The story never ends; after highlighting the major issues around the neglect of victims of the January 17, 2017 Rann accidental bombing, via a string of stories — Tears From Rann – the Victims Support Fund (VSF), which was set up by the federal government in 2014, said it had given N10 million to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital to cater to all the needs of the victims.
The journey had to continue; where were the funds? Who were they funding? Why were victims still paying for their treatment, medical bills, and other necessities of life? TheCable took another journey to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, which is the most-hit state capital in Nigeria’s north-eastern battle against Boko Haram.
On arrival at UMTH, it was discovered that all but two Rann victims at the hospital had left the hospital for internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in and around the state, while some took a journey, through Cameroon, back to Rann.
We approached Bashir Tahir, the head of the VSF at UMTH, who also doubles as a surgeon and the chairman, medical advisory committee (CMAC). He admitted that the VSF had voted N10 million for the victims, and explained that N9.1 million was used in purchasing drugs and other consumables needed by the victims.
TheCable requested that all the Rann Victims, who were treated or being treated at the hospital be refunded for every penny they paid for their treatment and medical bills at the hospital, seeing that state actors were the architect of their predicament.
FINDING ‘OSINBAJO’S DAUGHTER’
After the hospital agreed to refund all the victims, locating them became the next line of action. After combing camps for internally displaced persons in Maiduguri, TheCable eventually located Hammin Mohammed, the five-year-old girl, who had bomb pellets lodged near heart.
After TheCable reported her plight, she was treated and discharged — with the bomb pellets still lodged near her heart.
Mohammed and her family moved from the hospital to the Gubio IDP camp, where she was visited by officers of the Nigerian Airforce. When TheCable requested to take her back to the hospital for refund, and better treatment, the police officers at the camp declined.
“Hammin has become national property, you cannot take her away from the camp, she is now president’s daughter, she is now Osinbajo’s daughter” a police officer,who identified himself simply as Ibrahim, said at the time when Osinbajo was the acting president.
“The Airforce came here yesterday, asked about her welfare, took pictures of her, and gave us strict orders to take care of her. We can only let her go if we get permission from the commander, her parents, and the chairman of Kala Balge.”
TheCable spoke with all the persons involved and got the permission of the camp officials to take her back for better treatment and refund.
UMTH: IF BUHARI HAD BOMB PELLETS NEAR HIS HEART, WE WON’T REMOVE IT
Explaining why the hospital did not remove the bomb pellets near Mohammed’s heart, the hospital’s CMAC, said if it was President Muhammadu Buhari who had the pellets, the hospital will not remove it.
“Let me tell you something, bullets, pellets or shrapnels at sensitive areas, we don’t chase them, that is the principle of surgery world wide,” Tahir said.
“It is not whether it is President Buhari or Buhari’s daughter or Rann victim, that is the principle. Even if it were Buhari, we wouldn’t have chased that pellet. That is the principle of surgery, surgery is not just cutting.
“People will think we didn’t do anything because she is an internally displaced person. If you have bullet in the abdomen we can remove it, but if it is close to vital organs, in the process of removing it, you’d create more damage and the patient will die on table.”
REFUND AND TREATMENT
TheCable was able to rally four victims from Rann, who were treated at the hospital for refund.
Upon arrival at the hospital, the accountant in charge of the refund was said to have gone to town to get some things done, and the families of the victims or the victims themselves may need to come back at a later date for the refund.
Sunday Ochoche, the executive director of VSF had promised that every penny will be refunded, and we were going to see it through, regardless of how long the system stalled.
Based on receipts available, Hammin Mohammed’s caretaker had spent N14,080 on her hosiptal bills and drugs.
Abubakar Abba, another patient, who broke his leg in the Rann attack, and was neglected for nearly 30 days, at UMTH, before he could get an orthopaedic cast (plaster of paris or POP) was also summed up to have spent N16,400.
After a long wait in and out of Maiduguri’s scorching sun, the families involved were refunded by the hospital.
Tahir, the CMAC, promised better care for all victims and absolute refund, as soon as they come forward with receipts of any money paid for drugs or treatment.
NIGERIA, YOU CAN DO BETTER
Families fleeing the painful claws of Boko Haram were plunged into agony via an accidental bombing driven by state actors. These same people were neglected at government hospitals, and asked to foot their own bills.
The Presidential Committee for Northeast Initiative (PCNI) would go on to give N10,000 each to 58 Rann victims, categorically stating that “the PCNI gift to victims of the Rann accidental air strike is NOT the COMPENSATION of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Many of the victims are recovering in various parts of the Borno state, while some are back in Rann, but not a single one of them has been compensated for injuries or loss of loved ones. Refund and treatment may bring succour, but compensation and establishment will ultimately put these people on a clear path to socio-economic recovery.
Hammin and her family returned to their new home (pictured above), with little or nothing to get them back to a comfortable life.
Nigeria, is this really the best you can do?