By Salvation Idoko Obochi, (on behalf of the Idoko family)
The family of Mr. Joseph Obochi resigned to their fate to lay him to rest in line with the Federal Government directive, after all appeal to release his corpse fell on deaf ears.
5th of June 2020 was the day agreed by the family and the public health service of the F.C. T Command to bury (the remains of) Mr. Joseph Obochi. Between the hours of 8am – 9am, the family received a call from the public health service in respect to their preparation for the burial which was scheduled for 11am. The caller informed the family that the family should produce two body bags for the burial. The son of late Joseph protested that if the father actually died of COVID-19 as they were meant to believe, why won’t the federal government provide the bags? The caller angrily ended the call.
However, all efforts to reach the caller when the family were at the National Hospital by 11am was to no avail; he did not pick the calls neither did he return the calls. He was called five (5) times. By 12pm he was called again and this time, he picked and complained that the family should stop harassing him; he added that they have been busy trying to arrange experts that will handle the burial process.
In addition, the caller also informed the family that they should go to Gudu Cemetery, Apo- Abuja to register with the sum of N10, 000.00 for the grave to be dug but at the cemetery, they ended up paying N20, 000.00 after much plea for the sum to be reduced from N30, 000.00.
At the mortuary, they were told to provide four family members that will wear the PPE materials as against the earlier provision of experts that will facilitate the corpse to the cemetery for burial.
The attitude of officers that were assigned to carry out the burial was inhuman. Having paid N20,000 for the grave at the Gudu cemetery, it was still the family that dug the grave! The officers from the Public Health forcefully tried to stop the digging of the grave when it was not up to 4 feet while they stood at a distance and watched the family carrying out the burial rites. They only ensured the fumigation of the corpse and the environment. They also collected the sum of N1000 from the family for burning of the PPE materials that was used for the burial.
Late Joseph was buried by the family as against what we were meant to believe that COVID-19 patients will be solely buried by the Federal Government.The family is pained because they know that their father did NOT DIE OF COVID-19 as was recorded. On the 5th of June 2020 when he was buried made it three weeks and 6 days; no contact tracing has been done and none of the family members, colleagues, neighbors, or sympathizers have exhibited any symptoms related to COVID-19.
The Role of National Hospital
We are very regretful that we ever took our brother to National Hospital, Abuja. While little was done (except that they fixed him on Oxygen briefly) to save his life, it is surprisingly questionable that the hospital became more interested in his corpse after his death. The hospital was quick to contact NCDC to come take his sample for a very questionable COVID-19 test, the same hospital couldn’t prevail on NCDC to test his relatives (even his son and daughter that were with him until he died), let alone do any form of contact tracing.
How can a National Hospital descend so low into questionable ethical practices that can not be boldly presented in intelligent clinical discussions? Can the hospital justify such a COVID-19 test? We suspect an unhealthy deal or interest of the National Hospital in the COVID-19 pronouncement as the cause of Joseph’s death.
The reason put forward for the refusal to release Joseph’s corpse to the family was because he died of COVID-19, he has to be buried by government and by experts. It was shocking that it was not so. From the mortuary to the final internment at Gudu cemetery, his son and three other members of the family were made to wear the PPE to handle the corpse and to bury it. If that was what was intended, why would the hospital refuse to handle the burial in the family way? If it is government that should handle the burial, why would they subject the family to dig the grave at the Gudu cemetery and do the internment? With such deceptions experienced in Joseph’s death and burial, how does government expect the public to believe any news about COVID-19? The integrity of NCDC in the case is very questionable.
In conclusion, we want justice done in the questionable positive test for COVID-19 of Joseph, and the questionable handling of his burial.