The Akpaka family of Umueze, Nimo, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, has continued to insist that Mrs. Rita Ugwuegbulam [nee Akpaka], who died in mysterious circumstances in her matrimonial home more than three years ago will not be buried until the lingering problems surrounding her death are trashed out and those responsible for alleged cover-up prosecuted. Concerned by the prolonged delay in laying the deceased to rest, Cyril Mbah sought out Chief Chris Akpaka, a member of the family, to explain why the woman has not been buried, the fate of petitions filed against government officials which allegedly developed wings and the way forward in the matter.
Sir, your family has pointed accusing fingers against some people and institutions such as the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Nigeria, Enugu State Police Command and some doctors in the death of Mrs. Rita Ugwuegbulam and alleged that it is a case of gross official corruption, abuse of office and obstruction of justice. Can you throw more light on these weighty allegations?
Yes. This is a case of corruption, abuse of office, obstruction of justice and cover-up against Drs. Ohayi, Victor A. Osiatuma and Enejo D. Abdu. It also affects the Medical and Dental Investigation Panel, the IPO in the case, and officials of the Homicide Department of the Nigerian Police Command in Enugu. Dr. Ohayi, Robsam and (ESUTH), Parklane Hospital and Dr. Victor A. Osiatuma and New Hope Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre Onitsha also have questions to answer in the cover-up. The good news is that the Presidency has so far demonstrated in this case that it has zero tolerance for corruption. This is because we have received a phone call indicating that the Presidency has ordered full investigation into our petition based on the second (replacement) petition we sent to them on May 7, 2018.
Why are you then insisting that there was abuse of office, obstruction of justice and cover-up in the matter?
The first petition we sent to the President via the Secretary to the Government of the Federation got lost at the SGF office, after they received it on April 5, 2018. The petitions we sent to the Chairman of ICPC and the Minister of Health on the matter, also disappeared from their respective offices. We believe that it is corruption fighting back. We have sent complaint letters to the Chairman of ICPC, the Minister of Health and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to complain about the disappearance of the first petitions we sent to their respective offices. We thereafter submitted new (replacement) copies of the missing petitions to the respective offices. Even with the complaint letters, we are yet to receive acknowledgements for those complaints about the missing petitions that we sent to them. We are pleading with the Chairman of the ICPC, the Minister of Health and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to fish out the perpetrators and enemies of progress responsible for the disappearance of the petitions in their respective establishments and deal with them accordingly. We are also hoping that the President will weigh in and help root out those bad eggs responsible for trying to tarnish the good work of this administration in the fight against corruption.
Can you tell the world the genesis of the matter? How did this problem start?
When the whole circumstances surrounding our sister’s death became shrouded in mystery, we invited the police in Enugu through our lawyer’s petition to the Enugu State Commissioner of Police dated August 25, 2015 to determine the cause and time of death and the necessity for the abdominal incision on her body and if the incision contributed to her death. This was when we started noticing signs of corruption, cover-ups, manipulations and obstruction of justice from the very public institutions and individuals that we relied on to uncover the truth of what happened to our beloved sister.
Can you explain this in fuller detail?
We started demanding for the cause of death from the very time our sister died even before the abdominal incisions were discovered and before the police was invited. We first indicated this in our first letter to our brother in-law (Mr. Ray Ugwuegbulam), before the police was invited and we also indicated the demand for the cause of death in our petition to the Enugu State Police Commissioner. Even though we were compelled to pay for the autopsy by the police, yet the Police did not allow us to appoint our own pathologist for the autopsy but we were able to have Dr. Godwin Udemezuo Molokwu to observe the autopsy.
Did Dr. Molokwu produce a report on his observation and did the report show anything unusual?
Dr. Molokwu told us after observing the autopsy that both the ovaries and the fallopian tubes were missing and issued an observation report to that effect. It is pertinent to mention here that, according to Dr. Molokwu, one of the policemen, Chidi Opara, was present at the autopsy but our brother in-law and the police pathologist, Dr. Ohayi of Histopathology Department of ESUTH, Parklane, Enugu where the autopsy was done tried to prevent him (Dr. Molokwu) from observing the autopsy claiming that Dr. Ohayi is our official doctor and representative.
Dr. Molokwu also told us that they ordered and threatened him not to take personal pictures. Mind you, this covert incident took place after a relation of the deceased, Mike Akpaka, had identified our late sister’s corpse and stepped out of the autopsy room. We are the ones who also paid for the main photographer but Dr. Ohayi refused to give us the pictures that we paid for and later claimed that he and the police destroyed the pictures without our knowledge or consent. Was that not a clear case of deliberate attempt to obstruct justice, conspiracy, and corruption? Also, Dr. Ohayi demanded for N250, 000 and later insisted on N200, 000 after he agreed to do (the autopsy) for N150, 000.00 when the I.P.O., Mrs. Rhoda Akpa mediated. However, we went ahead and paid N150, 000 which is above the government recommended rate and he refused to offer us a receipt. Dr. Ohayi continued to request for the balance and tried to withhold the autopsy result. We want our money back or a refund of the excess on the government rate if we are supposed to pay for the police appointed pathologist and a receipt.
Did your family complain to the doctors and the police when these things were happening?
Yes! Dr. Ohayi only gave us the autopsy report after we threatened him with legal action. When he finally gave us the report, we quickly pointed out that the cause of death and time of death are
missing from the report and he told us the police did not ask him to look for cause and time of death. We quickly went to the police to report the absence of cause and time of death and they promised us they will return the report to Dr. Ohayi to include them. They continued to change the date to come and collect the new and revised report until finally they called (Mike Akpaka) to come and collect the new revised report. On getting to Enugu from Lagos, I found out that it was the same old report that they read out to me again.
What happened at this point?
We ordered and paid for Post Mortem Imaging [PMI] to compare and contrast it with the physical autopsy but we were rather given a Thoracic Abdominal Scan report which was not what we ordered. The police IPO, Mrs. Rhoda Akpa and Dr. Ohayi agreed to be part of it and also agreed to issue us the request note as demanded by New Hope Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre. They both reneged at the very last minute making us to further confirm our suspicion of compromise. Molokwu later issued us the request note for the post mortem imaging study.
Was there any difference in the new report issued to you?
Yes! Dr. Victor A. Osiatuma and New Hope Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre gave us two conflicting and contradicting reports. One was signed and the other unsigned. They first issued us unsigned report and the report indicated that all the organs are intact. We (Mike Akpaka and Chris Akpaka) quickly went to both Dr. Molokwu and the Director of New Hope Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre to complain. Dr. Molokwu agreed to help find out why the report wasn’t signed. Later, we were able to obtain a copy of the note from Dr. Molokwu to Dr. Osiatuma from New Hope Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre telling Dr. Osiatuma to save the image of the medical profession by doing the right report and signing it.
In the second report that we believe Dr. Osiatuma was pressured to sign, he contradicted the first report by then saying that the ovaries and the fallopian tubes [of the deceased] were missing. It is also pertinent to mention here that the second report which was issued weeks later bears the same date with the initially unsigned report but with different content. That is very suspicious and has further exposed some dubious intentions.
In Dr. Osiatuma’s affidavit to Medical and Dental Council, he adduced reasons why the fallopian tubes could not be visualised. We see that as playing a fast one with words to deceive and confuse the public to hide their sinister agenda. We made the sacrifice of paying the additional N90, 000 to order the Post Mortem Imaging because it is the technical equivalence to the physical autopsy and it is supposed to produce similar reports and also specify the cause of death. It is supposed to visualize every part of the body from head to toe with the appropriate equipment. That was why we see the Thoracic Abdominal Scan Report Dr. Osiatuma and New Hope Dialysis and Diagnostic Center gave us as a ploy to conceal the truth and avoid specifying the cause and time of death.
Can you explain what you mean by these allegations?
It is expected in a Post Mortem Imaging that what is not visualised with a CT scan should be visualised with other appropriate equipment. Post Mortem Imaging report should also specify the cause and time of death just like physical autopsy. We also want to add here that both reports are on a letter head of Onitsha Diagnostic Centre and not on New Hope Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre’s letterhead that we engaged for the Post Mortem Imaging. Dr. G. U. Molokwu told us after observing the autopsy that both the ovaries and the fallopian tubes were missing and he issued his observation report to that effect.
Why do you think that the Medical and Dental Council Investigating Panel was biased in the matter?
On December 8, 2015, we complained to the Medical and Dental Council hoping to get justice. Our experiences from the onset gave us a lot of concern. They first sent their questionnaire to only Dr. Osiatuma on December 22, 2015. When we finally inquired months later if they have served the other doctors with the questionnaire because we received only the response of Dr. Osiatuma from them, we were told they do not have the contact addresses of Dr. Molokwu but they never tried to ask us for it. We do not believe they made any efforts to find the address. After all, medical doctors register and renew their yearly practice license with them.
We impressed on Dr. Molokwu to contact them to help us save time. When they eventually tried to send the questionnaire to Dr. Molokwu, they sent it to New Hope Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre and Dr. Osiatuma. It took weeks, according to Dr. Molokwu, before the courier delivery person contacted him to say that he delivered the letter to the wrong address which happened to be New Hope Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre and Dr. Osiatuma’s address. We do not believe this to be any coincidence. It was becoming more and more obvious with time that there is conspiracy to delay and kill the case.
Some of your allegations look like mere guess work. Do you have proof of these allegations?
Our allegations are supported with documentary evidence. We have insider information from the office of the Secretary of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Investigating Council that one Dr. Abdu spoke regularly with Dr. Ohayi from the second week when we filed our petition. Dr. Enejo Abdu and his office at the MDCN investigating panel continued to advise us that we do not need to have a lawyer to deal with their institution and that we can go ahead and bury our sister because we have a strong case and overwhelming documentary evidence. They also continued to tell us they were not dealing with cases yet and that the delay was mainly because the Presidency has not appointed a new panel until we found out that they have been adjudicating cases and most of those cases were filed after our own case.
We finally sent them another reminder through our lawyer in November of 2017. Dr. Abdu sent a letter to our lawyer to vent his displeasure at the tone of the reminder. He subsequently, replied us striking out our case and saying that our initial petition of December 8, 2015 was “grossly short of the requirements of the Evidence Act.”
First of all, they were quoting evidence act to the people they have been telling that they do not need a lawyer. Dr. Abdu did not state any reason why the duly sworn affidavit was grossly short of the requirements of the Evidence Act. We see this as one of the ploys to frustrate us, delay and kill this case. Secondly, there is no place in their “Standing Order and Rules of Procedures” that “Evidence Act” was mentioned. Thirdly, if that initial petition was truly defective as they claimed, why did they accept it and sent out questionnaires to the doctors based on the defective petition? Why were they acting on and using defective affidavit/petition? After three years, they are now realising that the affidavit is defective when they could not find any other way to kill our case.
We find it very suspicious that the investigation panel refused to mention the most recent affidavit in any of their correspondences. They have been avoiding it like a plague. We believe they are avoiding it because they just want to end the case. The officials did not tell us why it is grossly short of the requirements of the evidence act. We believe they just wanted to frustrate and kill our case by making us go back in the queue and wait probably for another three years only to find something else to truncate our case.
We also believe they want to frustrate us financially and otherwise to go and bury the corpse of our sister and get rid of the evidence. All we want is for public institutions and their officials involved in this matter to timely and transparently do their job or face the consequences.
We want Dr. Enejo D. Abdu and the Medical and Dental Practitioners Investigation Panel, the Police and its IPO, Mrs. Rhoda Akpa, Dr. Victor A. Osiatuma and New Hope Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre, Dr. Ohayi S.A.R. and ESUTH, Parklane Hospital, where the autopsy was done to go back and do the job that we have paid for. We want the institutions involved to be sanctioned and the corrupt officials to be disciplined to the highest extent that our laws permit. We are also pleading with the Independent Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission (ICPC), the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Minister of Health to use their good offices to root out those bad eggs and agents of corruption that were responsible for the disappearance of those initial petitions and make them face the consequences of their actions.
Lastly, what precisely is the way forward in this matter so that the body of Mrs. Rita Ugwuegbulam can be buried?
Our case is a case of corruption with reckless impunity by public officials. It is a case that has been denied by delays. Remember that it is said that justice delayed is justice denied. It is now more than three years that our sister died (she died precisely on May 22, 2015) and she has been lying in the mortuary since then waiting for justice. These public officials and the institutions they represent because of corruption are using their powers to delay, suppress and kill our case. They should all be exposed and brought to book. These people need to be made responsible for the accumulating mortuary bill, our on-going expenses and the pain and suffering the family has endured. We are also pleading that the media should also help us get the attention of the Federal Government and its agencies to timely attend to our petition so that justice can be served.