Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Since May 6, 2019, Ogbonna Shedrach has been bed-ridden in a ward at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, where he is being fed intravenously with tubes through his nostrils after an accident that left him gravely wounded with broken bones, brain and spinal cord injuries.
The patient, a phone repairer at the popular Ekeki Park, was knocked down by a police van driving against the traffic at high speed.
Seven months down the line, his situation left his family stranded in severe financial straits.
Saturday Sun visited the hospital and found his wife, Asu, three of their five children––Gloria, five, Praise, eight, Onyedikachi, 15––and brother-in-law, Joseph Ngene, seated around his bed.
It turned out Mrs Shedrach and her children now live under one of the staircases at the medical centre since they were evicted from their accommodation due to the family’s inability to pay their house rent.
Presently, the family is also indebted to the hospital to the tune of over one million naira.
“As a family member, a lot of things are being done to see that my brother-in-law is taken care of. The accident affected his brain, spinal cord, left arm and leg. He has not been able to get up or talk since May 6,” Joseph Ngene, the patient’s brother-in-law, gave the reporter an update.
So far, the family has incurred a hospital bill that is well over a million naira, yet it is apparent that his treatment is a burden that is beyond family and church members.
“We are trying to see if he can be flown abroad for better treatment,” Ngene said.
He further pointed out that the situation has taken a drastic toll on the family.
“The landlady has evicted them from their house. Now his wife and their three children live under the staircase here at FMC. We have succeeded in taking two to the village,” he disclosed.
A major frustration for the family remains the futility of getting the police to take responsibility.
“When it happened, we identified the policemen in the vehicle but we were unable to get the plate number. We know that the vehicle belongs to the Bayelsa State Police Command headquarters––the white Hilux van was donated to the police by NDDC. We know the names of the policemen. We have gone to the police severally but all to no avail. They are behaving as if they are just helping us whereas it was them that hit him,” Ngene stated. “They are to take responsibility for his treatment, but they are shifting the blame, that it was Bayelsa State Government that sent them on errand. We are not interested in that; what we want is for our brother to be treated.”
He ended his statement with a plea: “We need help from well-meaning Nigerians that can talk to the police. He has a wife and five kids. There is nobody to take care of him, his wife and their children.”
Recounting the hardship in the family since the unfortunate incident, the patient’s wife avowed that life has become unbearable for her and the children.
“It has been very hard. The situation we have found ourselves is unbearable. I don’t know how to explain the difficulties we are going through. To eat now is trouble; to buy drugs and food for him is difficult. My children have stopped schooling. Church members and family have really tried for me, but now we are at our wit’s end,” Asu Shedrach wailed.
“I want Nigerians to help me. Government should help me to take my husband for treatment. Someone should please help to pay my children school fees and give us shelter,” she appealed.
While appealing to well-meaning Nigerians, Bayelsa and Ebonyi state governments, the family is also exploring the possibility of a legal redress.
Presently, they have written a petition to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) through their counsel, Alegbe, Clark and Associates. The petition, made available to Saturday Sun, reads in part: “Mr Shedrach Ogbonna is a complete shadow of himself after he was negligently ran over by a Police Hilux vehicle driving against traffic at Ekeki road park near the Seriake Dickson Shopping Mall resulting him in being bedridden.
“The hospital management has reportedly abandoned him because he is indebted to them by over a million naira. Several entreaties have been made to the police by members of the family, but to no avail. The situation is so pathetic and except something drastic happens by way of urgent intervention, Shedrach Ogbona would die for no cause of his.”
The petition draws the attention of the State Police Command and the Bayelsa State Government to the pitiable and near-death situation of the victim and the urgent need to save his life as quickly as possible. “Our client needs urgent medical treatment abroad for brain surgery and other medical interventions to save his life which is presently put at N30million,” it states.
The family further calls for the arrest and prosecution of the officers involved in the said traffic offence that left Shedrach incapacitated.
The predicament of the Shedrachs has attracted attention from certain quarters in the society. A group, Patriotism Advancement and Community Orientation Network (PACON), in a statement signed by its national secretary, Mr. Debekeme Powedei, raised concerns about the continuous unprofessional conduct of officers of the State Police Command.
“We have received reports of conduct of the Bayelsa State command of the Nigerian Police Force ranging from gross human right violation to abuse of office and act unbecoming of public officers.
This is evident in the series of petitions we have received against the force in the state. We condemn the conduct of the men of the police force who knocked down a father of five and breadwinner of his family now rendered helpless in the hospital in the person of Mr. Shedrack Ogbonna,” it reads.
Reacting to the complaints, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Asinim Butswat denied the claim that the Police have abandoned the family. Police authorities have spent over a million naira at the FMC for his treatment, he claimed. The driver of the vehicle on that fateful day has been discussing with the family, he further stated.