Written by Paul I. Adujie
I have just read about the desperately sad, and extremely dire plights and predicaments of a fellow Nigerian citizen; Her name is Emilia George and she was featured in a story on the online pages of The Guardian Newspapers of Nigeria. In an article written by one Ms. Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, it recounted how Emilia George became a victim of tragedy at multiple levels.
First she was involved in a collision between a motorcycle and vehicle, a tipper truck. While unconscious, she became a patient of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital or UBTH, and then, she soon became a pawn in the hands of many.
Emilia George's tales of woes are reminders to all of us, of our socially stratified society with such pungent stench and decadence at seemingly all levels. Emilia George's suffering, hardship and extreme desperation is revelatory of the wanton neglect by the leaderships of our political and economic systems, the extreme neglect to which a majority of our citizens are unfortunately subjected, as fact of life.
The extent and quality of human refinement in Nigeria must be measured by how we treat the poor and the underprivileged amongst us. Emilia George's Nigerian citizenship and her fundamental rights are being subjected to a "means-test" Her detention over her inability to pay her medical bills, is an affront and it is tantamount to an abridgment and a wrongful devaluing of her Nigerian citizenship.
I did not know that it was legal and proper for any hospital in Nigeria or anywhere in the world, to hold patients against the patience's will, as a result of the patient's inability to pay bills arising from medical treatment and care. I did not know.
Even so, the hospital within which Emilia George is being held, is a hospital owned, funded and operated with taxpayers' money. Anyone would think, reasonably, that a hospital owned and operated by the government would not do such.
A local, state and in this case, a federal government, hospital would not compel a Nigerian citizen to remain in hospitalized involuntarily, due to her inability to pay for medical care which was already provided. Even if, this egregious behavior was a common or rampant practice by private hospitals in the locality.
Emilia George's case clearly illustrates, or exemplifies the extreme extent and magnitude of failures of basic structures in our society and nation. It is not uncommon in Nigeria to learn of how medical doctors, nurses and others in the healthcare system refusing or neglecting to provide even urgent medical care until cash payment is received.
Nigerian health workers are known to argue that their salaries have been unpaid and as a consequence, the sick become the pawn and the chip in the ping pong games or fights between ineffective uncaring political leaders and beleaguered healthcare workers whose lives are rendered unbearably hard through unpaid salaries and miserable working conditions
Ineptitude on the parts of various levels of government leadership now feeds off of the angst and disenchantment of workers of the health sub-sector.
All this makes anyone want to ask, whether democracy, due process and the rule of law means anything to anyone in Nigeria. How else does a Nigerian citizen get detained in a hospital as a prisoner? This is so, without police, law enforcement and judicial intervention, as a matter of process and procedure. How can our nation be so brutish and arbitrary?
Emilia George represents and encapsulates the story of every Nigerian. She rode a motorcycle as her mode of transportation in the absence of public policy on mass transit or any solid substitute form of public transportation. She is injured as a result of human errors on the part of either the motor cycle operator or the driver of the tipper truck or both motorists, and traffic police failed Emilia George.
Absence of a vehicular insurance policy which would have served as a buffer or cushion against calamities, ensured that Emilia George had no recourse.
Nigeria failed Emilia George at every level. What is the function of our government at every level? What is the use and purpose of our government, at least from the perspectives of Emilia George? No public transportation or mass transit. She then relies on what was available.
Upon being injured, the motorcyclist who was hired by Emilia George and the driver of the tipper involved in the tragic accident were not held accountable? Were the vehicular actors insured? Were government agencies and mechanisms for dealing roads and vehicular accidents activated? What were the actions of the various government agencies charge with the responsibilities of tackling issues such as have arisen.
Emilia George was involved in a vehicular accident on a public street or highway, were there any reports to the police? What were the outcomes of police investigations and actions? Nigeria operates mandatory insurance policy law for all motorists, were the insurance carriers of the motorists in question notified? What was the outcomes or responses by the insurance companies? Are insurance companies allowed to collect premiums from insured or policy holders, but never held responsible when insured events occurs?
Emilia George is a Nigerian citizen who deserves and should expect the protection and service from the government of Nigeria. This include the provision of good roads. Public transportation. Rules of the road including insurance and post vehicular accident policies which guides and protects all parties to vehicular accidents. Are Nigerians not entitled to the very basic functions from our government?
Emilia George did nothing wrong. She exercised her freedom of movement and right to travel, now she is amputated, she is traumatized and her ordeal is being exacerbated and prolonged, as she is detained by a major hospital which is owned and operated by Emilia George's government
She was injured and there was no compensation and there were no consequences for those responsible for her injuries which led to the amputation of her hand. And, she is now being detained and further traumatized by a hospital, which is owned and operated by our federal government!
How can this be logical, or fair? There are so many things happening in Nigeria these days which I thought were unfathomable. But it Emilia George's plights and predicaments are extremes. Nigeria is not Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia, the infamous poster boys for failed nation states.
But why is it possible for Emilia George's tragedy to be part of our national narratives?
What is exactly is the purpose of government?
There are 150 million tales by citizens of Nigeria who are confronted with devalued Naira and its consequences the multiplier effects on everything Nigerians use and we import virtually everything
Nigerians are confronted with the absence of clean water, steady electricity, absence of decent roads and bridges. Nigerians are confronted with abandoned, neglected and decayed public infrastructure across all sectors, including health, agriculture, education etc. And in the face of all these, candidates for the general elections are colluding and conniving and merely coasting toward the scheduled general elections in April!
Iraq, even after over 20 years internal and external violence and crises, still manage to generate and transmit more electricity than what obtains in Nigeria. How can Nigeria be worse than Iraq with reference to electricity and water? Nigeria as a matter of urgency, must allocated and manage resources in new and better ways. Ineptitude, selfishness and unbridled and unmitigated greed has created needless abject poverty in Nigeria.
These are the conditions and circumstances which makes this Emilia George type shameful stories possible in Nigeria. There is no reason why there should be such terrible poverty and desperation which is propelled by such poverty and squalor in Nigeria. How could this Emilia George's national embarrassment and shame have arisen in Nigeria? This national shame and embarrassment is not unique to her and that makes it even more painful to contemplate and fathom!
Please help this fellow Nigerian citizen... she has suffered enough. Her story is truly sad and her circumstances remain dire. I am left to wonder about her sense of what is left of her person, Emilia George most probably feels devalued beyond redemption. If Emilia George or any other Nigerian was subjected to these injustices by another nation, I would have recommended repercussions against such nation!
But unfortunately, Emilia George's situations were created by persisting circumstances in Nigeria. Her excruciating experiences have brought about by the human condition in Nigeria. She is entitled to ask, and rightly so, what is the value of her citizenship? How could human dignity mean anything to her after her ordeal? How can any society devalue her humanity so egregiously? Where is the outrage against these sorts of depravities?
I am a Nigerian. I am proud of my citizenship. I am simultaneously embarrassed and thoroughly ashamed of what has happened to our fellow citizen Emilia George.
I do not understand how this could happen in Nigeria, my homeland. Nigeria is brimming with women and men with superb intellects. Nigeria is a nation filled with bountiful human and material resources.
Nigeria is a nation of abundance. But how can I convince Emilia George of the value of her citizenship? Emilia George is young, but she has seen the abyss. What can we, all Nigerians at home and abroad do to restore her faith in the value of her citizenship?
Emilia George has endured extreme agonies, prolonged sufferings and hardships, all, through no fault of hers. How can all this possibly be any reasonable person's sense of justice?
Nigerians, friends of Nigeria and all reasonable persons should help secure freedom for Emilia George.