JOHN ODHE in Yenagoa, tells a sad story of how a man who was hit by a police van about seven months ago, in the Bayelsa State capital, has been abandoned to his fate in a clinic, while his family is now homeless.
On Monday, the 6th day of May, 2019, everything was going well for Mr. Shedrack Ogbonna, a mobile phone repairer, until his dreams of building a better life for his family was dashed by an accident caused by a police van moving against traffic at the popular Ekeki Motor Park in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital. The accident which happened about 9am on that fateful day damaged part of the victim’s brain as he was badly hit by the Hilux while trying to cross the road.
The doctors taking care of him at the Federal Medical Center in Yenagoa, told family members that Ogbonna, who is currently on a life support machine, suffered severe brain damage and would need about N5 million to have a chance to live a normal life again.
As he lays bedridden at the hospital waiting for help, his wife and five children now live under a staircase at the hospital, as they have been evicted from their apartment for being unable to pay their rent that was due in June 2019, a month after the accident.
Eyewitness account has it that he was crossing over to the other side of the road to buy items he needed to repair a mobile phone belonging to one of his clients, when the speeding police van knocked him.
According to his family, preliminary assessment by doctors revealed that the accident severely fractured his skull and damaged the victim’s left leg and arm.
It was further learnt that the team of policemen in the van, quickly rushed him to the emergency unit of the FMC where it was confirmed that he suffered severe brain damage and later transferred to the intensive care unit where he was abandoned.
According to his wife, Mrs. Asu Ogbonna, when she protested, the Nigerian Police Force, Bayelsa State Command, initially agreed to take care of the medical bills of her husband but later changed their mind when they learnt that he would need N5million to be flown abroad for brain surgery.
According to her, the police withdrew their promise to support her family on the grounds that the policemen in the van that knocked him (Ogbonna) were carrying on an assignment for the state government at the time and therefore should not be expected to pay the hospital bills.
TNN further gathered that when the family made further attempts to make the police reconsider their decision, the family was asked to go to court, saying they were ready for any legal battle.
Recounting her ordeal, Mrs. Ogbonna said “that morning, I left him in the house to Swali market where I trade. Before I left, we talked about plans to raise money for our rent that was to expire in June. So I was in the market when I got a call that my husband is involved in car accident.
“When I got to the hospital I found my husband in a bad condition. I thought he was dead. I was told that he was hit by a police van driving against traffic. The police promised to take care of his medical bills but they later said they won’t give us a dime because it was the state government that sent them on an errand when the incident occurred.
“Since then, they abandoned me and my husband at the hospital. According to the doctors, my husband’s brain is so damaged that he needs to be flown abroad for surgery and that would cost us N5million. Where do I raise that kind of money? As I speak with you, I now sleep under a staircase in the hospital with my five children because our landlord drove us out when we could not pay rent.
“All along, it is only my brother that supported me with money to buy drugs to keep my husband alive until we are able to raise money for the surgery. As we speak, my brother has also run out of cash. It is not easy for me and my children. Paying for the life support machine and buying his drugs daily requires lots of money.
“Who do I run to? What do I do with my life? I have prayed fervently for God’s intervention but it appears my prayer does not get to heaven because our condition is getting worse by the day. I don’t even have money to feed myself and my children, talk more of paying bills at the hospital. I have gone to the police several times to plead with them but they have continued to turn me down, saying I should take the matter to court.
“Where would I have money to pay lawyers, even if the only way out of my problems is to go to court? Our bill at the hospital right now is about a million naira, and we are expected to raise another N5million for surgery. Meanwhile the hospital management is on our neck to either pay or move my husband away. I am confused,” she lamented.
Also speaking, the brother-in-law to the accident victim, Mr. Joseph Ngene said “my sister’s husband’s condition is pathetic, that I am short of words to describe it. He was going about his business when a police van driving against traffic knocked him down. If it were a vehicle owned by a private individual, I am sure the police would have done a good job to apprehend the person.
“But in this case, they are involved and they have refused to take responsibility. According to the doctors, Ogbonna broke left leg, left arm and that his skull was fractured during the accident. When we contacted the police, they said the driver of the van, Mr. Ifeanyi Ikechukwu, was running errand for the state government when the accident occurred, and that for that reason, we should rather approach the state government for support.
“Initially they were concerned because they came to the hospital once or twice to pay for drugs doctors prescribed but after that they stopped visiting. I then called the leader of the team that was in the van when it knocked Ogbonna down, one Oscar Jaja, he yelled at me saying I have no right to contact him. That if we think they are wrong, we should go to court that he is ready. We have written a petition to the commissioner of police, and a copy of that petition is before him.
“I have made efforts to meet with him one-on-one, and he said the police cannot help us. And because we could not buy drugs that would help keep him strong until we get money to fly him abroad for the surgery, my brother’s condition is getting worse by the day. To feed him, doctors have to pass food through a pipe to feed him. He has not been able to move any part of his body since they brought him to the hospital.
“As it is now, it is clear that my brother would never live a normal life again, yet the police is asking us to go to court because they know that we don’t have the power and finance to challenge them on the matter. I want to plead with well meaning Bayelsans and Nigerians to come to our aide.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Bayelsa State Command, Asinim Butswat, simply said that the police were doing their best to support the victim.
He said “the command has assisted the victim with funds for treatment and it’s not relenting to ensure that the plight of the patient is ameliorated.”