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Detained triplets:Their rough journey to freedom

Posted by VANGUARD on 2003/10/27 | Views: 467 |

Detained triplets:Their rough journey to freedom

WHILE many are in desperate search for one, when God in His mercies showered three on Mr. and Mrs. Tokunbo Akinbowale, the gift of children became a harrowing nightmare.

For a week, the set of triplets born to the couple on October 5, 2003 were held in "observatory detention’"at the government-owned National Hospital for the failure of the couple to complete payment of the N130,000 hospital fee. For the one week the children and mother were held, Mr. Akinbowale, 32, with joy suppressed by the fate of his seeming penury would sneak in at late hours to peep at the bundle of three infant girls and a dejected mother who would not go home because they could not afford the bills.

The arrival of the Akinbowale triplets at a time the government and some of its top officials were engrossed in the just-concluded All Africa Games and at a time of deep skepticism in society, ironically drew out the milk of human kindness, not from government, but from a private individual. An unknown philanthropist said to be a Benin, Edo State pharmacist sent his aide to pay off the bill on October 17.

By then, the hospital authorities had released the mother and triplets on bail after Mr. Akinbowale finally secured a surety to guarantee that he would pay off the bill in instalments. Before this time, the father of the triplets would leave his house early in the morning and not return home till well after midnight in his desperate search for a way out. His three newly-born kids had been detained alongside their mother.

And hard as he tried, there were not rays of hope until this paper reported about the ordeal of the Akinbowales. It was, no doubt, the man’s most nightmarish period on earth. Following the takeover of the management of the National Hospital by the International Hospitals Group, IHG, a British-run hospital management consultancy, the hospital, sources told Weekend Vanguard that this sharply re-directed its social responsibility and welfare concerns to the less indigent members of the society.

According to our sources, the IHG which reportedly received N600 million from the government to run the hospital, has its performance tied to its ability to produce profit for the government. It could not be confirmed if the IHG is entitled to any proportion of the generated profit, but suggestions to that effect were made by some hospital sources.Tokunbo and his wife Clara, met as colleagues at Plastlab Comprehensive College, a private secondary school in Jos in 2000, when Clara, a graduate of English from the Ambrose Alli University, Edo State came for the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Plateau State.

Tokunbo who was then a law student at the University of Jos, was using his earnings as a teacher to supplement his education."My wife and I were teachers. I was teaching in a private school in Jos, Plastab Comprehensive College when I was in my year two in the university. I combined my law programme with schooling.

My wife, an English graduate from Ambrosse Alli University, Ekpoma was also teaching in the same school and that’s where we met before the courtship started. We legalised the union later," the father of the triplets recounted to us. The opportunity of going to law school in Abuja offered the couple an opportunity to flee the recurring communal clashes in Jos and to increase their income. Clara had to move first to prepare the grounds especially as Tokunbo was yet to finish his law programme at the local university in Jos.

"The crisis in Jos and the poor remuneration of teaching job in Jos made her to relocate to Abuja to see if she could get a better job. Unfortunately, the job she expected did not come her way and she had to go back to another private school in Gwarimpa. That is at Netherland Secondary School."While teaching at Netherlands early this year, Clara realised she was pregnant and a scan revealed a set of triplets, forcing her to remain at the Wuse General Hospital, in Abuja from the fourth month of the pregnancy. There, she paid N100 a night for the bed space. The authorities of Wuse Hospital, Mr. Akinbowale recollects, were quite pleased and delighted to harbour the expectant mother as they looked forward to the challenge of delivering the triplets.

However, such expectations were soon swallowed in the infrastructural decay that has enveloped the country’s institutions. When labour commenced on the night of October 5, electric power was not available in the hospital as NEPA had struck. It was this, Akinbowale said, which led to the swift transfer of his wife in a state of unconsciousness to the National Hospital.

From the onset, we never for one second conceived the idea of going to the National Hospital. From the moment she was scanned and the scan revealed multiple pregnancy, the doctor who scanned her, recommended that she be at bed rest at Wuse Hospital, Abuja. And that it would be a credit to them to keep her there till she puts to bed. "However, when the labour started on Sunday, October 5, there were some constraints. There was no light, doctors were not on duty. Only nurses were around and so it became an emergency and it became a sort of frightening situation.

The incubators in the children’s ward, I learnt, were not enough, so that they had to quickly rush her to National Hospital, because it became a matter of life," Akinbowale said. This proud father of triplets praises the efficiency with which the National Hospital medical team revived his wife and delivered the triplets. "They did their work perfectly well, no doubt about it.

The facilities were there, highly sophisticated," he said.The other side to the hospital soon started manifesting. "The other side of it was that they appeared more or less inhuman, because their attitude was like ‘we have done the work, you just have to pay or we’ll leave you here.’ The authorities began to consistently come to my wife’s bed to demand that she should clear the bill.

"This level of intolerance and harassment got my wife psychologically traumatised because we never knew that this thing would come out this way. It wasn’t something that we prepared for. So, the impatience on their side was very surprising to us. Also, that we had to start going here and there soliciting for assistance was something we never bargained for."

That is where the nightmare for the couple started. Of the N130,000 bill that husband and wife were presented with, they were only able to pay N20,000 which was paid on admission. Subsequently, they were consistently hounded by the accounts department to pay up or remain in the hospital. The climax of the agony happened on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 when Mrs. Clara Akinbowale, the Esan, Edo State-born young woman had to abandon her triplets for hours to join her husband in search for some more money to free themselves from ‘detention’.

Meanwhile, the hospital authorities were willing to discharge the triplets and the mother, if and only if they could provide a guarantor to be held responsible in the event of their failure to offset the bills. They were helpless in this regard as well. The social welfare unit of the hospital, meanwhile working under deep government bureaucracy feigned helplessness.Finally, a guarantor, reportedly a relation of Clara showed up on Friday, October 17, by which time after one week in detention, the triplets named Eniola, Damilola and Omolade were allowed home by the hospital authorities.

Meanwhile, the publication of the fate of the Akinbowale triplets by Vanguard had elicited the sympathy of a yet anonymous Nigerian who, according to Tokunbo Akinbowale, sent his aide to pay off the bills. The paid receipt were presented to the couple at their Gwarinpa temporary abode last Sunday where they had found refuge with a good Samaritan.The aide was adamant that his principal did not want his identity revealed.

"I am so elated, I give glory to God for this wonderful thing, the bountiful blessing of the children and also the God-sent person who cleared the bill without caring to let us know him. I thank him and your paper (Vanguard) for calling attention to our predicament," Akinbowale said.

Last Wednesday, Mrs. Abike Dabiri, under the aegis of the House of Representatives presented the couple with N140,000 to help cushion the effect. And that money, according to Akinbowale, would help them to secure an accommodation for the couple.

According to him, it came timely as the notice from the owner of the apartment where they had squatted would expire today. But how will he take care of the triplets without an income? "The thought of having a child offers great excitement into one’s being. The idea is that since one is a graduate, albeit with a little income so to say, at least one could still fend for a baby. Though I am yet to qualify as a lawyer, my wife has a job as a teacher, and notwithstanding the meagre income, things could still have been relatively okay but as things came out, it turned out to be a multiple pregnancy.

It was not man-made, but God’s design. We don’t create life, God creates life, it is just as if God said, ‘This is the beginning of you people,’. No one can cheat nature." And if Nigeria cheats her citizenry, definitely nature cannot cheat one.Efforts to speak to the National Hospital authorities were unsuccessful as the British Chief Executive Officer of the hospital relayed through the Chief Public Relations Officer, Sadiq Yahaya, that the hospital does not breach the confidentiality of its patients.

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