Nigerian hairstylist, Mrs. Hannah Olugbodi was shot on June 6, 2018 by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Lagos State. She tells TOBI AWORINDE how the incident occurred and laments the financial and emotional toll it has taken on her and her family.
When was your encounter with Special Anti-Robbery Squad operatives?
My experience with SARS was on June 6, 2018. When I returned from work before 8pm, I went to Ijesha Market to buy some pepper to prepare my son’s breakfast to take to school the next day. Unknown to me, SARS men had gone to a hotel on Agunbiade Street nearby. I heard they went there to ask whether the hotel manager was around. A worker in the hotel said no. They (SARS policemen) told the boys there that they wanted to collect money from them. The boys told them, ‘The manager is not around, you can come back later.’ From there, they started shooting. Everybody ran. I too ran. The SARS operatives came outside and continued shooting. The bullet hit me in my left leg at the place I was buying pepper.
I lost consciousness and regained it at the hospital. When I woke up, I told my husband I wanted to drink water. The doctor said they should not give me water and that there was no bed space for me. So, in my husband’s car, I was given the drip. At midnight, the hospital said they had a bed space and I was taken in. From that moment, it was my husband that signed for any treatment or surgery. I underwent three operations and it was my husband that paid. The government didn’t come or offer any help. Even the payments for the bed were made by my husband. He used everything he had and ended up broke. My sons have not gone to school since then.
Which hospital were you taken to?
I was taken to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
How long did you spend in the hospital?
I spent six months. But the government did not do anything for us.
Have the SARS men been apprehended?
No. They didn’t stay after shooting. They ran away.
How old is your son?
My two sons are 13 and seven years old. While I was in hospital, they stayed with my mother-in-law. My husband used to come home early in the morning because he would be with me in the hospital. The doctors always asked me to call my husband for him to donate blood, or for one thing or the other. There was a drug that they said was N16,000 and I used it for 15 days because I had an infection in my leg. He couldn’t afford it. One operation was N180,000 and I had three operations.
How much have you spent on your treatment?
My husband is in a better position to say. But the government has not even given us N5. Every week, we were paying for the bed space. We paid for everything.
Are you supposed to undergo any more operations?
Yes, I was asked to return after one year for another operation because the leg is shortened. It’s not the same length as it was originally. But there is no money, so I couldn’t go. I couldn’t even go for check-ups because we pay for every check-up. Since I was given an appointment, I couldn’t go. Even the leg is not completely healed. The bullet wound has not closed yet. When I go for a check-up, they treat it, collect money for the doctor and the clinic.
Has the bullet been removed?
The bullet didn’t lodge in my leg. I was told it was an AK-47 rifle that I was shot with. It made a hole in my bone. So, the doctors cut the bone. The doctors said if they didn’t cut the bone, it could pose a problem in the future. They cut the bone, which made my leg shorter than normal. That is why I cannot walk well. I have to use crutches.
What do you do for a living?
I am a hairstylist. But I have not been able to do anything since. My husband used to transport goods in his car. But he has not been able to do that as well.
What do you want the government to do?
I want the government to give my husband everything he has spent in LUTH. They should compensate us. Now, I can’t work and there is no shop for me. I am always inside all day, unlike before when I would go to the shop and return home in the evening. I appeal to well-meaning Nigerians to help me. But the government needs to see my leg. It is bad.
I sold land, borrowed from relatives to pay N1.5m for surgery –Hannah’s husband
What happened on the day your wife was shot?
She went to buy pepper. Even I could hear the gunshot upstairs in the house and she didn’t go with her phone. I was so concerned. I wanted to tell her to stay where she went to buy pepper and that she should not be scared or run around. I wanted her to wait until after the gunshots to find a way to come home.
What happened after the incident?
We first went to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi but we were rejected. Immediately Igbobi hospital saw it was a gunshot injury, they told us to drive in where there was light, so they could see the leg well. Once they saw it, they told us, ‘There is no way.’ They said maybe they would cut it off. We were referred to the Military Hospital, close to Yaba College of Technology. We eventually went to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. They asked me, ‘Are you sure this leg we are looking at is worth it?’ I said, ‘You people should try your possible best. But it is God that heals.’ What they kept talking about was money. They asked me, ‘Can you withstand the funds that will be required because with what we can see, it will require a lot of surgery and expenses?’ I said, ‘We will try our best and God will be with us when we get home.’
How much was the surgery?
We paid N180,000 for the first operation. I was told that one of the doctors would get iron from Toyin Street, Ikeja to reinforce the bone. One of the doctors told me I should thank God that the bullet did not lodge in her leg.
How much have you spent?
Family members and friends loaned us about N600,000. I work as a supplier. I even sold my land in Mowe/Ibafo and managed to put together N900,000. In total, we have spent N1.5m.
Can you give some details about the operations your wife had?
The first one was to get the bone back together. The second one was for the point of puncture to the bone to be healed.
After some months from the first operation, the doctors called me, saying, ‘Mr Seun, we are going to go in for another operation. The bullet wound did not heal.’ They had expected it to heal but it didn’t. So, they didn’t want a situation where the work would not be successful and, at the end of the day, we would return for them to amputate the leg. The earlier, the better. I asked them to go ahead. The third one was to take some flesh from her thigh to cover up the injured part of her lower leg because they could not leave the leg the way it was. Since then, we have been going to the clinic.
Has the government done anything to help?
Nothing has come from the government. When I was there, I paid N19,500 weekly. During the time my wife was in the hospital, the vehicle I used to transport goods commercially broke down and there was no money to fix it up.