By Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
When some doctors at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Enugu set out six years ago to assist an ailing colleague to live, they never thought that their good gesture and work of mercy would turn against them.
But, according to the doctors, they have since then faced the herculean task of proving their genuine intentions to save the life of their now late colleague as well as their innocence in the handling of the money they contributed for the treatment of the deceased doctor.
The doctors, Inechi Macdonald and Ugwuonye Kingsley spearheaded the arrangements for the treatment and eventual burial of their late colleague, Dr. Obinna Ozor who hailed from Ogwuofia, Mgbagbu Owa in Ezeagu Local Government area of Enugu State. It was in 2014.
Doctors Inechi and Ugwuonye said it was sad that, instead of receiving commendation from the Ozor family who allegedly abandoned the young doctor to his fate till he died, they were accused by the same family, of embezzling the money that was contributed for the treatment of Obinna.
The doctors were subsequently dragged to the police, after which they were arraigned at the Enugu North Magistrate Court presided over by Chief Magistrate J. I. Agu on a four-count charge bordering on forgery and stealing of over N1.7million property of the late Dr. Ozor in 2014.
But on Monday, October 12, the two doctors were discharged and acquitted by the court following the termination of the case by the complainant.
The chief magistrate had, at an earlier hearing, advised the complainant, Chief Stephen Ozor to settle with the doctors out of court.
At the last hearing, the magistrate sought to know how the matter went. And Chief Stephen Ozor said he wanted the matter terminated.
And the magistrate, in his ruling held that “the application in the court by PW1 (Complainant) is hereby granted. The accused persons are hereby discharged and acquitted.”
But though they were discharged and acquitted, the doctors said the shock, pain and humiliation they suffered will take time to heal.
Speaking on the issue, Dr. Inechi said: “As at 2014, I was the President of the Association of Resident Doctors, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Enugu. Sometime early in the same year, the late Obinna Ozor became very ill with progressive deterioration of symptoms that made it difficult for him to function in any area. As the president of ARD, I visited him with Dr. Ugwuonye where he was residing at his step brother’s residence at No 5 Ebenato Street, New Haven Enugu and we discovered that he was practically left without any form of assistance, prostrate, severely dehydrated with high grade fever and completely abandoned. We advised the stepbrother, Mr. Stephen Ozor to take him to hospital for medical attention but instead of heeding our advice, he lamented that he had no money and that even his investment on the young man had been wasted. On hearing that, my colleague Ugwuonye immediately made contacts with Royal Hospital Enugu and we took him there for resuscitation.
“While Ozor was being stabilized in the hospital on our bill, that is Ugwuonye and I, we made arrangements to get assistance from an Indian hospital. In the course of this, efforts to raise funds became more difficult even from our then Medical Director who only promised to assist if we were able to get him to India. Then our body of doctors decided to open an account to assist. The account was opened in the name of Drs Ozor Lazarus Obinna, Inechi Macdonald Chikaodi and Ugwuonye Kingsley. The late Ozor was made the sole recipient of all SMS notifications of the transactions on the account. The responsibility of Ozor’s wellbeing and that of his fiancée and a lady relation with him in the hospital was fully on us – the body of doctors.
“About three weeks later, the late Dr. Obinna was flown to Lagos in preparation for the Indian medical trip but he unfortunately died a day to his visa interview. He was accompanied on the Lagos trip by one of our colleagues who left all he was doing, including his family and academic study, to attend to him.
“Upon the death of Obinna on June 15, 2014, the stepbrother, Mr. Stephen Ozor formally notified the hospital in a letter dated June 23, 2014 and the management issued an internal memo dated July 1, 2014 stating the hospital’s obligation to the deceased family at burial which are: one full page newspaper obituary publication at N500, 000, Casket at N200, 000 and transport at N50,000. Before the management could release the said money, the body of doctors had, from the account earlier opened, withdrawn money which was used to purchase the casket and paid for other burial expenses including brochure. On the day of the burial the management handed over the sum of N700, 000 to me to give to the family while the management used N50, 000 as stipulated for the staff transport and entertainment. After the burial, Mr. Stephen Ozor acknowledged the receipt of the N700, 000 in a letter dated July 17, 2014 to the management.
Surprisingly, five years later, the same Stephen Ozor in a letter dated August 19, 2019, asked the management to pay him his late brother’s entitlement. And on receipt of the letter, the Head of Clinical Services, Dr. Ubochi Vincent was directed to handle the matter and he invited Mr. Ozor who confirmed his signature of the earlier acknowledged letter of receipt of N700,000 from the hospital, and on the strength of that he dismissed his request. Let me also tell you that the total amount contributed to the account by the body of doctors was N1, 034, 711 and after medical and burial expenses he had a balance of N300, 000 which we also gave to Stephen Ozor in the presence of one Hygienus, whom he introduced to us as his brother from Onitsha on December 1, 2014. So after the hospital dismissed his request because he had already collected the said entitlement, he began to write petitions against Dr. Ugwuonye and myself, accusing us of forging the acknowledgement letter and embezzling the money we contributed with other doctors.
“It is also interesting that shortly after our office got burnt and the documents relating to this matter were burnt therein, Mr. Ozor started making trouble and now used the police to prosecute us.”
Secretary of the ARD then, Dr. Uchenna Onu said he was present the day the money was given to Mr. Ozor. He regretted that the Ozor family should have remained grateful to Inechi and Ugwuonye and the entire body of doctors for their sacrifices.
Chief Ozor had allegedly claimed, at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital and in his statement to the police before the matter went to court, that he never received any money from the hospital.
He said he had, on several occasions, asked Inechi and Ugwuonye to render to him account of the money they received from doctors for the treatment of Obinna but that they had continued to call his bluff instead, while describing him as an ungrateful person.
Ozor had told the hospital management that the acknowledgment letter was not from him as he could not have written that when no money was given to him.
But in his response, the Head, Clinical Services of the Hospital, Dr. Ubochi said the hospital has satisfied all her responsibilities to the late Dr. Ozor as a staff before his demise.
He described as unfortunate and disheartening, the actions of Chief Ozor to drag the name of the hospital and the doctors who showed kindness to the Ozor family in the mud. He confirmed that when Chief Ozor was invited for the entitlements, he was asked to append his signature twice on a plain sheet, noting that the signature tallied with the one in a letter that acknowledged the receipt of N700, 000 from the hospital.
Ubochi further stated that the late Dr. Ozor, before his demise, took a loan of N700, 000 from the hospital’s cooperative society but could not pay back before his death, adding that it was the same doctors Chief Ozor was defaming, that have been on the neck of management to write off the money as a bad debt.
On October 12, after they were discharged and acquitted, one of the doctors noted: “This has taught me a lesson. I am not sure I will ever render assistance to anyone again.”