Uju Anekwe, sister of the 300-level Accounting student of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) who was electrocuted last Tuesday, relived at the weekend the last moments of her sister, Oluchi.
They were together during the incident in Akoka, the university campus. Uju is a 200-level student of Medicine in the university.
Their father, Basil, recalled how he received the tragic news.
Uju, who was injured in the incident, came down from the family’s apartment with her friend. She walked gently, limping on her left leg. She had bruises below her nose and on her right arm.
She said: “It had been long that I visited her on Akoka campus, since I moved to the College of Medicine in Idi-Araba. That Tuesday, I visited her and she told me to meet her at the University Chapel, because she was attending a Catholic mass. I saw her bag full of books. She was supposed to write ICAN exam next week.
“We left the chapel to New Hall to buy popcorn. When we got there, the vendor was reparing the popcorn machine. We told him we would come back. We stopped nearby the popcorn vendor to buy 3-in-1 bracelets. Then, I told her to let us wait for the popcorn but she said she was going back to church for Catholic students’ meeting. It was a few minutes past 7pm.
“We came out of New Hall gate and standing on the road. I told her we should go to her room but she was adamant, saying I should give her one of the bracelets that we bought a moment earlier. As I was about opening my bag, I heard a loud bang and we were thrown apart. All I could remember at that moment was that I was shouting and screaming for help.
“I noticed electric sparks of white blue light. It all happened within microseconds. I initially lost consciousness. When I regained my consciousness, I saw people running away from us. I tried to stand up but I could not, because I was still feeling electrical shock in my body. As I turned, I saw my sister (Oluchi) with the electric cable around her leg.
“I don’t know where I got the energy; I got up and screamed for help. Nobody came to our rescue. One man came later and he single-handedly pulled Oluchi away from the cable. Others came and stopped a taxi and rushed her to the Medical Centre within the campus. I joined another taxi.
“When we got there, we didn’t receive immediate attention until 30 minutes after. She could have stayed alive a little longer if the doctor had attended to her. The doctor did not even show sympathy and care. They only offered to give me a drip but they left my sister unconscious.
“As a medical student, I knew my sister needed urgent attention, but the people in the clinic seemed helpless. I told them I would not allow them to give me the drip until they attended to my sister. Later, one of the nurses brought two tablets of Panadol. We stayed for some time before they brought an ambulance to take my sister to LUTH.”
Uju blamed the school for not providing facilities at the clinic, saying: “The Medical Centre does not even have a toilet roll. What does the school provide for the Medical Centre to cope with emergency?”
Anekwe, a senior employee at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), said: “Oluchi’s life could have been saved. When they brought out her body, I checked it and I discovered that the only stiff part was Oluchi’s left arm where the electric cable struck her. Every other part was moving freely. And this shows she was left to die because the nurses and doctors, who attended to her, did not know what to do when she was rushed to school clinic and LUTH.”
On how she learnt about the incident, Anekwe said: “I got a call from my first son, telling me Oluchi was seriously sick. I did not believe him, because Oluchi and her sister came home at the weekend. We all went to church together and she was lively. She returned to school on Sunday and I promised to send N30,000 to her for upkeep.
“On Tuesday evening, I withdrew the money from ATM, with hope that I would ask somebody to deliver the money to her on Wednesday before I left for work. I got the call from Chinedu, who asked me to come back home, that Oluchi had been admitted. When I got home, Chinedu took me in his car and headed for LUTH.
“As we entered the LUTH gate, he did not take me to hospital but he drove to mortuary area, where I saw Nkem and my wife’s sisters. I asked what they were doing there, but none of them replied. It was then I knew tragedy had hit my household. The N30,000 I wanted to send to Oluchi was paid at the mortuary. While this was happening, my wife did not know what was going on…”
Anekwe criticised UNILAG for not equipping its health centre with good facilities and competent medical personnel. He said the late Oluchi was not attended to for more than 20 minutes after she was rushed to the clinic.
He said: “I was told the doctors were asking for Oluchi’s medical card before she could be attended to. As doctors, are they not to save lives first? If they had attended to my daughter and told me the medical bill is N2 million, I would look for the money and pay it, because her life is more important than money.
“But, they did not attend to her. No effort was made to revive her and no medical test was conducted on Oluchi before she died. When they wanted to transfer the body to the mortuary, a doctor wrote on a plain sheet and gave Nkem to take the body to the LUTH morgue. Nkem rejected it because the note contained a statement that indicated that Oluchi was brought in dead. This was to cover their inaction that led to the death of my daughter.”
Although the family accused the UNILAG management of carelessness, Anekwe said there would not be any legal action against the school and Eko Electric Distribution Company (EKEDC) – owners of the cable that fell on the girls. He wondered why the university did not remove the cable after weeks of complaints by students living in the New Hall hostel. He said it was wrong for the school to allow EKEDC to run cables not meant for the hostels across the campus.
Anekwe said: “We will not take any legal action against the school and the power company that owns the cable. I don’t want any compensation from them. If UNILAG management approaches me for compensation, I will ask them to give me my daughter or go to hell with their money. I don’t want their money; I want my daughter.
“It would be wrong if UNILAG usually pays compensation for such carelessness. As a parent, I will never accept any offer, whether money or material, from the people who watched my daughter to die. If they are thinking of compensation, let UNILAG use the money to equip its clinic and hire competent medical personnel. The people presently in their clinic are killers.”