Saturday, 06 March, 2021

CONCERNED INDIVIDUALS AND HUMAN RIGHT GROUPS CALL ON WELL MEANING NIGERIANS, SOCIAL CRITICS TO FIGHT AGAINST THE STIGMATIZATION OF SUSAN OKPE


The controversy surrounding the alleged illegal isolation of a London returnee, Susan Okpe nee Lawani is taking new dimensions on daily basis. The Lady who returned from the United Kingdom to attend her mother’s burial was illegally tagged a Covid -19 patient after she visited a hospital to get some treatments due to the fact that she was jet lagged because of the long hours in the air. Surprisingly to this woman, she was ‘arrested’ from the hospital she visited and taken to an isolation centre in Makurdi where tests were conducted on her before being transferred to Abuja. She was victimized, stigmatized and dehumanized like a common criminal just because of a purported health issue. In a bid to stand up for her, some concerned Nigerians have risen up to her defence and they are calling on well meaning individuals and organisations to join hand with them on this humanitarian course.

Below is a quick recap of the very pathetic story of Susan Okpe nee Lawani:
According to Susan Okpe in a widely circulated video on the social media, she narrated how she came in from the United Kingdom on the 22nd of March, 2020 precisely for her mother’s burial and due to the long distance, she was jetlagged and headed straight to the hospital on the 24th, where the doctor told her that they would need to check her for coronavirus since she is a returnee. The doctor then told her after the the preliminary tests that she had high temperature but she vehemently told the doctor that she only came to complain of jetlag and not temperature because she had been on air for 24 hours in the past two days. The doctor insisted that her temperature was a bit high, that he was going to keep her in the hospital. However, Susan Okpe answered the doctor that as a law abiding citizen, she had no problem with that. So she was kept at the hospital overnight, gave her some analgesic and the pain was gone. And in the wee hours of the morning when she was supposed to be discharged and allowed to go home, the doctor informed her that he was going to do a swap in accordance with the law of the Benue State government. She agreed and two doctors conducted a swap on her left nose and her throat.
Inquisitively, she asked when she will be getting her result and the doctor answered in the next 24 hours.

However, 24 hours gone past and she did not get any result. On the next day which was the 27th of March 2020, the doctor came to her and told her that she was Covid positive from the result of the swap that they took. Surprised, Susan then asked for the result which the doctor said was not available with him. This prompted Susan to ask if she actually had the Covid 19, why didn’t she get the result. Not knowing how to handle the scenario, the doctor went away. However, a friend of Susan’s, who is also a medical doctor came and informed her that the Benue State governor, Mr. Ortom Emmanuel is hosting a press conference with her name as the first Covid case in Benue State! She went down to ask the doctor what was happening and all she was told was that they were helping her to fight the state government on what is happening.

Confused, Susan Okpe then informed the doctors that if this were to be a drama or a Nollywood movie, she was not going to be part of it. Sensing that things were getting out of hand, Susan Okpe went back upstairs to get her bags and leave the hospital and as at that time, nothing was wrong with her. She only had a body pain which was as a result of the long journey she embarked on, and which has been treated.
It was however amazing, flabbergasting, overwhelming when Susan stepped out of the hospital to behold a heavy convoy of ambulance, security patrol vans loaded with armed policemen led by the Deputy Governor, to come and remove her from the hospital to an isolation centre because the hospital she was in, was a community health centre. Susan Okpe however knew that if the entire scene was stage managed, Nigerians would judge for themselves. The lady was then taken to an isolation centre, dis-humanized, traumatized because already her name was in the press and gone viral, all over. They went as far as recording her on videa tape and sent on internet to various social media.

Susan Okpe stayed at the isolation centre for 10 days before being moved to Abuja. She however called on Nigerians knowing that there are people who don’t have voice for themselves. She opined that she knows people who have been traumatized, dehumanized and victimized like the Benue State governor, Ortom Emmanuel has done to her, stressing further that the governor has stigmatized her for the Covid19 that she does not have.

The sad part of the story was that she was not given any result until after 15 days in Abuja, precisely on the 8th day of April 2020. According to her, they gave her a report which she is ready to publish for Nigerians to see. On that report, it was stated that Susan came into this country on the 28th of February 2020 while on the 28th of February, she was still in England, the United Kingdom. It was also stated in that same report that she presented herself with fever and stooling on the 16th of March 2020 was not true, she said on the 16th of March, she was still in England. Susan Okpe said she came into Nigeria on the 22nd of March 2020 and went to hospital on the 24th of March. Therefore, there was nothing to indicate that the report presented by the Benue State government was Susan’s report. Moreover, based on that, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is still using that report and the ages put on it was 58 and 62 and Susan said she is neither 58 nor 62. She opined that she is 50 plus which is not near those ages at all. She then wondered whose report that was.

Unfortunately, it is still that report that the NCDC are working with and they are still holding her at the isolation centre.
She narrated that even if she has Covid 19, is it not right for the Benue State government or Ortom himself and his team to counsel her rather than taking her name to the press? She wondered if that was the standard of the World Health Organisation that such dehumanization should be done to patients with Covid -19. Shen then asked that why is Nigeria different. She expressed that even if people have Covid -19 in Nigeria, they will not come out because of stigmatization.

According to her, they will be so afraid for their lives, like she is afraid for her life now because for 43 days, she is still detained. She warned that the work of the NCDC will not have any effect because people will not come out, they are afraid of being stigmatize like it’s been done to her. Susan Okpe asked fellow Nigerians, what is the rationale behind what is happening to her? She said NCDC has done three tests on her since she was in the forceful detention centre, they did one test on the 10th, another on the 15th and the last on the 17th and as at the moment, she did not have results of any of the tests that has been conducted at the centre. She said she is still being harassed to do another test. Susan asked Nigerians that if they were the ones in her position, would they do another test without the result of three previous ones?

She however said they want her to do a test and force medication down her throat, because for the past 43 days, she had not taken any medication, she has not had any symptoms till now and they insist on her taking medication. She said they keep calling her a stubborn woman who accused them of not knowing what to do.
Susan insists she is crying out for the sake of her fellow Nigerians who might find themselves in such situation, she believed she should have been given a result of at least one of the tests she had done even if she has to see another doctor or go back to her base in England, what would she present to them?
Despite the fact that she does not have the result of the three tests she had earlier done, they call for her psychiatrist doctors to come and talk to her, thinking she is insane.

She urged Nigerians to amplify her voice, she requested that the Benue State government under Emmanuel Ortom must apologize to Benue people, must apologize to her and also apologize to Nigerians for stigmatizing her and making it impossible for NCDC to do their work properly because nobody would come out to say they have Covid 19 even if they have it for the fear of stigmatization.

In a phone chat, Susan Okpe was told what the Minister for Health said that she tested positive and that was the reason she was in the isolation centre. She answered that it was a blatant lie and when asked how many tests were conducted on her, she said they did a Kangaroo one at Makurdi which she told the minister that until she got that result, nobody would do another test on her because they have announced her in the press already without her knowledge. She said she came from London on the 22nd of March and that the hospital management told her that because she was coming from a high risk area, the standard procedure was to do a test and she said she don’t mind. She however said they concocted some results and brought to her. She also talked on the three results which carry different ages. Surprisingly, to her, they just came to tell her that she is positive. She affirmed that she has never felt any symptoms of Covid -19. She also said, sometimes the doctors would come to her and ask if they could give her malaria treatment because she was coming from a country where there is no malaria but she rejected saying she does not have malaria. She said further that another doctor came after that and said they have to treat her for mild status. She rejected it too. She insisted that her breathing is okay and she does not have temperature. On her access to her family members, she said she talks to them on phone and that her elder brother comes in to stay with her almost everyday, though she is not allowed to go out. She said she is not sick and she is illegally held in the isolation centre simply she came for her mum’s burial. She said if the lockdown is postponed and the burial could not hold, she should be allowed to go back and see her children in London and that she is home sick.

This is the pathetic story of Susan Okpe who has been wrongly treated by the government that are supposed to protect her.

In a bid to stand up for her, some concerned Nigerians have risen up to her defence and they are calling on other well meaning individuals and organisations to join hands with them on this humanitarian course.

We are therefore calling on:
*President Muhammadu Buhari
*Office of the First Lady
*Minister for Women Affairs
*Notable human right activists not limited to renowned legal luminaries:
*Barrister Femi Falana (SAN)
*Barr. Monday Ubani, *Segun Awosanya (Segalink)
*Paul Obazele
*Reno Omokri
*Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin (Women Arise Group)
*Favour Benson (JTAH Foundation) *Josephine Effa Chukwuma (Project Alert)
*Bose Ironsi (WRAHP)
*African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA)
*Coalition of Human Rights Group
*Hafsat Costello (Kudirat Initiative for Democracy)
*Civil Liberties Organisation

  • NASS (Both Red and Green Chambers)
  • British High Commission
    *Nigerian Governors Forum
  • World Health Organisation
  • Medical Association of Nigeria (M.A.N)
  • FIDA & LACON
  • Channels TV
  • AIT
  • TVC News
  • Office of SGF
  • PTF on Covid-19
  • The SSG Benue State
  • Attorney General of the Federation *Inspector General of Police
  • National Council of Women Society (NCWS), Abuja
  • Nigerian women Lawyers Assocation
  • Ebelebe Radio, Abuja
  • Women FM 91.7, Lagos.
  • ECOWAS
  • United Nations
  • Commonwealth Organisation
    *Jam’iyyar matan Arewa
    *Report Women Network
    *Harvest FM 103.5, Makurdi
    *Prime FM 101.5, Lokoja
    etc to arise and help marshal this urgent call for justice.

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