill-fated F-7Ni NAF aircraft which was displaying acrobatics as part of activities marking the 58th Independence Anniversary in 2018. Elizabeth, hitherto a school dropout, was enrolled at the Model Girls’ Junior Secondary School, AMAC Estate, along Umaru Shehu Yar’Adua Road, Abuja, and she is now in JSS2, but her dream of becoming a doctor could be dashed as she complained to our reporters that she still suffered pains on her hands and legs.

She said, “I am trying to study and become successful in life, but my injuries are making it hard for me. I feel pain in the joints on my legs and hands. The pains come and go, and sometimes my principal buys me drugs or takes me to the hospital. The pains linger for two weeks or up to a month at a time.” Sources close to her in the school said there were times she spent weeks in pains because some nerves in her hands were affected by the crash. Elizabeth told Aso Chronicle that since the incident, she had visited the hospital on more than six occasions, and that despite all the effort funded by government, she still felt pains, adding that a peck of wood was left in her leg in October, leading to a surgical operation in December. The father of Elizabeth, Jatau Elijah, said her leg was swollen in December while she was on holiday, 14 months after she was discharged from the Maitama District Hospital. He said, “I battled at the time because she was on holiday, but we informed the principal and they responded. The minister really assisted us.” He said she was admitted for surgery at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital where a peck of wood was discovered and removed from her leg. Elizabeth said the removal of the piece of wood did not bring the desired comfort. She said, “When the pain starts, sometimes I cannot go to the class. If my fellow students are going I will be in the hostel. I limp when the pain comes.”

Elizabeth was wearing a cardigan and a gloomy countenance when Aso Chronicle visited her school in February. Sources told our reporters that she could not sleep at night because the pain resurfaced. The sources said she had always been on pain killers. The battle of the 16-year-old are on several fronts because apart from the pains she said she suffered stigmatisation. She explained that, “I still cry whenever I remember what happened to me. Some people would look at me and call me names, sometimes pointing at me and saying, ‘this girl is a plane crash victim.’” The father said their life in Jikoko had been terrible because most of the residents believed they were given N2m so they always demanded for “a share of the money.” “When the incident happened, I was in the village treating diabetes…People believe it was the air force that gave us N2m, but they gave us nothing.” Despite the situation, Elizabeth is grateful for the effort of government in enrolling her in school. She said her future was bleak before the incident as she had been out of school for three years, having completed her primary education in a government school. “Some people wish to be in school but do not have the opportunity. I appreciate the government. My life has changed so much because now I can read and write. My friends also teach me and I am happy,” she said.

The principal of the school, Hajiya Hussaina Hadiza Inuwa, said Elizabeth had been “catching up”. A copy of her result obtained by Aso Chronicle showed that she has been performing well in her studies, having had six distinctions and four credits in 10 subjects in her first term. The principal further said the Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB) ensured Elizabeth had the best care in her studies and health. Despite all the issues, Elizabeth’s father said, “The minister really tried for us. He provided everything they needed while in the hospital; paid the bills and fed them, and then gave my daughter scholarship, and the scholarship board has assured us that she will continue till masters’ level. That is enough for us.” However, is that enough for Elizabeth who has been suffering pains and has been placed on different types of pain killers at a young age?

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