Posted by News Express | 25 April 2020 | 610 times
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has been petitioned over the continued detention of a UK-based Nigerian, Mrs. Susan Idoko-Okpe (nee Lawani), over the allegation that she has contracted COVID-19 – an allegation which the woman has vehemently denied.
In a petition dated Thursday, April 23, 2020, Lagos law firm Adegboruwa & Company
demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Idoko-Okpe from “unlawful custody
at the National Hospital, Abuja” as well as “an unreserved public apology . . . in two national newspapers, two national television stations, two national radio stations and the social media.”
The petition entitled “REQUEST FOR THE RELEASE OF MRS. SUSAN IDOKO-OKPE (NEE LAWANI) FROM DETENTION” was signed by Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN. It was copied The Senate President; Speaker, House of Representatives; Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Head of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19; Minister of State for Health; and Director-General, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Adegboruwa & Company said in the petition that the ordeal of Mrs. Idoko-Okpe, a native of Otukpa in Ogbadigo Local Government Area of Benue State, started when she returned home for the burial of her mother, Princess Omokwutu Lawani, slated for April 3-4, 2020, in Benue State.
On how Mrs. Idoko-Okpe’s ordeal started and what she has gone through, Adegboruwa & Company wrote: “Our Client arrived Nigeria on March 22 2020, through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and thereafter proceeded to Abuja from where she headed for Benue State, to partake in her mother’s funeral programmes. She declared all her particulars and biodata with all the relevant agencies at the various airports on her arrival in Nigeria.
“Owing to the stress of her journey, our Client experienced some headache and fatigue, whereupon her sister introduced her to Grace Cottage Hospital, in Makurdi, Benue State. She was registered in that hospital on March 24, 2020, with Reference Card No. 6014 - 3 - 2020. A copy of the said Reference Card is herewith attached as Annexure C for your kind confirmation. She was treated medically and indeed recovered her strength fully and was due for discharge.
“On March 25 2020, a doctor at Grace Cottage Hospital informed our Client that the standard procedure for people coming from countries with high prevalence of COVID 19 like the United Kingdom, was to take their samples, so he would have to call health experts from the Benue State Ministry of Health to carry out a COVID 19 test on her. Our Client did not object to this procedure, as a law-abiding citizen.
“Thereafter, the doctor came into our Client’s private ward in the hospital with two men, whom he claimed were from the Benue State Ministry of Health. They took the samples from our Client’s left nostril and her throat. Our Client then enquired from the doctor as to the collection of the test results and he responded that they will be ready in twenty-four hours. Though our Client was now well and ready to leave the private hospital, she was advised to wait for the outcome of the COVID 19 test results, so she waited.
“On March 27 2020, the doctor informed our Client that the test results were out and they confirmed that our Client had tested positive to COVID 19. Our Client asked for the said test results, but the doctor claimed that he doesn’t have it too and that he too was only informed verbally.
“It was not long thereafter that one of our Client’s friend, also a doctor, came in to inform her that the Governor of Benue State was on air conducting a press conference, wherein her name had been mentioned as the first index case of COVID 19 in Benue State. Our Client was totally shocked and embarrassed, as up till that moment, she was yet to be given copies of the said test results, as alleged.
“Our Client thereafter met with the management of the hospital, whose director appealed to her for calm as the hospital was fighting on her behalf, for a cause she knew next to nothing about. It was in the course of our Client’s protestations that she noticed that the entire hospital had been cordoned off by armed security personnel, with several vehicles and an ambulance. She was informed that she would be taken to an isolation center, compulsorily.
“At the said isolation center in Makurdi, our Client was treated with disdain, dehumanized, stigmatized, traumatized and degraded, with several live video recordings of her by numerous persons that she did not know. Her consent was not sought for the said video recordings and she was never obliged copies thereof.
“At the isolation center in Benue State, our Client had developed high temperature, due to the trauma from the degrading treatment that she was subjected to and she was not feeding well at all. Our Client was shocked to discover that her name had gone viral as being the index case of COVID 19 in Benue State and she started receiving telephone calls and messages from all over the world, especially her children, who are all based in the United Kingdom.
“Our Client protested her inhuman and degrading treatment, whereupon she was assured of a transfer to Abuja. Indeed, armed security men with patrol vehicles and an ambulance came to pick her to Abuja from Benue State. It was a traumatic experience, as in the course of the very long and tortuous journey, our Client’s repeated requests to urinate were sternly rebuffed by her captors, who directed her to urinate on herself, as they had orders from their superiors not to stop anywhere until they got to Abuja. As our Client could not bear the pressure on her bladder any longer, she had no choice but to urinate on herself several times, in the course of the journey. She was also starving, except the bottles of water she had with her, which she had to keep drinking in order not to be dehydrated and which warranted frequent urination.
“Our Client was taken to the National Hospital in Abuja and dumped in a ward and she has been in isolation in the said hospital ward ever since, forcefully detained against her will and for no verifiable reason.
“At the National Hospital in Abuja, our Client demanded for the results of her tests taken in Benue State and she was only obliged on April 8 2020, by which time her name had spread all over the world as the COVID 19 index case in Benue State.
“The documents constituting the purported test results leading to the erroneous conclusion that our Client has tested positive for COVID 19 are as follows:
“Letter dated 2nd April 2020, from the Federal Ministry of Health, signed by A.M. Abdullahi, Permanent Secretary and addressed to the Chief Medical Director of Benue State University Teaching Hospital. The subject of the said letter is said to be one “… Ms. Susan Okpe, a 62 year-old Nigerian-British citizen …”. As you would kindly confirm from our Client’s bio-data on her international passport and even her Reference Card at the Grace Cottage Hospital, her name is SUSAN IDOKO-OKPE and she is 56 years old.
“Letter dated 2nd April 2020, from the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, signed by Dr. Patrick Echekwuebe, Head of Infectious Diseases Unit and addressed to the Infectious Diseases Unit of University of Abuja Teaching Hospital. The subject matter of the said letter is “OKPE SUSAN/FEMALE/62YRS”, whereas as stated earlier, our Client is SUSAN IDOKO-OKPE and she is 56 years old. But more importantly, the said letter states further as follows:
“The above-named patient was referred from a private hospital to our facility on 28th February, 2020, AFTER she tested positive to COVID 19 (see attached result).
She was asymptomatic at presentation but developed frequent passage of loose stools the day after presentation (29th February, 2020) which has resolved.”
Adegboruwa & Company argued that the contents of the letter from the Benue State University Teaching Hospital show clearly that Mrs. Idoko-Okpe “was not and could not have been the person referred to therein, for the following undisputed facts:
“(i) As of 28th February when the letter was written, our Client was still in the United Kingdom and she only arrived in Nigeria on March 22 2020, as confirmed by the stamp of the Nigerian Immigration Service on her passport;
“(ii) The said letter indicated that the patient was referred to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital from a private hospital ‘AFTER she tested positive to COVID 19’. As of this period, no test had been (nor could have been) conducted on our Client, as she was still in the United Kingdom and had not arrived Nigeria at all; and
“(iii) Our Client is not SUSAN OKPE and she is not 62 years old.
“(C) The third document is a purported laboratory test result from the National Reference Laboratory, Abuja, which refers to “OKPE SUSAN, 58 years, Female, Benue State, Otukpo Local Government Area”. As stated above, our Client is not 58 years old, she is not Okpe Susan and she is not from Otukpo LGA. In this same test result, it is stated that the “Date of onset of Fever” is “16/03/2020”, by which date our Client was still in the United Kingdom, having only arrived Nigeria on March 22 2020.
“The above is the only test result that has been given to our Client since her ordeal started and it is the basis of her forceful detention and erroneous labelling as the so-called index case of COVID 19 in Benue State. Our Client has been forced to take other tests at the National Hospital Abuja, but no results have been given to her, despite her repeated demands. All the three documents presented to our Client as constituting the results of COVID 19 tests are herewith collectively attached as Annexures D, D1 and D2 respectively.”
The petitioner lamented: “Presently, our Client is being detained against her will, upon the condition that she must go through COVID 19 treatment, when the basis of that conclusion does not relate to our Client at all. It is now well over one month since our Client has been in unlawful captivity and she has been hale, hearty and without any symptoms of COVID 19, or indeed any other sickness or disease. She deserves her freedom, which is her constitutional right.
“Although our Client appreciates the efforts of government in containing the COVID 19 pandemic, it is however wrong to turn her into a victim of a virus that she has not been diagnosed of being infected with.”
Concluding, Adegboruwa & Company on behalf of Mrs. Idoko-Okpe requested the Health Minister to:
(i) direct the IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE of our Client from unlawful custody at the National Hospital, Abuja; and
(ii) an UNRESERVED PUBLIC APOLOGY rendered to our Client, to be published in two national newspapers, two national television stations, two national radio stations and the social media.
The law firm said that “upon her release and proper rehabilitation, our Client will determine the quantum of damages that she has suffered as a result of her ordeal and revert to you with details thereof, for settlement.”
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